Keepers' Diaries, June 2006

Voi Reintegration Unit

The drought that continues to plague the Horn of Africa, and North Eastern Kenya, sadly, also continues to be reflected in the Southern Section of Tsavo, and already the Voi orphans have taken to scaling Mazinga Hill in search of a few green shoots. We have also begun to supplement them by the addition of horse cubes to their daily ration of Copra, and meanwhile are considering the possibility of having to establish the group in a temporary Night Stockade near better pastures further afield. Lionel Nutter, our field Manager, is investigating this.

01 June 2006

The orphans were in a jovial mood in the morning, enjoying the usual pushing games around the Stockade when Nyiro and Laikipia engaged one another. Natumi then signalled that it was time to leave by a trumpet. The group enjoyed scratching themselves against the rocks at the base of the hill before moving off. At the mudbath Sosian plunged in and Mweiga stood near him, enjoying splashing water over her body. All the elephants had great fun at the mudbath today.

02 June 2006

An early morning visitor to the Stockade was Uaso, who came from the wild to join the orphans, and was greeted with great excitement, trumpeting and urinating as is customary. Laikipia then led the way to the feeding grounds. Uaso spent the entire day with the orphans, trying to mount many of them, so the Keepers paid great attention to Mweiga, who is too weak to sustain Uaso’s weight. In the evening Uaso accompanied the group back, and left the Stockades for the bush at 7 p.m.

03 June 2006

It was another lovely morning, characterised by the usual hide and seek games before Icholta decided it was time to leave the Stockades for the field. Soon she realised that she was only being followed by Mvita, Nyiro, Irima and Thoma, so she paused, lifting up one leg, and rumbled. This rallied the rest who came in a perfect line to the base of Mazinga Hill. Suddenly, Uaso arrived in a rush. He had been feeding up the hill. His sudden appearance startled the group, but when they realised that it was only Uaso, they all settled down to feed together. Uaso accompanied them throughout the day, with less “mounting” than the day previously. He returned with them to the Stockades in the evening and then left heading towards the Eastern side of Mazinga Hill.

04 June 2006

It was a cloudy cool day as the orphans played their usual baby games in the morning. Mukwaju led the climb up Mazinga Hill, as usual. Mweiga managed to get half-way up, when Mweya came back to keep her company. Burra led the group to the mudbath, where he knelt down to test the temperature. Meanwhile, Laikipia got behind Sosian and pushed him into the water. Sosian is fond of water, and splashed it around with a foreleg, which sent the others running away, not wanting to get wet because of the cold. Burra then put both legs in and was joined by Seraa. Ten minutes later the two ran to join the others, trumpeting and charging. Laikipia led the group back in the evening.

05 June 2006

Today, with the sun rising on the horizon, Mweiga took the lead out to the feeding grounds, but was overtaken by Burra. However, Mweiga didn’t give up, following him closely and swinging her trunk happily from side to side as all the others managed to also overtake her. Sosian remained with her at the back of the column, touching her gently with his trunk to reassure her. They enjoyed a peaceful day feeding, and a wonderful mudbath and today it was Icholta that led the way back in the evening.

06 June 2006

The orphans scattered over the feeding grounds today, because it is drying up rapidly again. As it was cool, there was not much activity at the mudbath, but Salama and Edie spent time scratching their heads against a tree, and touching each other’s mouths with their trunk. Upon deciding that it was too cold to bathe, Thoma took some water in her trunk and made her own little mudhole, where she had a lot of fun. Lolokwe enjoyed sitting in the mud until Edie interrupted his reverie, prompting him to leave, when his position was taken by Solango. Laikipia led the way back in the evening.

07 June 2006

The orphans left at 6 a.m. and headed to the Northern side of Mazinga Hill where about 600 buffalo were feeding. Some playful calves raised a huge cloud of dust, which threw the elephants into confusion, and prompting them to change location. After mudbath, they returned to the Northern face, by which time the buffaloes had left.

08 June 2006

Again the orphans headed up the hill, and spread out to feed where the vegetation is still tinged with green. Solango and Laikipia led the group to the waterhole where they were joined by Uaso. After a greeting of intertwined trunks, Uaso kept on putting him trunk on the babies’ backs with the intention of mounting them, so they avoided him. Uaso fed with them for what remained of the day and accompanied them to the Stockades in the evening.

