Keepers' Diaries, June 2002

Voi Reintegration Unit

Nursery Elephants:- June was a quiet and rewarding month for us, with all the Nursery elephants thriving, happy, and steadily gaining weight - until the night of the 28th when Burra gave us all a nasty scare. Suddenly he blew up like a balloon, his tummy distended and as tight as a drum. The Keepers woke us up at might, and we went out to find him in obvious pain, groaning, and rolling around on the ground.

01 June 2002

After leaving the Stockades in the morning, Aitong joined Yatta's baby group, and gently urged Maungu to keep abreast with the others every time she lagged behind. (Maungu, like Mweiga, seems to be a somewhat fragile calf, much less robust than the rest of her group). At 11.20 a.m., Mweya accidentally trod on Lolokwe's front leg, which annoyed him. He threatened punishment, but Mweya cunningly sheltered behind a tree trunk until he had cooled down! Later Laikipia was happy to share a tasty bush with Edie, but refused to allow Salama a share.

02 June 2002

During the noon mudbath, a herd of 7 wild elephants led by a large cow approached the little orphans. Sweet Sally was very scared, at first dashing off, but later she gained confidence and joined them along with the other orphans who were already mixing with them freely. She then went underneath the wild Matriarch and tried to suckle, but was pushed gently aside. In the evening, back at the Stockades, Tsavo tried to prevent Loisaba her share of the Copra Cake, not paying attention to the hot wire of the electric fence, which he inadvertently touched with his trunk.

03 June 2002

At 10.30 a.m. Salama and Edie tested each other's strength, during which they accidentally barged into Mukwaju who fell down with a yell. Immediately Kinna rushed to his rescue, and tried to lift him with her small trunk. During the morning Emily and Aitong together tried to scare away a herd of some 20 buffalo, who refused to budge. Finally, they gave up, and returned to join the group.

04 June 2002

Maungu seemed to be weak today, with a distended belly. She was given some medication by the Keepers, which improved her condition. During the morning Loisaba trumpeted and chased two warring dikdiks. The orphans enjoyed a wonderful noon mudbath today during which Mweya tried to encourage Natumi to play with her. Natumi was not interested, which annoyed Mweya, who took revenge on the drums of water, kicking them and trying to knock them over. Back at the Stockades Salama and Ilingwezi had a tug-of-war over a branch, which was won by Salama who knelt down and gave it a hard pull, forcing Ilingwezi to release it.

05 June 2002

After the noon mudbath, Mweya moved close to Emily, and latched onto her foreleg, to make sure that she would not be left behind if Emily moved off. She spent the rest of the day with Emily's older group of elephants. In the afternoon, Mweiga got her foreleg stuck in some tree roots she was trying to dig up. She trumpeted for help, and the Keepers went to her aid.

06 June 2002

It was a hot day today. Mweya and Sweet Sally were the front runners, ahead of all the others as they went to the mudbath. There they copied the others, spraying water over their backs with their trunks. Mweya was more proficient than Sally. Natumi and Ilingwezi began a game of sliding down the slippery bank into the mudbath, but Ilingwezi came out unhappy because Loisaba stepped on her head, completely submerging it in mud.

07 June 2002

Edo came to join the baby group at the spring gate entrance to their Stockade. At first Sweet Sally was very scared, refusing to pass him, until he gently held her with his trunk, and pulled her close. To begin with, she was alarmed, but when she realised that he was only being friendly, she enjoyed the encounter and began to smell him. Later Edo joined Emily's group. Emily tried to wrestle with him, but he was not interested in exerting his strength. In the evening Natumi wanted to scare off baboons who were stealing the Copra cake ration, and accidentally touched the electric wire of the Stockade with her trunk.

08 June 2002

Icholta, Mweiga and Yatta refused to go into the main mudbath today, but instead made their own by emptying the drinking water in the drums. Meanwhile, in the mudbath, Laikipia tried to climb on Ilingwezi, but slipped off. Natumi helped him up. Afterwards Emily and Mweiga thoroughly enjoyed a shared sand bath.

09 June 2002

During a strength test, Nyiro pushed Kinna into a thick bush. She rumbled for help, and Yatta provided the necessary reinforcement, pushing Nyiro back. Laikipia was terribly frightened by a guineafowl sitting on eggs, which made a loud cracking noise in a bush. In the evening, Emily came to the babies' Stockade, and watched over them all for about 10 minutes, studying their activities carefully before returning to her own Stockade.

