Keepers' Diaries, June 2013

Voi Reintegration Unit

16 Keeper Dependent Orphans remain based at night at the Voi Stockades, 8 of whom are still milk dependent. Lesanju is the main female Matriarch backed up by her best friend, Lempaute, and big girls Wasessa, and Sinya, with younger girls Kenia, Ndii, Kivuko and Panda still milk dependent. Young bulls are Shimba (still recuperating from a lion mauling), his friend Mzima (in the absence of Shimba as a Pushing Partner, now eager to upgrade himself to the Ex Orphans), Taveta, Tassia, Dabassa, Rombo, and Layoni plus the newcomer who came in at the end of the month, named Mbirikani, all of whom are still milk dependent.

01 June 2013

The Juniors headed out to browse the slopes of Mazinga hill at dawn, wild herds plentiful in the area, with whom they could have fraternized had they so wished, but for Lesanju’s reluctance to share her adopted family fearing that they could be “snatched”. (Mzima attached himself to Emily’s Ex Orphan Unit and but the Keepers called him back, Big Boy Laikipia doing his best to dissuade him from returning and a wild cow attached to the Ex Orphan Unit threatening the Keepers briefly, but taking her cue from the Ex Orphans, then walked back calmly. Meanwhile Lesanju and the other Juniors were at the mudbath, Lesanju remaining behind to scratch her body against a tree until the Ex Orphan group turned up, Mzima in amongst them. Immediately, she ran into the herd to welcome Mzima and check on him, after which all the Orphans enjoyed wallowing together until the Ex Orphans left, taking Mzima off with them). Young Junior Boys Dabassa, Tassia, Taveta, Layoni and Rombo often try to sneak away when Lesanju and the girls are otherwise occupied, in order to wrestle without interruption and this merely adds to Lesanju’s fears of losing her family.

02 June 2013

Shimba, still recuperating from his lion mauling, remained around the Stockades browsing with little Panda, as Sinya led the Juniors out to browse. Whilst Sinya often likes to lead the group, she is inclined to become distracted en route by tasty tidbits, leaving those following rudderless. At such times Lesanju rushes forward to take the lead and urge the group onwards, since finding sufficient to fill their bellies now that the dry season has tightened its grip is the mission of the day. Lesanju led the group to the big waterhole at 11 a.m. where Kivuko, Taveta, Kenia and Dabassa remained longer after the rest were drying themselves off with a dustbath. All then returned to browse for the remainder of the day.

03 June 2013

After taking their supplements and Rombo and Ndii had played a chasing game, Lesanju led the Orphans out to browse. There were many wild elephant groups around Mazinga Hill, and the Orphans joined a small family of about 8 wild elephants briefly before a large Bull prompted the Matriarch to leave with her wild family. A second even bigger Bull began to approach the first bull who moved towards another large wild herd pausing under a tree to pluck some birds’ nests and keep a wary eye on his rival. Having noticed Sinya browsing apart from the other Orphans, he began to go towards her to check her out, but she ran to hide behind Wasessa who was browsing nearby. When Wasessa became aware that the Big Wild Bull was approaching her, she ran off screaming to join the rest of the herd, after which Lesanju led her family to the mudbath venue. Kenia had a wonderful wallow after the others had gone for a dustbath, Taveta wiping mud from his eyes with his trunk as he went and Dabassa and Kivuko walking side by side although usually not the best of friends. They all browsed for the remainder of the day before returning to the Stockades in the evening.

04 June 2013

The Orphans settled down to browse the Eastern side of Mazinga Hill, in amongst many wild elephant herds who were in the area. The Orphan boys began to move towards a wild herd where 2 large Bulls were sizing up a female. Although Lesanju and the girls tried to keep a respectable distance, they soon found themselves surrounded by wild elephants amongst whom were some small calves, who attracted the attention of Lesanju, Wasessa, Sinya and Lempaute until Lesanju suddenly realized that one of the Bulls had his eye on her! She hurriedly made good her escape, after which the two Wild Bulls engaged one another in a fight, prompting the mothers of the small babies to remove themselves from the scene of conflict, as did the Orphans, who ran back to their Keepers! The Orphans then settled down to resume browsing until it was time to head to the mudbath.