09 June 2006

Whilst the others were playing the usual games at the Stockade in the morning, Nyiro went up the foot of the nearby Mazinga hill, keeping a close watch on the others in order not to be left behind when they decided to move. As soon as he saw them moving off towards the Western side of the hill, he came down to join them. Uaso met them there, and immediately tried to mount Edie, so all the other elephants surrounded him in an attempt to rescue Edie. Laikipia plucked up the courage to challenge Uaso, but was seen off. In the end the Keepers intervened to save Edie, for Uaso was giving her no time to feed. Uaso accompanied the group to the waterhole, where he was better behaved, even when Thoma rolled in loose soil in front of him. Sosian enjoyed throwing soil over his body. The orphans left Uaso behind when it was time to return to the Stockade.

10 June 2006

There was a tussle between Natumi and Edie as to who should lead the orphans out this morning, when Laikipia seized the opportunity and rushed past them. Natumi tried to grab his tail in passing, but missed. Uaso joined them at l0 a.m. at the foot of the hill, when he went in search of Edie. As a diversion, Laikipia lay down, attracting Icholta who rubbed a foreleg against his head, but Laikipia got up and went in search of Edie. Having located her, he tried to mount her, but Uaso got jealous and ran fast to see him off. Uaso spent the rest of the day with the orphans, returning with them to the Stockade in the evening.

11 June 2006

This morning, Uaso was at the Stockade to join the orphans and accompany them to the hill, where Sosian remained with Mweiga at the foot. Salama mounted Mweya, jealously watched by Laikipia. The orphans all had a lot of fun at the mudbath today. In the evening Lissa and Lara came to the Stockade at 5.30 p.m. when the orphans were already in. Lara ran to greet Uaso and drink at the water trough, joined later by Lissa. Later Lissa, Lara and Uaso all left together.

12 June 2006

Lissa came to join the orphans at 9 a.m. at the foot of Mazinga Hill, and spent a short time feeding with them before wandering off. The orphans surrounded Lara, and were tempted to accompany her and Lissa, but decided against doing so when Lissa headed Eastwards. Uaso joined them later, and continued his mounting practice, accompanying them back in the evening before wandering off.

13 June 2006

The orphans concentrated on feeding today until it was mudbath time. Solango and Burra had a score to settle. After mudbath the orphans went to feed up the hill, and this time there was no sign of Uaso. In the evening, they played at the base of the hill before retiring for the night.

14 June 2006

It was a very chilly night, so the orphans were pleased when the sun came up. Today Morani kept Mweiga company at the back of the column on the way out to feed. The orphans fed up the hill, and refused to go to the mudbath because it was too cold. Instead, the babies came down for their milk, and then returned up the hill until 3 p.m. when they came down for a drink of water.

15 June 2006

After the usual early morning games, Sosian and Mukwaju enjoyed a test of strength, which was won by Sosian, who then engaged Laikipia. However, when the others began to head out, the two separated for some serious feeding before returning in the late evening, having had a lot of fun at the noon mudbath.

16 June 2006

The usual games took place upon leaving the Stockades, but soon all the orphans concentrated on the search for food, heading up Mazinga Hill, with Sosian and Mweiga remaining only half way up. They came down for their milk, took a quick drink of water and then returned up the hill.

17 June 2006

The orphans concentrated again on feeding down in the main part of the Park. At mudbath Thoma put on a lively display, rolling on the banks, while Burra and Seraa took a dustbath, watched by Mpala. Edie and Mvita sat on their buttocks in the water tossing their trunks skywards with delight. Natumi also enjoyed the mudbath today, although usually it is not one of her favourite past- times.

18 June 2006

At noon the orphans were joined by a wild unit consisting of 3 cows, 2 teenage bulls and a calf. Natumi initiated the contact, welcoming the group while Laikipia took on a wild age mate in a test of strength and Icholta enjoyed climbing on a teenage cow who obligingly lay down. The orphans left the wild group to go to the mudbath. Emily’s group came to the Stockade at 4 p.m. and hung around waiting for the return of the babies. Laikipia arrived first, but rushed for the Copra rations, whilst Natumi and the others greeted Emily’s group by extending their trunks. Emily’s group left at 6.30 p.m.

19 June 2006

Today, Icholta, Edie and Loisaba monitored Mweiga’s progress carefully, hanging back to touch her with their trunks as they walked alongside. All the orphans fed throughout the day, with a break for those to take their milk. Solango wanted to lead the way home but was soon overtaken by greedy Laikipia.