10 June 2002

After Mweya had downed her 3rd bottle of milk at noon, she gently laid her trunk across the Keeper's shoulder in a gesture of affection, pleading for more. Edie's game of rolling her trunk round and round ended in a tough fight when her trunk accidentally hit Natumi's back leg. Edie had to seek refuge near the Keepers. At 10 a.m. Aitong raised her trunk, smelling something that the Keepers could not see. She left the other orphans to go and investigate, then came running back trumpeting. She tried to persuade Emily to come and see, but Emily was unwilling to leave the babies unattended.

11 June 2002

During the noon mudbath, Mukwaju had difficulty in getting up, and had to be helped by the Keepers. In the evening, Mweya still showed her naughty disposition by kicking a visitor. In the evening, a low flying plane scared the orphans, causing Tsavo and Salama to run and Imenti and Loisaba running in a different direction to Emily. The Keepers called them all back.

12 June 2002

Kinna, Icholta, Yatta and Mukwaju found themselves alone when they headed out towards their usual feeding grounds, because the Keepers, Mweya and Sweet Sally and the other youngsters were heading towards the Voi river, wanting to change the location. The others soon caught up with the Keepers and the babies, but Mweya and Sweet Sally enjoyed being leaders. The Keepers had difficulty crossing the tourist road, so instead headed to the back of the hill. After the mudbath Laikipia tried to mount Salama, so Salama bit his tail which made him yell. Natumi went to the rescue, arriving ahead of the Keepers. At 3 p.m. Imenti joined a wild herd of elephants, turning up at the Stockades in the evening to join the others.

13 June 2002

At 10 a.m. Kinna enjoyed a pushing game with a wild baby of her size. Sweet Sally concentrated on following and trying to smell another smaller wild calf, trailing the group as they left, so the Keepers had to call her back. Emily got pushed hard by the wild cow, Naomi, when she got too close to Naomi's baby. She yelled, and Imenti rushed up flapping his ears, but was too scared of Naomi to interfere further. Natumi and Loisaba had a wonderful game in the mudbath, climbing over Edo, who lay flat so that they could do so. They were joined at the mudbath by Naomi's herd.

14 June 2002

At the mudbath, Salama began a game, rolling the drums of water around. He was joined by Natumi, Edie and Ilingwezi, all of whom found the new game fascinating. At 1 p.m. all the orphans mingled freely with a wild herd led by one big cow who had a baby of about 4 months. The cow kept pushing Sweet Sally away whenever she came too close, because probably she knew Sally wanted to suckle her. Emily and Aitong encouraged a wild boy from the wild group to come and meet the other orphans, which he did, but he did not like Imenti and shoved him hard, forcing Imenti to seek refuge with the Keepers.

15 June 2002

Edo joined Emily's group at 11 a.m. and spent the rest of the day with them. Kinna chased two zebra for a long way, until they crossed the Voi river. Salama and Laikipia busied themselves by chasing a flock of guineafowl they encountered near the mudbath. During the mudbath Ilingwezi was reluctant to go in, so Loisaba gave her a shove which sent her in..

16 June 2002

In the evening, Aitong went straight into her Stockade but Emily spent a long time watching to see how she was caring for the youngsters in with her, before taking her place in her own Stockade. Back at the Baby Stockade, Lolokwe knelt down next door and tried to pull some of their fodder in for himself, so Mweya promptly bit his trunk causing him to retreat in pain.

17 June 2002

When the little babies (Mweya, Sally, Ndara and Maungu) went for their noon bottles, Kinna, Yatta and Mukwaju surrounded them, pleading with the Keepers for some milk. In the evening, Tsavo pushed away Edie because he wanted to lead the group. Edie gave him the "go-ahead".

18 June 2002

Mweya discovered a new game in the mudbath, lying on her side with her trunk lying parallel to the top of the water, but the tip submerged so that it blew bubbles. Kinna and Sally tried to copy her, but were not as proficient. Salama, Natumi, Edie and Ilingwezi were very scared when an approaching herd of buffalo raised a dust cloud. They all crowded close to the Keepers. Back at the Stockade, Imenti tried to grab a Keeper's leg with his trunk as the Keeper was taking back the empty bottles.

19 June 2002

Mweya and Mulika had a disagreement during the mudwallow, when Mulika occupied the central position which Mweya would have liked. Nasalot came to back up her friend, Mulika. Whilst the babies were taking water, Salama pushed Mweiga down, which brought Emily rushing to the rescue. Salama fled behind a nearby bush.

20 June 2002

Ndara, Ilingwezi and Mweya had a wonderful time together and with Nasalot and Mulika in the mudbath today, whilst Edie and Salama busied themselves pushing each other around. At 3 p.m. the babies joined a wild herd, spending about an hour amongst them. When most of the orphans parted, Emily, Aitong, Ndara and Tsavo remained behind with the wild elephants, but joined the orphans later as they were returning to the Stockades.

