Keepers' Diaries, March 2002

Voi Reintegration Unit

Nursery Elephants:- Mercifully it has been a quiet and healing month for all 6 Nursery babies. Mweya has settled into her role as Mini Matriarch, lording it over all the others with supreme confidence, and thrilling the crowds that come to view the babies between 11 a.m. and 12 noon every day with her antics. Although she is much better behaved now, every now and then a wicked gleam creeps into her dark lash fringed eyes, and she can't resist giving an unsuspecting visitor a shove off guard! Sweet Sally has become less "clinging", but still has the suckling of either a finger or a bottle paramount in her mind and is extremely attached to the Keepers. It is difficult to remember now how difficult she was to become accustomed to her bottle when she first came in! Sweet Sally and Mweya will be the next to make the journey to Tsavo, there to be welcomed enthusiastically by both Mulika and Nasalot, who will remember them clearly. Thoma looks upon herself as "Nannie" and 2 i/c to Mweya and is almost as "bossy", whilst little Burra's cheeks have filled out and become plump, losing their former skeletal aspect. His wounds have all healed, but for a miniscule amount of pus still oozing from the neck wound caused by the snare, where there is obviously still some dead tissue. We are flushing the wound every day with saline fluid and magical mother tincture of Calendular, which was so successful in healing the gaping wound on Ndara's back. Burra and Solango are best "buddies", romping around together and charging any warthogs they encounter who oblige them by running away. Burra is not too keen on the mudbath, preferring to shower dust over himself instead. Little Seraa, although still looking a little fragile, has remained healthy and happy, gaining weight steadily and joining in the fun and games. She is much quieter than the others, a gentle little elephant with a beautiful face, but with a very strong determination and a mind of her own. In character she reminds us of Kinna.

01 March 2002

Kinna set the pace for all the younger orphans when leaving the Night Stockades this morning, leaving Nasalot and Mulika lagging way behind, until a plane passing overhead which sent them scampering to join the others and their Keepers for protection. At 10.30 a.m. Natumi and Ilingwezi began testing their strength, a contest won by Natumi. This angered Ilingwezi who tried to get her own back by biting Natumi's tail, sending her running to the Keepers for protection. At the mudbath Emily and Imenti had a wonderful time, submerging their bodies completely under water with just the tip of their trunks showing.

02 March 2002

Out in the field today, Mvita decided to be very possessive of little Maungu, feeding close beside her, and discouraging close contact to all the others, kicking Lolokwe with a back leg when he became a sbit pushy. Later Natumi enjoyed showing her size by reaching as high as she could to pick leaves from a tree. Salama could not reach, trying everything he could think of, even squatting on the ground and jumping his front legs off the ground to try and reach higher. Eventually the Keepers came to help him by lowering the branch. Imenti decided to supervise the milk session for Ndara and Maungu at noon, escorting them to the tractor, and standing beside them with his front legs crossed and his trunk resting on a tusk (a gesture of peace in elephant body language, obviously aimed at the Keepers and Tractor Driver). During the night Nyiro somehow managed to get his left front leg stuck in the metal rails of the Stockade, bellowing loudly to call the Keepers to come and help him free himself.

03 March 2002

In the morning Nyiro was limping slightly, but he soon forgot about it. Today the Baby Group separated into two groups, Nasalot, Mulika and Maungu taking themselves off to graze separately from the others quite far away. This meant more work for the Keepers to keep an eye on them all and eventually reunite them. At the mudbath , who is always full of fun, initiated an interesting game, kneeling down on the slippery banks of the mudbath and sliding in. Salama and Laikipia joined in by doing the same. At 10.35 a.m. Emily, Aitong and Loisaba alerted the Keepers to the fact that something was going on by raising their trunks. Soon afterwards Ndume strode in to join them, causing Imenti to depart hurriedly. He remained alone all day, because Ndume decided to stay! At 3.30 p.m. Edo reported to the Stockades and waited until the other orphans arrived. Ndume tried to send Edo away, but the Keepers reprimanded him.

04 March 2002

Today, all the orphans decided to feed together as one herd, Emily leading the way. The smallest ones, namely Maungu, Ndara, Kinna, Mukwaju, Yatta and Nyiro walked securely between their larger companions, Emily, Imenti, Aitong, Natumi and Edie. On their way to the mudbath at noon Yatta's group encountered a lone male buffalo. Mvita, Mukwaju, Nyiro and Maungu joined forces to try and send him on his way, but he refused to budge, until the Keepers appeared, and then he ran off. Just as soon as he was running, the babies regained their courage and gave chase for about 10 minutes, returning jubilantly, obviously feeling very proud of themselves.

