Keepers' Diaries, June 2003

Voi Reintegration Unit

Nursery Elephants:- Friday 18th June was another Big Day in our Nairobi Nursery, for this was the day scheduled for Seraa, Mpala, and Morani to leave the Nairobi Nursery and embark on the long journey of gradual transition back into the Elephant World in Tsavo East National Park. Seraa, is now a plump and healthy 19 month old, well over the life threatening pneumonia that almost took her from us on New Year’s eve, 2002; Mpala was obviously a little older than we thought upon arrival from Laikipia, for he now proudly sports the tiny tusks of a two year old, and Morani, the little “Warrior” who arrived severely traumatised with suppurating gunshot wounds has turned into a very gentle and friendly little elephant, all his wounds now healed. Being the youngest of the three, he will be the smallest baby within the Tsavo set, replacing the privileged position of Solango. Of the three, he will be the only one who does not have a Nursery companion to “find” again in Tsavo, but he has Mpala as a special friend, and since he was over a year when he came to us, he will also remember his elephant family clearly. As usual, the practice sessions to get the orphans comfortable going into the large truck parked up against our loading ramp began three days earlier. As we suspected, the only elephant who firmly refused to be coaxed inside, was Mpala, for he could recall another very harrowing car journey from far off Mpala Ranch in Laikipia to Nairobi, after being captured and saved.

01 June 2003

Yet again, Aitong had to come to the rescue when Ilingwezi lay on Thoma in the mudbath. Aitong held Ilingwezi’s head with her trunk, and lifted her off Thoma. In the evening Emily, followed by Loisaba and Ndara chased two bushbucks for a long distance, making them late reporting back to the Stockade.

02 June 2003

It was a cold, dull day today and only Icholta went into the mudwallow.

03 June 2003

Ndara and Burra had an altercation after the mudwallow, which ended when Natumi intervened to separate them.

04 June 2003

Aitong went off to browse away from the others on her own, and encountered an old buffalo resting under a tree. She did her best to dislodge him, but the buffalo refused to leave. Solango and Thoma became very scared and ran to the Keepers, whilst Emily, Mukwaju, Salama and Laikipia came in as reinforcement to Aitong, persuading the buffalo that “discretion was the better part of valour”!

05 June 2003

Back at the Stockades in the evening Tsavo and Nyiro became engrossed in a game of “one upmanship” and almost missed out on their ration of copra cake. They rushed to get their share.

06 June 2003

Loisaba and Mukwaju contested the middle of the mudbath, which ended in Mukwaju being ejected and denied a wallow.

07 June 2003

During a wonderful dustbath, Nyiro trod on Edie’s trunk, and hurriedly ran off to shelter underneath Emily and Aitong, so that Edie could not punish him.

08 June 2003

All the orphans joined Lissa’s group at 7.20 a.m., surrounding her new baby. Mweya, Solango and Thoma were allowed to touch the baby, something that Lissa denied Emily and Aitong. Later Sweet Sally, Mweya and Nasalot had a wonderful mudbath today, Mweya resting her trunk on a floating branch throughout.

09 June 2003

In the evening Ndara and Burra were enjoying a game of hide and seek, which was interrupted by Nyiro, who tried to jump on them.

10 June 2003

Aitong had to help Tsavo up when he got stuck in the mud of the mudbath, and swivelled round and round, yelling! In the afternoon Lissa and her two babies, along with Uaso and Mpenzi came to the Stockades. They left at 8.20 p.m.

11 June 2003

At l0.40 a.m. all the orphans joined a wild herd of 7 elephants, feeding all morning with them and coming with the wild group to the noon mudbath. A young cow of about 8 years old allowed Sosian and Nyiro to climb onto her tummy as she lay in the mudbath. Our orphans left the wild group after the noon mudbath.

12 June 2003

During a lively mudbath Kinna sat on Mvita’s head, which prompted revenge. Mvita tried to bite Kinna’s tail, but it was slippery and she could not get hold of it. However, Mvita hunted Kinna for the rest of the afternoon, trying to settle the score.

13 June 2003

Sally and Tsavo were busy testing each other’s strength, when Salama came to help Sally push Tsavo into a thick bush. Tsavo realised his motive, and ran off.

14 June 2003

The orphans joined Lissa’s group on their way to the mudbath, and all had a wonderful wallow together. Natumi and Edie played pushing matches with Lissa’s older calf, “Lara” and Emily enjoyed a game with Mpenzi. Uaso played with Salama and Mulika, and Aitong enjoyed trying to get Lissa’s tiny baby away from its mother and have it to herself. On this occasion Lissa did not seem to mind.

15 June 2003

At 3.20 p.m. a very big wild bull elephant with huge tusks joined the orphans. Solango became very scared, so Aitong pulled him towards her whilst the big bull touched his mouth with its trunk. This calmed Solango. The Big Bull remained with the orphans for several hours, leaving them only at 5.30 p.m. as they approached the Stockades.

16 June 2003

Tsavo and Edie enjoyed a pushing game this morning. At 2.30 p.m. all the orphans joined a wild group. Laikipia made the first approach to a wild bull of his age and embarked on a pushing match, which he won. The wild bull then encouraged its wild friend to push Laikipia, but Salama, Nyiro, Lolokwe and Yatta supported Laikipia, and pushed the wild friend back into his group.

17 June 2003

At 1.45 p.m. the orphans joined a group of 8 wild elephants. Icholta and Ndara enjoyed playing with wild friends of their size, but the game ended when Ndara got poked in the bottom by the wild friend’s tusk. She screamed and Emily immediately ran to the rescue. Back at the Stockades in the evening, Mweya welcomed Solango into her night Stockade, but Sally became jealous and ushered him out and back to where he usually spends the night.