05 June 2013

Kenia led the Juniors to browse the slopes of Mazinga Hill, when Emily’s Ex Orphan herd turned up with two wild Bulls in their midst, who were paying a lot of attention to Edie and Sweet Sally. Icholta went to join the Juniors who were feeding nearby while Emily and the other Ex Orphans to drink from a waterhole, Emily’s baby Eve seizing the opportunity to suckle her mother while one of the Bulls kept a close eye on Sweet Sally making sure that his rival did not get a look-in! Emily and the Ex Orphans, with the Wild Bulls in tow, then headed towards the Stockade water trough, which they rapidly drained, and to demonstrate that more water was needed Ex Orphans Mvita, Lolokwe and Emily’s calf Eve, stood in the trough blowing air through their trunks to attract the attention of the Keepers! Meanwhile the Juniors and Icholta arrived at the mudbath venue just as the Bowzer was filling the drinking barrels, so they were able to have their fill. (Often wild elephants drain the barrels, and the Tractor has to do a second run for the Orphans who arrive to find the barrels emptied).

06 June 2013

Lesanju and Wasessa led their group up Mazinga hill to browse, eager to try and avoid the wild herds who were being checked out by some large Elephant Bulls who were moving between the various herds. Since it was a cool day, the Orphans decided not to wallow, but hung around wondering what to do next when Emily and the Ex Orphans arrived with the Boyfriends of Edie and Sally. The two groups exchanged rumbled greetings to one another, and drank what was left in the barrels, Sally closely guarded by the Bigger of the two wild Bulls, while the younger one was focused on Edie, who always tried to escape from him. Taveta and Tassia wanted to remain with Mzima and the Ex Orphans, while Lesanju desperately tried to urge her family away, Ex Orphan Seraa doing her best to hijack some members of Lesanju’s family in the process. On the way to browse Mazinga Hill Lesanju’s group encountered and exchanged greetings with Ex Orphan Boys Irima, Tsavo, Lolokwe and another young wild bull of their age, all of whom had been chased out of the main Ex Orphan group by the Big Boyfriends of Edie and Sally. Further on Lesanju’s group bumped into a familiar wild Cow Elephant who normally has 3 calves with her, the youngest of which is only about 3 weeks old and the oldest about 8 years. On this occasion she had obviously lost her family to another herd, and was running around screaming and trumpeting searching for them. The Orphans had just settled down to feed when Edie came running past screaming, hotly pursued by her Boyfriend, who caught up with her and tried to mate with her. This terrified the Juniors, who ran to their Keepers for protection!

07 June 2013

Sweet Sally led some of the Ex Orphans to the Stockade water trough, arriving all very thirsty. The two wild Boyfriends had now left the group, and as the Biggest Ex Orphan Boy, Laikipia was set on trying to mount Sally. In the process of chasing after her, Emily intercepted him, backed up by her calf Eve who later decided to take off, leaving Emily to deal with Laikipia. None of the other Ex Orphans wanted to get involved but remained within the Stockade compound for about an hour. Eventually Sweet Sally ran into the Juniors as they were browsing the slopes of the hill, but hurried off rather than linger, since Laikipia was still in pursuit of her. Sally hid behind a rock and when Laikipia caught up with her, she ran as fast as she could to Emily and the rest of the Ex Orphan herd, but Laikipia was not giving up! The Juniors and the Ex Orphans took a rest under the shade of a tree and together headed to the Stockade mudbath, where Shimba and Panda were taking their noon milk feed.

08 June 2013

At noon today Kenia led the Juniors to the waterhole where they quenched their thirst and only splashed some water around, since the weather was not conducive to wallowing. Instead they went to dig earth from the gully for a dustbath until Lesanju alerted them that it was time to head back to the Hill to feed. At around 2.45 p.m. Emily’s Ex Orphans came to the Stockade water trough with a wild Bull who had what looked like an arrow wound in his body, but was otherwise in good shape. He was very friendly towards Mweya, but slightly alarmed by the presence of the Keepers, although he took his cue from the others, and keeping an eye on the Keepers, drank his fill from the trough.

09 June 2013

Now that the natural waterholes are drying up, and the country drying, the wild Elephants have to trek long distances for both food and water, some digging in the sand of the dry Voi River to try and get a drink. Lesanju first led the Juniors into the Open Park, but decided that browsing was better up the hill, so they returned to feed there for the better half of the day. The milk dependent Juniors went ahead of the others to take their milk at noon, and were joined later by the rest of the Junior Herd, where all wallowed cheerfully.

10 June 2013

Shimba, who is healing well, and gaining condition again after staring death in the face when mauled by the lion, led little Panda to the place where they find a lot of greens. Panda is also doing well, especially now that she has Shimba for company. Meanwhile Lesanju’s Orphans browsed until noon, when they headed to the mudbath and milk venue, but did not wallow since the day was too cool. Kenia, Layoni, Ndii, Dabassa and Kivuko were at the first milk sitting followed by Taveta, Tassia and Rombo. Lesanju then led her herd to the west of the Park where they browsed for the remainder of the day.

