Keepers' Diaries, June 2009

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Voi Reintegration Unit

Lesanju has established her leadership role, taking over from Wasessa, who has become as devoted to Lesanju as Lempaute and Sinya.

Lesanju has established her leadership role, taking over from Wasessa, who has become as devoted to Lesanju as Lempaute and Sinya.

However, Lempaute remains extremely attached to Lesanju. Among the boys, Siria and Mzima are good playmates with Shimba usually an interested bystander who would rather not get involved in a rough and tumble! As the dry season begins to take its hold, and the vegetation dries up, the Voi orphans have had to concentrate on feeding, usually browsing either along the slopes of the Mazinga Hill behind the stockades and even climbing to the top in order to enjoy fodder not touched by the wild herds.

The Voi Unit orphans have enjoyed only one wild encounter this month, on the 4th, when they joined a wild elephant family comprised of 2 adult females and their young at the noon mudbath. Wasessa and Lesanju fraternized closely with the adult cows, smelling them and touching them with their trunks, Wasessa obviously having encouraged the contact, since Lesanju has previously been shy of wild adults, as are Lempaute and Sinya. Siria engaged a wild age-mate in a test of strength, with the other orphans interested onlookers. All the elephants, both orphaned and wild enjoyed the mudbath together, until the wild herds decided to leave, heading towards the airfield. The orphans remained and played for a while before resuming to feed.

The same ritual is played out each day for the Voi orphans. Having been let out of their Night Stockades, they enjoy their morning milk feed and take a drink from the stockade trough, before playing around the compound until the Keepers are ready to lead them out to browse along the slopes of Mazinga Hill. They descend the hill for their noon milk feed and mudbath, sometimes take a rest under shade if it happens to be a hot day, and then browse their way back either to Mazinga hill or the Stockades, where they have their evening milk feed, and go into their stockades for the night, sufficient browse having been cut for their night munching.

This month there has been no sighting of any of our ex orphans under the Matriarchship of Emily and Natumi, all of whom (numbering 36 plus their wild-born calves) are now fully rehabilitated and leading normal wild elephant lives amongst the wild elephant community of the Park. The wild herds are also still widely dispersed, but once the inland natural waterholes dry out, they will again be concentrating on permanent water sources. These are becoming few and far between in the Southern section of the Park now that the Aruba Dam has silted up and dried out. Aruba Dam has served the Park as a large permanent source of water for the animals in the Southern sector for the past 60 plus years, and having silted up, will now turn into valuable swamp grazing to support the sizeable buffalo herds of Tsavo East, buffalo having emerged as the dominant grazers of the elephant induced grasslands. The only sources of permanent water are now the 3 Windmills which were installed by the Trust, and which are also regularly maintained and kept functional by us. This month, both the Aruba Windmill and the Dida Harea Windmill suddenly failed, and needed urgent attention. The Trust was alerted to this fact by a visiting Tour Guide who found the two Windmills dysfunctional and the waterholes they service, completely dry. Many smaller wild resident animals probably know no other sources of permanent water further afield and so could well have perished had the Trust not been informed in time.

Other orphans being reared by the Elephant Keepers at the Voi Stockades are a young bull Eland named Makonge, and the 3 little kudu calves, two males named Mkuki (meaning Spear), Njia (meaning road, this calf having been found on a road) and a younger female called Aruba, who was found wandering alone as a newborn on the road to Aruba by a tour driver. Unfortunately, the kudu group find the young eland rather daunting due to his size, so poor Makonge is something of an outsider.

This month, on the 15th, the 3 orphaned kudus joined a wild group of 4, and went off with them for the entire day, returning to the Stockades long after dark when they woke up their Keeper for their milk feed! They did the same on the 30th, but on this occasion only the 2 males returned during the night – Mkuki at l0 p.m., Njia at 11.30 p.m., with no sign of the little female, Aruba. At daylight, the two young males headed off into the bush again, and much to the relief of the Keepers, returned with Aruba a short while later, who was desperately hungry for her milk!
Another ex kudu orphan named Rukinga is already successfully leading a wild life, having joined a wild unit that is often seen around the Voi Stockades. He is seen occasionally, but because his wild friends are shy of humans, he takes his cue from them after a few indecisive moments. Aside from rearing and successfully rehabilitating the orphaned elephants in their care, our Voi Keepers are now proficient orphaned antelope custodians, setting a fine example to the countrymen that border Tsavo, most of whom simply regard everything on four legs as bushmeat!

June 2009 day to day

01 Jun

The Voi Unit Keeper Dependent group comprised of Lesanju, Wasessa, Lempaute, Sinya (girls) and Shimba, Mzima, and Siria (boys) – all ex Nursery, left the Stockades in the morning having played around the compound and taken on water from the stockade trough, waiting for their Keepers to escort them out to browse. Since it was a warm day, all enjoyed a lengthy mudbath at their milk and mudbath venue out in the bush.

The orphans at the mud bath