18 June 2003

Mweya saw two squirrels chasing each other, so she charged onto them, sending them down a hole. She then put her trunk down the hole, but rapidly withdrew it! Nyiro, Laikipia, Lolokwe and Yatta were scared when two buffaloes ran past them, but once they were sure the buffaloes were running from them, they gave chase. During the mudbath Sally accidentally splashed muddy water into Loisaba’s eyes. Loisaba took revenge by pressing Sally’s head into the mud, which made her scream, bringing Aitong to the rescue, who pushed Loisaba out of the mudbath. All the other babies became afraid and also left. Later Emily was busy scratching her tummy on an anthill, which disturbed the ants, who came out and bit her! She ran back to the Keepers rumbling!

19 June 2003

Burra, Sosian, Solango and Thoma took themselves off to browse away from Mweya and Sally, but got a terrible fright when 2 ostriches flapped their wings. They rushed back to the Keepers for protection. In the afternoon Salama decided to take a rest mounted on Laikipia, closing his eyes. Laikipia moved off suddenly, dislodging him.

20 June 2003

The new babies from Nairobi were given a warm welcome in Tsavo. Solango seemed to remember his friend, Seraa. Burra also showed an interest, but Sosian and Thoma remained unmoved. When the older elephants came to meet the newcomers, Natumi, Yatta, Kinna and Nasalot were the first to notice their presence, and kept following them, trying to pull them to their side. At first the new babies were a bit scared, but Morani began to push them away since they were disturbing him. A few minutes later Emily arrived in a rush, trying to pull Seraa beneath her, but Seraa could not fit! Seraa remained close to Emily for the rest of the day. Mpala began by being a bit scared, remaining close to the Keepers, but soon gained confidence, mixing freely with the older elephants. Sosian showed off by charging 2 zebras, but got kicked in the trunk and returned screaming, which scared the new babies. After this, they did not want to go far from the Keepers!

21 June 2003

Solango was seen to have a very close attachment to Seraa, playing together and following each other around. Natumi decided to remain next to Morani the whole day, touching him gently with her trunk.

22 June 2003

All the orphans met up at the mudbath. Icholta and Seraa enjoyed a pushing game. Mrs. Sheldrick and Robert and Angela came to the mudbath with Mr. Simpson, to see how the new babies had settled in. Mr. Simpson climbed up a nearby tree to watch the action, but Emily thought he should not be there and tried to dislodge him with her tusks. Eventually, he jumped down.

23 June 2003

Solango kept trying to mount Seraa and Mpala, until they became annoyed, and joined forces to shove him away. Later the orphans joined a wild group of 6 who had 2 babies of Mweya’s age. Mpala was a bit scared and moved close to Emily, who sheltered him. A wild cow touched Seraa’s rear end, which made her scream, but Aitong drew her close and comforted her.

24 June 2003

During the mudbath, the orphans were joined by two wild bulls. Mweya and Seraa became scared, running back to the Keepers, but all the others joined the bulls and had a wonderful mudbath together. Morani enjoyed climbing onto the stomach of one as it lay down and wanted to accompany the two wild elephant bulls when they left. The Keepers had to call him back.

25 June 2003

At 5 p.m. the orphans joined a wild group of 5 cow elephants who had 2 babies. Mweya, Ndara, Edie and Natumi began pushing the two babies towards the Night Stockades, whilst their mothers were busy browsing. When the wild elephants realised that their babies were being coaxed away, they came running to retrieve them, chasing our orphans away.

26 June 2003

Burra took a shine to Seraa today, touching her gently with his trunk whilst they rested under a tree, and pushing away Solango whenever he approached. At 3.20 p.m. a herd of about 200 buffaloes approached, sending Seraa and Mpala running to their Keepers, whilst the others put on a charging display, but keeping a safe distance!

27 June 2003

After a wonderful mudbath, Sosian took Sally and Burra to teach them his fighting techniques. The two orphans were happy to play with Sosian, but screamed whenever he got too rough with his sharp little tusks. Meanwhile Solango was trying to persuade Seraa to lie down so that he could climb onto her, lying down himself, and touching her with his trunk. However, Seraa knew what he was up to, and refused, so he tried to mount her standing.

28 June 2003

Upon leaving the Stockades, Emily and Aitong took the new babies, who spent the whole day feeding with them. Emily wanted Morani most (being the smallest), Aitong took Mpala and Natumi, Yatta and Kinna vied with each other for possession of Seraa. Kinna won, and Seraa and her spent the whole day feeding close to one another. The new babies are very outgoing and most of the time they make the first approach to join up with wild groups.

29 June 2003

After a wonderful mudbath, Laikipia isolated Seraa from the others and tried to mount her. Seraa bellowed, and Emily and Aitong came rushing to the rescue. Laikipia ran away and spent the next 15 minutes grazing alone “in Coventry”! There was a tussle between Mweya and Solango as to who should have Morani for the night. Mweya gave up the struggle and Solango placed his trunk lovingly over Morani’s back whilst he was sampling the copra cake.

30 June 2003

Having left the Stockades in the morning, Nyiro kept following the new babies, wanting to mount them. They joined forces and fought Nyiro, making him go and hide beneath Emily! At 3.30 p.m. all the orphans joined a wild group of five. Mpala went up to one of the wild cows and suckled her ear. The cow enjoyed this, and closed her eyes, then tried to take Mpala between her forelegs. Emily noticed this, and became jealous, pulling Mpala away from the wild cow, after which she took the orphans away from this wild group. Mukwaju and Salama were left behind, together trying to push a wild age mage who kept on following them. All the new babies (Mpala, Morani and Seraa) have adjusted very well to their new environment and are very comfortably absorbed into the Tsavo orphan family, moving easily and freely within the orphan herd.