11 June 2013

Out in the field the Orphans enjoyed a visit from a small herd of wild elephants, the young family members of the wild herd taking the opportunity to play Pushing Games with Taveta, Tassia, Dabassa and Ndii, something to which the wild Matriarchs did not object. The two groups parted company at noon when the Juniors headed to the mudbath. All had fun wallowing today, after which they returned to the slopes of Mazinga Hill to browse.

12 June 2013

Shimba and Panda remained near the Stockades as the others left to browse the slopes of the hill before returning to the Stockade for their milk and a mudbath at noon. Later they headed Eastwards to browse. Meanwhile Ex Orphan Tsavo came to the Stockades alone, where he met Shimba, Panda and Layoni, who had remained behind and had to run to catch up with the rest of Lesanju’s herd. Tsavo was eager to challenge Shimba to a Pushing Match, but Shimba was still not up to that, and walked away, leaving Panda to occupy Tsavo around the water trough. During the afternoon the Orphans enjoyed feeding with 2 wild cows and their calves, for whom the Big Orphan Girls acted as Nannies. Kenia led the group back in the late evening.

13 June 2013

After the mudbath, the orphans went for a dustbath in the gully where the boys enjoyed Pushing Games. Tassia and Mzima tried to push down a small Acacia tree which ended when Mzima engaged him in a Pushing Match which deteriorated into a tough fight, so the Keepers had to intervene to restore peace.

14 June 2013

There were happy trumpets and rumbles during the pre supplement Stockade Games which began in earnest once they had finished the morning handout. Lesanju then led the Orphans, Lempaute at the rear to ensure that none of the naughty boys sneaked off. Browsing continued until noon when Kenia, Ndii, Dabassa and Layoni were first for their milk, followed by the others. Although at first reluctant to wallow, eventually they all went in with Rombo, Mzima, Dabassa and Kenia staying in longer than the others who went for the soil dusting session. Rombo and Taveta engaged one another in a mudbath Pushing Match during which Rombo got stuck, and being on the upper side, Taveta easily had the edge of him. Eventually Rombo managed to get out, but Taveta remained in the mud, knowing that Rombo was bent on settling the score. When Rombo noticed that Taveta would not come out to face him, he ran trumpeting towards the rest of the herd, who were excited by what he had to say, and ran towards him with tails erect and ears out! All then plunged into the pool to surround Taveta, who screamed for help. All then hurriedly ran out and began chasing one another around the bushes!

15 June 2013

The Orphans browsed the slopes of Mazinga hill today before heading to the mudbath, where they found that the water barrels had already been emptied by the wild elephants, so the Orphans had to drink from the muddy Big Waterhole. On the way back to browse, Lesanju heard some movement in the bush and paused to see two wild Elephant cows emerge and head back to the Waterhole. The Orphans were tempted to follow them, but were warned off, so continued their return to the Hill. In the evening a Splinter from Emily’s Ex Orphan group came to the Stockades to drink, led by Thoma. The Splinter Group of Ex Orphans then lingered around the Stockade yard waiting for the others to arrive. After a short while Sweet Sally turned up still being pursued by Laikipia and another wild Bull, who kept his distance upon noticing the presence of the Keepers. As Sally and Laikipia raced past, Edie and the others began to follow, but soon Laikipia managed to catch up with Sally and began to try and mate with her. However, the wild Bull moved in quickly, and there was a huge dust-cloud and elephant screaming, as Laikipia and the wild Bull clashed and Laikipia was driven away. The wild victor then led Sally away into the bush, the other Ex Orphan boys keeping a safe distance, not wanting to become another target for the Big Boy!

16 June 2013

As the Orphans settled down to browse they were joined by a friendly wild herd, whose company even Lesanju enjoyed. The two groups then moved deeper into the Park, leaving the Keepers up the hill to monitor events from a vantage point. Lesanju and Lempaute had a great time baby-sitting the wild babies, each wanting to be closes to the babies, while Tassia, Taveta, Rombo and Mzima chose age-mates against whom to wrestle. The two groups were together all morning and went to the Waterhole together where they had a wonderful joint wallow. At 4 p.m. the Keepers called the Orphans, and when the wild elephants heard this, they re-grouped and moved off, Lesanju and Lempaute trying to follow the wild babies whom they loved, but they were warned off by the mothers.