21 June 2002

At 8 a.m. the day started badly for Nyiro, who pushed Icholta. In retaliation Icholta grabbed Nyiro's head in her trunk and held it tight, pushing his head three times hard and then biting his tail as he tried to escape, causing him to yell for help. It was Mweya who came to his rescue. At 9 a.m. Emily's group came across four giraffes, which Aitong tried to chase away, but was unsuccessful.

22 June 2002

When the orphans went to the mudbath, Laikipia found himself left alone because he was feeding behind a bush. He trumpeted in fear, and Natumi returned to collect him. After the mudbath, the orphans met a wild herd, which Yatta and the others joined. However, Mweya and Sally were scared by a large bull who was mounting a cow in the wild group. Loisaba was very possessive of Emily today, remaining close to her all day, and pushing Tsavo away every time he tried to get close.

23 June 2002

As soon as the orphans had arrived at the feeding ground, Aitong left in an Easterly direction and was away for 3 hours before returning to join the others. Mweya and Sally were very scared by the barking sound of a troupe of baboons, seeking protection from the Keepers.

24 June 2002

At 8 a.m. Mweya found a hold in the middle of the bush, and put her trunk in to smell it. Out shot a monitor lizard, and this gave her a terrible scare. The rest of the day she remained very close to the Keepers. Edie, Laikipia and Ilingwezi were enjoying a wonderful dustbath, spoiled by Salama who kept trying to climb on their heads. In the evening Aitong noticed that Icholta wanted to come and steal her share of the Copra cake, so she went slowly to the door, and using her strong trunk, shut the door so that Icholta could not come in. Icholta rumbled, but Aitong did not relent by opening the door for her.

25 June 2002

Mvita has always resented the two new babies, Mweya and Sweet Sally being jealous of the attention they attract from the others, especially Nasalot and Mulika. Today, she tried to charge them, but was forestalled by Kinna, who sensed her intended bad behaviour. At noon, long-time rivals Laikipia and Salama began a tug of war when they found themselves sharing the same bucket of water, but Aitong intervened and separated them, pulling Salama aside with her trunk. Due to the very dry conditions, Edo has been reporting to the Stockades every evening to receive his share of the Copra cake. He is always very friendly, gentle and lovely to all the other orphans and the Keepers as well.

26 June 2002

Having left the Stockades, Mukwaju and Nyiro began a friendly game which deteriorated into a battle. Icholta watched closely for a short time, and decided to take the side of Mukwaju, helping to push Nyiro away. At 11 a.m. the orphans ran into a large herd of about 200 buffalo, who charged at them. Natumi and Loisaba took the lead to seek refuge where the Keepers were.

27 June 2002

At 10 a.m. Mweya and Kinna were both scratching themselves on a stone, when they accidentally had a head to head collision. Both bellowed in pain, which brought Sweet Sally along to see what had befallen her friend, Mweya. Tsavo and Loisaba again were jealous of each other, both wanting to be closest to Emily. Eventually, Emily separated them by placing herself in between, rumbling to them as they stood flapping their ears at each other. In the evening Ilingwezi was so anxious to be first at the Copra Cake that she forgot about the electric wire door of the Stockade and suffered a shock. After that, she refused to go in, until Emily came out to escort her in.

28 June 2002

In the morning, Laikipia, Edie, Natumi and Salama were very exuberant as there was a hint of rain. They ran here and there trumpeting and breaking small bushes. Their game was brought to an end by a clap of thunder, sending them all running away in different directions. At the mudbath, a wild group arrived, one cow with a baby of about 7 months. This wild cow was very rowdy and rude, kicking our babies out so that her group could drink. Mukwaju, Sweet Sally and Tsavo sort refuge where the Keepers were hiding from the wild elephants.

29 June 2002

Out in the bush today, Salama tried to rub himself against a small branch of a tree, which suddenly broke, leaving him flat on the ground. Ilingwezi ran to help him up. Back at the Stockades in the evening, Mweiga caught Kinna stealing her share of the Copra cake. She chased Kinna round and round the Stockade, but Kinna was too fast.

30 June 2002

At the mudbath, Natumi tried to scare away a warthog who happened to be drinking water from it. When the warthog refused to move, Natumi kicked it with her foot, sending it flying into the middle of the mudbath. After an extended a very wonderful mudbath, Nasalot laid her trunk lovingly across Mweya's back, closing her eyes, but was roused when Mulika accidentally barged into her. Back at the Stockades in the evening, Emily found Edo outside her stockade. Edo stretched his long trunk in greeting to Emily, and she rumbled happily, resting her trunk affectionately on Edo's forehead.