Keepers' Diaries, June 2004

Voi Reintegration Unit

Nursery Elephants:- The morning of the l8th was a momentous day, heralding a fundamental change in the lives of 6 of our Nursery Elephants. The time had come for Naserian, Wendi, Tomboi, OlMalo, Taita and Selengai to graduate from the Nursery, and begin the long gradual process of integration back where they rightly belong – amongst their own kind and the wild elephants of Tsavo East National Park. After a great deal of discussion and heart searching, the decision was taken to move them to the new Orphans’ Facility that we have established at Ithumba, in the Northern Area of Tsavo East, rather than to Voi, mainly for two reasons. (1) The Voi unit (31 elephants) was becoming unwieldy for our Keepers to handle during the long dry seasons, something clearly illustrated last year when the October rains did not arrive until mid January 2004. (2) We would like to allow the calves under Emily and Aitong’s care to grow up to the point when they need no longer be enclosed in the Stockades at night – in other words of a size that they will no longer be vulnerable to attack by lions. At the same time, it was urgent to transfer four middle sized females from Emily’s group to the North, to be young Matriarchs for the new babies, and to comfort and care for them in an elephant way. The Nursery six are, of course, still accompanied by their favourite Keepers, with several from Voi awaiting their arrival at the other end, but now behaviour has to be taught by other elephants in an elephant way prior to their association with wild herds, when the wild Matriarchs take over. Targeted for this assignment were Yatta, Kinna, Mulika and Nasalot, all firm friends from their own shared Nursery period, and a self contained little unit, sufficient unto each other, who are yet to make lasting friendships amongst the wild herds. Deciding on these four females entailed a lot of discussion with the Keepers, for we had to be careful not to remove from either Emily or Aitong any of their particular favourites which might result in a major psychological upset at the Voi, de-stabilizing that unit.

01 June 2004

After the noon mudbath Aitong took Sally with her, and both were away for two hours before rejoining the group.

02 June 2004

Kinna fought Nyiro when he tried to mount her. Nasalot went in to separate the warring parties.

03 June 2004

Irima had to be disciplined by the Keepers at the midday bottle feed, because he tried to prevent the others from taking their milk.

04 June 2004

A thirsty wild group of about 10 elephants scared off the orphans in passing to drink at a nearby waterhole. The orphans ran to their Keepers for protection.

05 June 2004

Uaso joined the orphans at 9.30 a.m. He had a game chasing and trying to mount Aitong and wandered off after the noon mudbath.

06 June 2004

Laikipia and Lolokwe enjoyed a pushing game, which was interrupted by Loisaba, who separated them.

07 June 2004

At l0.38 a.m. a wild herd of eight elephants joined the orphans. Kinna, Yatta, Salama and Ilingwezi happily played pushing games with their wild age-mates. The orphans left the wild group when they went to the mudbath. Later Salama and Lolokwe enjoyed a long game, pushing each other, and kicking the bushes.

08 June 2004

At 7.15 a.m. Uaso again joined the orphans. He browsed with them and joined them at the noon mudbath, wandering off after mudwallow. Laikipia and Salama followed him, but returned half an hour later. Aitong and Sweet Sally followed a wild herd at 5 p.m. and spent the night out with this wild group. Mweiga and Icholta were uncomfortable in the Stockade that evening, missing Aitong and Sally, and bellowing a lot.

09 June 2004

Aitong and Sally came back to the Stockades at 6 a.m. and were greeted warmly by all the others. Mweiga remained close to Aitong for the whole day, fearful that she might disappear again. Seven wild elephants joined the orphans. Ilingwezi, Mulika, Nasalot and Sosian played pushing games with wild friends. The two groups separated when they were scared by two impalas who were chasing each other.

10 June 2004

Uaso joined the orphans at the noon mudbath. He tried to mount onto Aitong, but all the smaller elephants surrounded her and blocked him. Catherine’s group later joined the orphans, with two little calves, whom Burra went to greet, stretching out his trunk to touch them gently. Lolokwe followed one of the babies, gently placing his trunk across its back in a gesture of friendship.

11 June 2004

The day was very hot so the orphans had a wonderful mudbath and soil-bathed extensively as well. Ilingwezi, Mweya and Edie dug soil up, using their small tusks. Uaso joined the orphans and was with them at the mudbath, but later wandered off, arriving back at 5 p.m. with Lissa’s group. They drank water at the orphans pool, and browsed on nearby Mazinga Hill all night.

12 June 2004

Another hot day; another wonderful mudbath. Thoma, Solango, Mpala and Morani were rolling on each other, which made Mweya jealous. She went in to disrupt the fun.

