Keepers' Diaries, July 2020

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Voi Reintegration Unit

The dry season has really started to set in and the days in Voi now are characterized by cloudy, chilly weather in the mornings, warming up later, but with little to no rainfall expected for several months. As a result the dependent orphans have very much been concentrating on browsing throughout the day and there is less frivolity and more concentration of filling their large tummies. In the morning their days begin with a supplement of Lucerne and range cubes which the Keepers devotedly put out for them after their milk feed, and this certainly helps keep them in tip top condition. As the dry season really starts to grip the area, we see more and more wild elephants coming by the water hole where the dependent orphans have their noon milk feed, which allows for a great many interactions between our orphaned babies and their wild friends. This mud bath and the water troughs are kept topped up on a daily basis, morning and evening, by the Trust’s water bowser to provide fresh water for all the wild animals in the area. We do it this way so that we can change up the waterholes they use, resting other areas when and if required.  

Some of the wild herds are friendlier than others so the orphans have mixed interactions with their wild kin. Some don’t approach the water at all until the orphans have left to continue with their browsing, and others approach more forcefully and move the orphans aside in order to quench their own thirst. When the wild herds are less friendly Tagwa makes sure to move off to the side far away, and doesn’t like these aggressive meetings. Emoli is gregarious and bold, and will walk right up to wild elephant bulls in order to introduce himself! Fortunately for him, although often surprised by the confidence of such a young baby, the wild bulls have been very accommodating and friendly. It is when the wild herds have young babies with them that the orphans are especially excited, particularly Rorogoi, Mbegu, Tamiyoi and Suswa, who all try to get close enough to play and introduce themselves. Often an older sibling is standing by to prevent such interactions however, being very protective of their younger family members. The Keepers are also on hand to ensure that the wilder and slightly more aggressive matriarchs don’t inhibit the orphans having their fill.  

Nelion, Mudanda, Mashariki and Tundani seem to have separated from Kenia’s herd, which is comprised of Kenia, Araba, Ndii, Ishaq-B and Ndoria, all of whom are females. We saw a lot more of Nelion, Mudanda, Mashariki and Tundani this month, who come alone or all at once to join the dependent orphans at various times of the day. Nelion often likes to come to see the dependent herd on his own, even if the others decide not to join him. Sometimes this little group arrive early in the morning to share the supplement food with the dependent orphans and stay with them all day, even escorting them home to the stockade compound at night, before disappearing off back into the Park.

Despite the cold dry weather and drying vegetation, the orphans remained in very high spirits this month, easy to spot by their swinging trunks in the morning. First they exit their night stockades, and have a variety of playful games in the compound before heading out for the day swinging their trunks.  Tagwa is settling in better into her new home and maintains a very close friendship with Tamiyoi, Sagala and Godoma too. She can often be seen huddled with Tamiyoi and Sagala on cold days, as Sagala has taken on the role of comforting and protecting Tagwa, and browsing with her too. Sagala also likes to play with little Emoli when she gets the chance, which isn’t often as he is usually playing more robust games with his best friend Ngilai! Mbegu still very much likes to try and keep ‘her’ little herd of six together as much as possible, which includes Godoma, Ngilai, Tamiyoi, Lasayen, Ndotto, Murit, and little Emoli now too.

Ndotto still likes to pick on the oldest in the herd to test and prove his strength, so is often approaching Suswa and Arruba for a wrestling match, if they are willing. If Suswa declines, Ndotto tries to entice Arruba to a game, but this still worries little Pika Pika, her adopted favourite baby, who sometimes thinks they are really fighting and tries to come between them to break up their game. 

The orphaned zebras Diria and Nzuki are doing very well and are the best of friends. Towards the end of the month they started escorting the elephant orphans and baby buffaloes out on their daily adventures, staying close to their Keepers but keeping a wide berth from the elephant orphans who like to chase anyone they deem getting too close to ‘their’ group. This is something the baby buffaloes Ivia and Cheza are subjected to on an almost daily basis, particularly from Rorogoi who seems to take the most offence to their presence and enjoys chasing them away whenever she gets the chance. Ndotto treats their presence as more of a game, and occasionally enjoys a game of chase with Ivia and Cheza. With all the wild buffaloes that have been coming to the water trough at noon, these two babies have been exposed to a number of their wild kin this month and they seem interested and enjoy watching them, but are quite ready to greet and interact with them just yet.

July 2020 day to day

01 Jul

Tagwa enjoyed a private early morning dust bath before the rest of her friends came to join her while Arruba walked along the lower side of one of the stockade terraces feeding on Lucerne pellets. Sagala and Tamiyoi took the lead of the group out to the Park for the day once all the stockade activities were over.   

The orphans spent the morning browsing in single file before making their way to the waterhole for the noon milk feed. As the orphans were arriving at the baobab tree waterhole for a drink of water, they saw a wild herd coming in to join them. One wild elephant cow was rather aggressive and tried to chase the orphans away from the water trough. The commotion this caused made Tagwa quite nervous and she ran away, making sure to separate herself from the wild herd and the orphans. Tamiyoi went to comfort Tagwa and get her to rejoin the orphans once the wild herd moved away. Once the wild herd left the orphans were able to enjoy a drink and their time at the waterhole before resuming with their browsing activities.  

Arruba enjoying Lucerne pellets

Tagwa at the dust bath

Tamiyoi right browsing with Tagwa