17 June 2013

The Orphans browsed close to the Stockades today, since a School Group was expected for the mudbath. The school kids thoroughly enjoyed feeding and touching the milk dependent Youngsters, which is a rare treat for them. After the school kids left, the Orphans returned to Mazinga hill to browse, and today were not joined by any wild elephants. In the evening KWS Rangers brought an orphaned baby buffalo to the Stockades, which was not in good shape, with a seeming neck problem.

18 June 2013

The Orphans enjoyed their Lucerne in the large Enclosure, Shimba and Panda with them. The Orphan Boys then embarked on their Stockade games, Mzima defeating Tassia in a tough match, and Rombo bent on settling the score with Taveta, remembering what Taveta did to him a few days ago. Shimba and Panda moved away from the wrestlers, and were joined by Wasessa near the fence, who tried unsuccessfully to persuade them to move off to browse with the others!

19 June 2013

After taking their morning supplements, the Orphans went to the Hill to browse, splitting into two groups, one led by Lesanju and the other by Lempaute. The two groups remained separated until noon when the met up at the Stockade compound for the noon milk feed and wallow, again visited by a School Group, who learnt a lot about elephants and thoroughly enjoyed their visit.

20 June 2013

Shimba and Panda again joined the other Orphans for the hand-out supplements, after which the usual Stockade Strength Testing Games ensued, Rombo defeating Taveta on this occasion. At 11 a.m. there was a message from Nairobi that an orphaned elephant calf had been spotted near the Voyager Lodge at Ziwani. Keeper Julius rounded up a Rescue team and headed to the location for the rescue mission, which entailed a journey of about 3 hours. Upon arrival the Rescuers the Keepers began tracking the calf, who had last been seen some 3 hours earlier. It was already late in the evening by the time the calf was spotted resting under a tree near the Tsavo river and was successfully subdued after a lot of shoving and pushing. Having tied its legs, it was loaded into the Pickup and driven back to the Voi Stockades.

21 June 2013

Sadly yesterday’s rescued calf, who was over two years old, collapsed early this morning, and died, the loss of its elephant family, the trauma of capture and the long journey back proving more than it could bare. While taking their Lucerne this morning, little Panda did not like the competition, and left, Wasessa following who tried unsuccessfully to persuade her to return. Tassia then came to join them, inviting Panda to a gentle Pushing Match, which she greatly enjoyed, and which was allowed by Wasessa who kept a close eye on things to ensure that Tassia was not too rough. He allowed Panda to push him without putting up resistance and that made the baby extremely happy. Meanwhile, missing his little friend, Shimba went in search of her, only to find her engaged with Tassia. Wasessa intercepted Shimba in order not to allow him to disrupt the game, so he walked away quietly and went to drink before moving to his usual feeding area. Wasessa then escorted Panda back to the Copra Cake, Lesanju rushing forward to welcome the baby which allowed Wasessa to enjoy what was left of her share of the Copra.

22 June 2013

It was another lovely morning as the Orphans enjoyed their supplements. While scratching herself against a rock, Sinya got a huge fright when Lualeni (the zebra orphan) galloped past and Dabassa tried to entice a Pushing Opponent away from the supplements in order to play before Lesanju led the group out to browse, Dabassa joining her to head the column. The Orphans did not attend the mudbath today since the weather was not suitable for wallowing. On the way home in the evening Rombo and Dabassa engaged one another in a Pushing Match, Ndii on the sidelines watching events until Taveta disrupted the game.

23 June 2013

Having enjoyed their morning supplements, Dabassa went in search of Rombo bent on resuming the Pushing Match which was interrupted by Taveta yesterday. He found Rombo rubbing his bottom against a rock, and having given him a prod, the two engaged one another and became so engrossed in the game that they did not notice Taveta approaching from behind. He prodded Dabassa which sent both him and Rombo away screaming! Taveta then took on Dabassa briefly until Lesanju led the group out to feed, Taveta, Tassia and Mzima lagging behind the rest at the back of the column. When Lesanju reached the destination, she realized that the three boys were missing and began to walk back look for them, bumping into them on the way which prompted an excited greeting. Having touched them all with her trunk to ensure that they were O.K. Lesanju led them back to feed amongst the rest of the herd.

24 June 2013

On the way out to browse this morning Mzima noticed a herd of impalas and charged to disburse them aided by Taveta and Tassia who were eager to join in. The impalas rapidly disappeared in the bushes whereupon the three boys embarked on bush-bashing trumpeting as they searched for them but later returned to the rest of the herd, At noon the Orphans went to the Big Waterhole for the milk dependent orphans to take their noon feed, and after a dustbath (since it was too cool to wallow) the herd resumed feeding for the rest of the afternoon.