13 June 2004

Sosian found himself left behind when the other orphans went to their noon mudbath. He came running full speed to join them. The orphans were very active today, teaming up in different groups of friends to play a game of Hide and Seek together. Nyiro chose Salama whilst Tsavo took Laikipia.

14 June 2004

Today the training of Mulika, Nasalot, Kinna and Yatta began. They remained behind in the Stockade when the others left for the bush, but Emily returned to get them later and the four were moved that night to the Stockade occupied by Morani and the other smaller elephants.

15 June 2004

Ilingwezi chased off Salama who wanted to mount her at 12.30 p.m. Uaso joined the orphans at the noon mudbath. Emily and Aitong went and touched his face to welcome him.

16 June 2004

At 2 p.m., Aitong, Likipia, Sally, Salama and Mukwaju approached a wild group. Emily and the other orphans browsed parallel to them but did not mingle. Aitong’s group rejoined the others later. Nasalot was pleased to find herself in Morani’s Stockade. She spent most of her time putting her trunk on his back in a gesture of friendship and love.

17 June 2004

Morani, Thoma, Nasalot and Mulika mudbathed happily and extensively. Nasalot went to help Mweiga who was struggling to get up from the slippery mud.

18 June 2004

During an exuberant mudbath, Mvita lay on the higher side of the wall with her head in the water. Laikipia and Icholta, who were rolling around together, spilled mud in her eyes, which made her get up rapidly.

19 June 2004

Lolokwe and Mukwaju played a pushing game together. At l0.30 a.m. a wild group of ll elephants joined the orphans. One cow was very aggressive and kept on pushing the orphans away, so the orphans left and headed to the noon mudbath.

20 June 2004

After 5 days of being fed Copra Cake on the Stockade Loading Ramp, Nasalot and Mulika took the milk they were offered from a bottle in the truck, along with the cake. The trucks were in place for the relocation the following day. Yatta ventured into a truck very gingerly, with a great deal of suspicion, and Kinna flatly refused. Yatta suspected that something was going to happen, and kept on coming to the Keepers for reassurance. Emily led the other orphans to admire the Trust’s new Water Bowser which had come to re-fill their waterhole at noon.

21 June 2004

This was the day for the move. Nasalot and Mulika went to take their milk in the truck and found themselves locked in and very soon on their way. Yatta and Kinna refused, so the Vet had to sedate Yatta and immobilize Kinna in order to get them loaded, each occupying a different truck. As soon as they were safely inside, the two remaining trucks left in order to catch up with the Leader, closely followed by Robert Carr-Hartley and the BBC Voi Filming team. Back at the noon mudbath, Natumi tested her strength, successfully lifting a half drum filled with water, then allowing it to fall, after which she enjoyed rolling it around. The Keepers intervened to save the drum from damage.

22 June 2004

The day was very cold, so the orphans did not want to bathe. Sosian suddenly plunged into the mud, splashing it onto the others. They all dashed off, leaving him there!

23 June 2004

Icholta and Lolokwe knelt down, scratching their foreheads on the walls of the waterhole, closely watched by Emily.

24 June 2004

After the orphans had drank at the noon mudbath, Natumi, Mweya, Mukwaju and Irima enjoyed a game, kicking and rolling the watering buckets around. The Keepers had to intervene to stop them.

25 June 2004

Another cold day, so the orphans did not mudwallow. Thoma went to scratch her neck on a fallen tree.

26 June 2004

Solango and Mpala enjoyed a wonderful pushing game today. At 9.36 a.m. Ndara was standing on a flat rock, and Emily came up to her, touching her gently on the mouth as though to tell her that she was in a dangerous place. Morani enjoyed scratching his genitals on an empty drinking drum at noon.

27 June 2004

Solango, Thoma, Seraa and Mpala played together for most of the day. The orphans joined a wild herd of l0, amongst whom was a wild bull of Aitong’s age, who engaged her in a tough tussle. Mweya screamed and ran to the Keepers, which broke up the tussle, after which the two groups browsed peacefully together.

28 June 2004

It was a cold drizzly day, so the orphans kept close together in a tight group as they fed.

29 June 2004

Whilst returning to the Stockades in the evening, Seraa led the small group, all the others in single-file behind her.

30 June 2004

Laikipia and Mukwaju teamed up and went feeding off on their own for most of the day, away from the others. They were left behind when the others returned in the evening, but joined up with them before they reached their destination. OTHER NOTES:- Emily has accepted the recent move of the four younger females who have left for Ithumba. She hasn’t shown any signs of missing this little group. The Keepers feel that this was a really independent group, and that its translocation to the North was a great success. Aitong has shown signs of wishing to return to the wild, often spending time browsing away from the other orphans. She usually takes Sweet Sally with her.