Keepers' Diaries, July 2023

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Voi Reintegration Unit

July began on a sour note for Godoma. In the early hours, the big girl decided to clamber up the terraces to explore a bit further afield. As a result, she missed her milk feed and had to make do with pellets and lucerne. This was no big deal, as Godoma is no longer strictly milk-dependent, but she was upset all the same. Feeling grumpy, she shoved Lemeki away from the feeding trough and spent the rest of the morning in a huff.

On the 2nd of July, we were treated to a visit from our old friend, Nguvu. The dependent orphans were hanging out on the terraces when ex-orphans Kenia, Kihari, Arruba, Araba, Suswa, Mudanda, Ndoria, and Panda strolled up the path to join them. They were accompanied by a less familiar friend — Nguvu! The Keepers were thrilled to see the nine-year-old, who has been living wild for almost a year. 

Although they’re less dependent on each other than they once were, Thamana and Lemeki remain the best friends. These days, Thamana can usually be found playing with his favourite sparring partner, Emoli. Sometimes, however, he eschews all other playmates and sticks to Lemeki like glue for hours at a time.

We always say that our Voi orphans have a flair for drama. Trumpeting in excitement, the ‘Voi kids’ — Busara, Baraka, Epiya, Dabida, Kilulu, and Ashanti — will sprint out of their rooms and round the corner in a trunk-to-tail line, making a mad dash to the feeding area. Lifting their trunks and opening their mouths wide, they stand packed side-by-side to drink their milk. These kids are all relatively new arrivals, but they have the routine down pat!

Early in the morning of 6th July, a SWT/KWS Anti-Poaching Team brought an hours-old orphaned gerenuk to the stockades. The team looked after him until he was taken to the Kaluku Neonate Nursery later in the day. 

We have always thought of Murit as one of our most placid bulls, but he has been getting bursts of energy. One morning, after a noisy sparring session with Ngilai, he enjoyed a theatrical dust bath, legs waving in the air. But the fun wasn’t done yet! Later, Murit could not resist another quick wrestle with Lasayen as they padded down to the mud wallow. 

Lasayen, another placid bull, is also embracing his playful side. We were reminded of this watching Ngilai and Murit wrestling the day away, as per usual. They got in several rounds before Lasayen became jealous and plodded between them, refusing to move until they broke up their game.

The 8th of July was Losoito’s big day! On her first full day out with the orphan herd, everyone wanted to be her friend. During breakfast, the Keepers took Mbegu and Thamana up to her room. The two orphans padded quietly in, rumbling and touching Losoito gently before escorting her out to meet the rest of the herd. Large and small, the orphans clustered around the newbie — even big boys like Lasayen and Emoli were competing for her attention. She stood stolidly among the herd, keeping her cool. Lemeki lay outstretched on the pile of lucerne as she invited Losoito to play with her, while Emoli and Thamana spontaneously decided to show off their sparring skills.

We always marvel at Ngilai’s ingenuity. In the mornings, he likes to wander between the feeding trough and the piles of lucerne. He eats in both areas, but carries his own little store of lucerne with him wherever he goes, so he can always have a snack on the go.

Pika Pika has morphed into a very adept nanny, but she remains a princess in the pool. She is almost always the last one in the wallow — a situation the water baby loves! Oftentimes, Ndotto lags behind while she finishes her swim. Then, the playful pair enjoy an energetic dust bath while the others slowly make their way off into the bush.

We narrowly averted two kidnapping attempts this month, both involving Epiya and Hildana. Twice, wild herds surrounded the pair and walked away with them. As they were moving quickly into thick bush, the Keepers jumped into the water bowser and gave chase. After the team separated the two orphans from the herd, Hildana and Epiya plodded back happily to their proper family.

Although Mbegu is the main matriarch, she is ably assisted by Tagwa, Tamiyoi, Sagala, and Godoma. Tamiyoi has been a particularly good mentor to little Losoito. She knows that the recent rescue is still shy and apprehensive of the more brazen orphans like Dabida and Seri, so Tamiyoi keeps her close and touches her reassuringly. One day, the Keepers observed Losoito trying to lag behind the others, but Tamiyoi encouraged her to keep up, helping to build the new girl’s confidence. 

However, Losoito has many nannies vying for her affection. One morning Mbegu was hugging her favourite, little Baraka, in a tight embrace. She placed her trunk along the smaller elephant’s back and then around his belly. He stood still, enjoying the affection. Feeling left out, Sagala strode past the pair and over to newbie Losoito. The older female touched the new girl in a reassuring way, just as Tamiyoi had done.

Emoli is generally a very sweet bull, but he occasionally gets carried away. One morning, Emoli disturbed Tamiyoi’s carefree fun by plonking his enormous front feed on her stomach. This caused her to trumpet in alarm. Mbegu and Tagwa plodded over to the rescue, helping Tamiyoi to her feet and sandwiching her protectively between them. Meanwhile, Emoli strolled away, feigning innocence. 

It is starting to get very dry in Tsavo. As green browse disappears, the Keepers have been depositing lucerne out in the bush every day for the elephants. Our orphans have been diligent in their browsing, but this supplemental food is an enormous help. We can only hope that this year doesn’t devolve into drought conditions, as it did last year. 

July 2023 day to day

01 Jul

On a clear bright morning, the orphans pottered out of their stockades and down the path to the feeding area. They drank their bottles of milk and settled down to eat range cubes and lucerne. Godoma decided to clamber up the terraces to explore the area at the top. As a result, she missed her milk feed and had to make do with just pellets and lucerne. Feeling grumpy, she shoved Lemeki away from the feeding trough and Lemeki wandered away to join Ngilai in the lucerne area. As the dependent orphans ate their breakfast, former orphans Kenia, Kihari, Rorogoi, Mudanda and Arruba ambled up the path leading to Msinga Hill to join them. 

The two groups then headed out together to browse at the foot of Msinga Hill. A few hours later, the ex-orphans wandered deeper into the woods as their younger friends trundled down the slope for their afternoon milk feed and wallow in the mud bath. After more supplementary lucerne later in the afternoon, the herd set out for a final wander, led by Lemeki, before returning to the stockades for the night.


Lemeki enjoying Lucerne

Ngilai resting on Seri's back