25 June 2013

The Juniors once again had a chance of intermingling with a friendly wild herd out in the field, who allowed the Boys to choose Age-Mates with whom to play, and the Older Girls to become “Nannies” to their babies. Two wild Bulls then walked into the herd, which prompted the Orphans to split from their wild friends and run back to their Keepers who were watching events from a nearby vantage point on the Hill. Since the day turned hot, the Orphans enjoyed the mudbath today, Rombo and Layoni putting on a good display and following a dustbath, feeding again resumed.

26 June 2013

The Orphans browsed the slopes of Mazinga Hill where food is more plentiful than on the Park plains below. Meanwhile a wild herd comprised of 2 cows and 3 calves turned up at the Stockade water trough to quench their thirst. At noon the Orphans made their way to the Big Waterhole, where all enjoyed a good wallow, Lesanju, Sinya, Lempaute and Wasessa leaving the mudbath for a dusting session ahead of the younger orphans to give them more space in the wallow itself.

27 June 2013

Again the Orphans browsed the sloped of Mazinga Hill, Tassia, Taveta, Rombo, Dabassa and Mzima choosing to feed apart from the Girls. At noon all wallowed and enjoyed a dustbath afterwards, Mzima doing sit-ups to impress Sinya, who was with him. Just past 5 p.m. Dabassa led Kenia, Ndii, Layoni and Kivuko down the Hill and back to the Stockades, followed l0 minutes later by the rest of the group, and watched by 2 Klipspringer antelopes poised as they stood on the rocks of the Hill.

28 June 2013

After their supplements, the Orphans again opted to climb the Hill to browse amongst the rocks, Wasessa impressing Rombo who was impressed by her climbing skills and tried to keep pace with her. The milk babies came down first to take their noon feed, followed by the rest who enjoyed a cooling wallow. At about 1 p.m. a herd of wild elephants came to drink at the Stockade trough, warmly welcomed by Wasessa and Ndii who rushed forward to greet them, Wasessa soon focusing on a small calf which was allowed by the Matriarch, but the older sister of the baby objected, engaging Wasessa in a Pushing Game to try and distract her. Ndii moved in on the side of Wasessa, but the wild girl and an older sister pushed the two Orphans away. They settled to browse close to the small calf, who dashed up and down before them.

29 June 2013

Kenia, Rombo, Ndii, Panda and Shimba were first to race to their milk bottles which were downed in a heartbeat before they rushed to the Copra pile. The second milk group, comprised of Layoni, Dabassa and Kivuko were then let out of their Night Stockade, Layoni and Dabassa always bellowing whenever Kivuko happens to be ahead of them, since she is inclined to head-butt the younger boys during milk feeds. Later all went to the large enclosure where they enjoyed the Lucerne supplement and where little Panda enjoyed playing a Pushing Game with Ndii while Dabassa and Rombo engaged one another again. Again they were interrupted by Taveta but the two younger boys teamed up and managed to chase him off before resuming their game. It ended when Lesanju signaled that it was time to head out to browse.

30 June 2013

A three year old calf with a severe snare wound on the right front leg, was brought to the Voi Stockades last night from the Chyulu area abutting Amboseli National Park. The Mobile Veterinary Unit had been called in to try and remove the snare and were forced to immobilize the calf’s mother, who was very protective of her baby. The Vet managed to remove the wire which had dug right through the flesh to the bone, the skin having closed over it, so it was a severe injury. Sadly, upon being revived, the Mother ran off to join the rest of her herd, leaving her baby who was far too lame to follow, and could barely even put the injured foot to the ground. Since it was already getting dark, the decision was made to rescue the calf as an orphan, since being so severely handicapped it would be unable to keep up with the herd and would probably end up making a meal for the hyenas or lions. Furthermore the wound would undoubtedly need follow-up treatment in order to afford this baby a second chance of life. The Orphans were excited by her presence in the morning, and all came to greet her which calmed her down sufficiently to take water from a bucket, and feed on the fresh greens that had been cut for her. Her Rescuers were given a tour of the premises and were able to meet the other Orphans before they headed out, Wasessa doing her best to break open the door of the newcomer’s Stockade hoping that she would be able to join them. Upon returning in the evening, she was first to rush back to greet the newcomer, dominating Kenia’s adjoining Stockade from which she was removed, since taking it over might have upset Kenia and those in with her.