20 June 2006

After a brief playing session, the orphans headed out to feed and were joined by Uaso at the foot of Mazinga hill. Immediately, he went in search of his favourite, Edie, but Natumi cut him short, stopping him head on as though to give him a stern warning about his mounting behaviour. Nevertheless, he still persisted in pursuing Edie. He was still with them for the mudbath, leaving only at 4 p.m. to head for the Eastern side of Mazinga hill.

21 June 2006

Mweiga and Sosian had a tussle early in the morning, the cause of which was not known. On the way out to feed, Mweiga rumbled a message to Sosian, who stopped to wait for her. The two went half way up Mazinga Hill. A wild group passed nearby at the foot, when the orphans raised their trunks, but did not initiate any contact.

22 June 2006

The orphans enjoyed playing at the Stockade on a cloudy morning. As soon as the Keepers signalled that it was time to go, Burra hurried to the front to lead the group out. Upon reaching the western side of Mazinga hill, Mukwaju, Salama and Loisaba went up, whilst Natumi remained at the base with the others. There was no mudbath today due to the cool weather and in the evening it was Burra and Solango who vied with each other to lead the group back, Burra emerging as the lucky winner.

23 June 2006

Mweiga hurried forward to lead the group today, but was soon overtaken by the rest who came down the hill in a rush. The Keepers shouted to them to stop them from barging into Mweiga in their exuberance. Icholta took the lead and led the group towards the mudbath waterhole, where the group had a wonderful time, trumpeting and playing. Irima engaged Morani, Lolokwe took Nyiro and Mweya took little Morani. Mweya initiated an unusual game, kneeling down to lay her trunk flat on the ground and emit a hissing sound through it. Mvita and Loisaba broke ranks to lead the babies off to feed, and they returned in the evening in a jovial mood.

24 June 2006

Once in the feeding area, Lolokwe and Nyiro had a dispute to sort out. Loisaba became irritated and separated them, the two contestants then feeding apart from one another for some time. It was a fun-filled day, with many games in between the quest for food, and all returned happily in the evening.

25 June 2006

It was a beautiful morning and again Mweiga wanted to lead the group out. Again the Keepers warned the other orphans to be careful not to knock her down.

26 June 2006

The orphans met up with a troupe of baboons in the morning, and had enormous fun charging them and splitting them into three separate groups. The baboons took to the trees, and the day was filled with trumpeting and baboons barking, as the orphans threatened the baboons by tossing their trunks at them. The orphans fed on the lower western side of Mazinga Hill, close to the waterhole.

27 June 2006

Laikipia and Edie put on a Show for the BBC film crew, intertwining their trunks, and reversing to block any others from taking centre stage. The orphans were followed by the BBC crew all day.

28 June 2006

Mvita and Edie enjoyed a dust bath this morning, filling the morning air with dust, watched closely by Mweiga, who then went to scratch her buttocks on a rock. Edie came to share the rock. Out in the field, the orphans were approached by a big wild bull with huge tusks, which daunted them and prompted them to move away. As soon as the bull realised the babies were not comfortable in his presence, he went off towards the pipeline. Later the orphans joined a buffalo who was feeding nearby, and fed peacefully with him until it was time to start the return journey. They fed slowly on the 6 km. walk back to the Stockade in the evening.

29 June 2006

Morani and Mpala enjoyed a pushing game, but soon found that they were being left behind, so ran to catch up. They all fed at the foot of Mazinga Hill, where Seraa and Mpala enjoyed a game of hide and seek. Sosian and Mweiga remained close to the Keepers. Solango and Laikipia were in competition to lead the group back in the evening, a contest won, as usual, by Laikipia.

30 June 2006

The day went as usual – playing around the stockade in the morning, feeding on Mazinga Hill, down to meet up with Mweiga and Sosian for the mudbath and back home in the evening, led by Laikipia. Keepers’ Notes:- “Serena”, the baby zebra, continues to thrive and is becoming more independent, comfortable to wander around the Stockades on her own when the Keeper is otherwise occupied. A great sadness was the sudden death of our beloved baby lesser kudu, “Chuna”, who suddenly began writhing around in pain and died two hours later. We suspect he must have eaten a poisonous plant. However, another baby kudu was brought to us on the 1st July, which was found by Rangers on patrol near Maungu. The Keepers decided to name him “Bahati”, the Swahili word for “Luck”, since he came in to replace our beloved little Chuna whom we loved very much. Although it is very small, the Keepers have high hopes of success in raising it. Food is becoming scarce again for our orphans, for the rains have been inadequate to promote new growth and the drought that has gripped North Eastern Kenya continues. The Keepers fear that it will be difficult to sustain our orphans until November when the next rains are due.