Keepers' Diaries, June 2016

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Voi Reintegration Unit

The month began with much excitement when we spotted Tassia, now 7 years old, with a wild elephant herd, having not been seen for some months. It appears that this wild elephant herd has adopted him since he seemed very much at home and evidently extremely happy in their midst. Nine year old Ex Orphan Mzima came in a few minutes behind them, remaining slightly separated from them, but engaged in a friendly pushing game with a wild teenage boy from the wild herd but when they and Tassia left, he remained behind alone in the stockade compound, obviously not tempted to join the group. However, obviously in communication with his dear friend all the while. Within this wild herd was also the elephant cow with a small calf who had been lingering around the stockade compound a few months ago. She appeared much more relaxed this time around and was obviously familiar with the environment; We believe that she may be an Ex Orphan from Natumi’s herd.

One day Kihari sneaked away from the milk dependent orphans leaving then browsing on the hill. Later, after 4 p.m., she turned up alone at the Stockade Compound, where she was cordially welcomed by Ex Orphans Kivuko and Layoni, who had also come to the Stockade around the same time. These three lingered around the compound feeding on the grewia leaves that had fallen off the lorry when it was being offloaded. Later Layoni and Kivuko were left outside the Stockade when Kihari joined her dependent herd inside for the night. Layoni and Kivuko then left the Stockade Compound to head back to the bush around an hour later, leaving the dependent babies to settle in for the night.

A few days later Layoni was up to some very funny tricks, hiding behind rocks waiting for the dependent orphans to come past so that he could join them. However, when he emerged from behind the rocks, he scared the daylights out of Arruba, Suswa and Naipoki, who were leading the others, but once they realised that it was Layoni, the orphans relaxed and settled to browse with him for the rest of the morning. At noon he returned with them to the Stockade for milk. Kenia is never very happy to see Ex Orphans such as Lesanju and others in her herd including Kivuko, Dabassa, Sinya, Layoni and Lempaute, fearful that they may whisk away her adopted charges. She values her role as the Matriarch of the dependent group enormously. Ndoria has still been up to her usual naughty ‘tail biting’ tricks this month, focusing on poor hen-pecked Araba. However, Ndoria can only hassle Araba when Kenia is not around, as Araba is Kenia’s favourite adopted baby always given preferential treatment and showered with much affection, which Araba reciprocates with rumbles of appreciation. Nelion and Tundani often compete with one another at least once a day to test their strength and determine who is the most dominant!

During the current dry season, the dependent orphans within Kenia’s herd have come across numerous wild herds within close proximity to the stockades and also at permanent water sources. This has provided the orphans with plenty of opportunity to play with younger wild babies, an activity that they relish, along with socializing with older wild babies their own age. It is important that the orphans meet and interact with these wild herds and learn the intricate social nuances of making wild friends whom, in the fullness of time, they will be happy to join. This is the reason why the Trust’s Orphans’ project has been so successful in terms of rehabilitating hand-reared orphaned elephants back where they rightly belong, in a natural wild situation.

This month Mudanda and Rorogoi briefly joined up with a wild herd whilst out browsing, but returned to their orphan family a few hours later. However, we had a very distressing time on the 25th when a wild herd that was socializing with the dependent orphans managed to spirit away little Embu. Embu was under the spell of an older female who was showering her with attention and when it was time to head back to the Stockades and the Keepers called the orphans, the wild herd kept Embu, close and prevented the Keepers from retrieving her.. The Keepers trailed the herd for some time hoping that Embu would lag behind and rejoin them, but as dusk drew closed in, they had to turn back and hope to find her in the morning. Early the next day, one of our Pilots assisted the ground team to search for Embu, who is still milk dependent and reliant on her keepers for protection. However, there was no sign of the missing calf. Early the next day the teams set out again and spotted a lonely figure on the Irima Plains which was, indeed, our little Embu, who had been mauled by a lion overnight. We are not sure why the wild herd abandoned her rather than protected her, but perhaps she had already embarked on the journey back home. Embu was overjoyed to see our Keepers and clung to them as they all made their way back to the Stockades, a distance of some 25km as the crow flies! Dr. Poghon from our Tsavo Mobile Veterinary Unit treated her wounds, which thankfully were not life threatening. Embu was extremely fortunate to have survived this attack, since the Tsavo lions can be successful young elephant predators. Embu has learnt a valuable lesson and thankfully is very much back in the fold, even leading the dependent group out to the browsing fields and back to the stockades on a daily basis.

June 2016 day to day

01 Jun

The orphans exited their stockade in a jovial mood before downing their morning milk bottle. The sun was rising on the horizon as the orphans made their way towards the browsing grounds. Soon after their arrival at the foot of Msinga Hill, they queued up for a scratching session against a rock. Araba was first followed by Lentili then Ishaq-B and Nelion. Once out at the browsing fields the orphan group joined a wild herd that had two small calves. Mashariki, Embu and Rorogoi went to greet the calves after which Embu enjoyed a chasing game with one of them with Bada, Mudanda, and Rorogoi also taking part. The orphans were rather exuberant in their games with the youngster and the little one had to rest for a while once its mother had come to its rescue. Suswa enjoyed browsing together with a teenage cow while Ndii engaged one of the other youngsters in a pushing game which she won. The two groups browsed together until about 8:30 after which they went their separate ways with Ndii staying with the wild herd for an additional 10 minutes before rejoining the orphan group. In the evening Nelion and Tundani who were still ascertaining their position among the bulls took each other to task in a wrestling match before joining the others who were making their way to safety of the stockades for the night. At 6.10pm when the orphan elephants were already in their respective stables a small wild elephant herd of three cows and their two calves came to the stockade for a drink of water. This wild elephant herd which often frequents the stockade for a drink left twenty minutes later having quenched their thirst.

Ishaq-B going for a scratching session

Embu, Rorogoi & Mashariki greet the wild calf

Ndii with a wild calf