Keepers Diaries, June 2018

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Voi Reintegration Unit

Over a month has passed since Mbegu, Ndotto, Lasayen, Murit, Godoma and Ngilai made the move to our Voi Relocation Unit and they have settled in extremely well to their new surroundings. The most marked difference can be seen in Murit, who at 4 years old was held back from leaving the Nursery until slightly later due to the poor health, but who is now thriving in his new home, relishing the stimulation and interaction with the older dependent orphans, some ex-orphans, and wild herds too. He has proven to be a mud bathing star, and has a special love for water and enjoys wallowing.

The friendships are still as strong as ever with Mbegu and Godoma sticking close and Ndotto and Lasayen too, with Murit and Ngilai close as well. Our new orphans have had some special interactions with wild herds too, as there are plenty in the Voi area, and the wild herds are loving the orphans new mudbath area, created on the slope of Msinga hill and replenished by the Trust’s water bowser. The fresh water in the trough and the well-used mud wallow are a great draw for the wild herds too, and sometimes they have been visiting with tiny babies in their midst and allowing our orphans access to these babies which is a great thrill.

Generally the new Nursery arrivals have mixed in well into the dependent group of older Voi orphans, with the exception of Mudanda and Tahri who thought that they might become ‘old news’ to the older females, and were sometimes prone to jealous behaviour. Tahri especially seemed a little upset with the new arrivals, and pushed Mbegu hard one day. Mbegu had her own way of dealing with this trivial behaviour, and in the first instance merely sucked up some cold water from the water trough and poured it on Tahri’s head! Her matriarchal instincts told her that Tahri was not an enemy however, and as the days went by this month we witnessed Mbegu trying to get closer to Tahri and form a friendship, something that Tahri seemed receptive to.

Tahri need not have worried however, as Ndii has continued to lavish attention on her, and Kenia on Mudanda, preventing any of the other females from spending too much time with them still. Theirs seems to be a bond that no other young elephants can break, which is heart-warming to see. With their attentions back on Tahri and Mudanda, the other females within the dependent herd (and there are many) have had the chance to get closer to the Nursery youngsters much to their delight. Arruba has enjoyed browsing with Godoma, and Embu with Ndotto. Arruba is clearly overexcited and this shows especially at mud bathing time, when she is prone to splashing the water with her front legs, spraying muddy water onto any unsuspecting victims standing behind!

We witnessed a slight change in Ndoria’s personality this month too since the new babies arrived. Slightly devoid of friends for some time due to her tail-biting antics, she seems a new elephant and has been happily browsing with the new babies, although the other older orphans have been keeping a wary eye on her so she doesn’t start any of her funny business.

With so many babies around, six year old bull Tundani has chosen to spend some time browsing quietly to himself, but always re-joins the group later on. He has especially been enjoying the company of older bulls, no doubt eager to learn all he can from them. He succeeded in convincing the herd to join a wild bull one day, much to the awe of the new arrivals! They were quite overwhelmed with the sight of such a large elephant, as so many of them would have no living memory of such a thing, and it took Ndii, Mashariki, and Panda quite some time to calm them down. One ex-orphan however soon succeeded in familiarizing the babies with elephants that size. After a long hiatus of six months, ex-orphan Laikipia joined the Voi dependent orphans on the 7th and stayed to socialize with them all throughout the month, dropping by the mud bath or stockade compound when the orphans were there. Mbegu especially was incredibly curious about the older bull, who seemed so affectionate and friendly towards the orphans, letting them greet and pat him with their trunks, and followed him for some time after his first arrival to get to know him more. He is a lovely gentle elephant, and has chosen to linger close this month so that he has been available to spend time with the dependent orphans, sometimes he has been in the company of other wild bulls, so they have not been short of action.

June 2018 day to day

The orphan elephants walked out of the stockade this morning full of excitement as they drank their morning milk bottle and enjoyed the extra supplements like copra cake and lucerne pellets, before leaving for the bush. On arriving at the southern foot of Msinga Hill, the orphans saw a wild elephant herd browsing half way up the hill. Ndoria and Mbegu were excited and led the others uphill to interact with them. Mbegu stopped half way, while Ndoria reached them greeting them briefly before descending to rejoin the rest of the orphan elephant herd. After an hour of a serious browsing, Ngilai started a strength testing game with Tahri which Godoma later joined. Ndotto and Lasayen kept themselves together browsing close to the keepers as the others explored further uphill. Ndii and Mbegu were seen together with their trunks entwined. The orphan elephants visited the baobab water hole, and had a lot of fun playing mud bathing games after which they resumed with the days browsing activities.

Tahri and Tundani browsing

Wild elephants can smell the Orphans

Mbegu at the 11am milk feed

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