05 March 2002

It started raining once all the orphans were in the field. Yatta's group was frightened of the thunder and ran to the Keepers for protection. However, when they came close to the Keepers, Ndara became even more scared seeing the Keepers with their rain hoods over their heads. She cried and began to run away, so we had to uncover our faces in order to reassure her that we were not other creatures! Meanwhile, Emily, Aitong, Loisaba and Mweiga enjoyed a game with four warthogs, chasing them round and round, whilst the warthogs merely dodged them, something that excited the elephants greatly. Mweiga managed to kick one with a back leg. Later Ilingwezi, Edie and Natumi joined in, making the game very active.

06 March 2002

It was a very bad start to the day for Nyiro when he stepped on the Monitor Lizard that lives around the Stockades, and it hit him on the leg with its tail. He was so frightened that his body was trembling all over. We inspected his foot to make sure that there was no wound, but the incident unnerved him for the rest of the day, persuading him to cling to the Keepers. At 8.15 a.m. Edie, Ilingwezi and Salama decided to give Laikipia a hard time, targeting him in between breaking down small bushes and trumpetting. In the end Laikipia called for the Keepers' assistance, and we put an end to this teasing. Tsavo and Nyiro played in the mudbath, after which Natumi and Laikipia shared an affectionate moment, draping their trunks upon each other "perhaps congratulating each other because they viewed themselves as the best swimmers!" In the afternoon, Emily came to take Ndara from Yatta's group. Ndara returned after l hour to rejoin her group.

07 March 2002

It was Mweiga who set a very slow pace for the others today, because she Mweiga is always weak. Emily would not leave her side. In the afternoon the orphans scattered, feeding separately, so it was difficult for the Keepers to keep in touch with them all. Emily, Natumi, Kinna, Yatta, Laikipia and Salama cornered a group of baboons on their way back to the Stockades in the evening. The male baboons tried to protect their friends, but Emily and the others chased them until they went under the electric fence When the babies were returning in the evening, Kinna tried to prevent Nyiro from interacting with the Keepers, pushing him away until he fell down.

08 March 2002

This morning Ndume appeared to join Emily's group, spending 2 hours with them, during which time Imenti excused himself. Later the babies ran for the protection of their Keepers when they were scared by two fighting waterbuck who were bent on chasing each other.

09 March 2002

Imenti left the other orphans at about 7.30 a.m. and spent the morning away, joining them again for the mudbath. During the morning Natumi and Edie were scared by a flock of weavers and came running back to the Keepers. At the mudbath, Nyiro and Tsavo started their usual game, Nyiro pushing Tsavo back into the water every time he tried to get out.

10 March 2002

All the orphans remained together out in the field today. Laikipia wanted to feed beside Mulika and Nasalot, but Mulika wasn't having any, and kept kicking him away whenever he got too close. Eventually, he took the hint and left to join the others. Imenti led the way to the mudbath, but retreated upon finding Edo already there. Tsavo tried to thwart Maungu and Ndara from joining Emily in the mudbath. Edo spent part of the afternoon with the orphans, but then left.

11 March 2002

Today, the baby group split into three, each moving in a different direction, so it took some time to get them all reunited. Ilingwezi found a tortoise and thinking it was a ball, began to play, rolling it around, until the tortoise put out its head and touched her foot. Then she became very scared and ran back to all the others. Laikipia and Edie, curioud about her alarm, came to inspect the tortoise, but were too scared to touch it. At l0.45 a.m. Emily and Aitong joined a wild herd, striding purposefully towards the mudbath. Upon reaching the mudbath, the wild elephants drank all the water in the drums and then wallowed, joined there by Emily's group.

12 March 2002

Mulika and Nasalot led the younger set out today. They met two large ostriches, which were seen off by Kinna, Mvita, Mukwaju and Yatta. Out in the field Emily came to Natumi's group and took away Laikipia and Edie to join her set. Edie and Loisaba had a shoving match, which Loisaba won, pushing Edie down.

13 March 2002

Imenti led the older orphans out today. Kinna, Maungu and Ndara, from the baby group, charged a flock of guineafowl, chasing them for about 200 metres, but when they found themselves far removed from the Keepers, they became scared and ran back fast, Ndara in the lead. Just before mudbath, Ndume arrived, and spent the rest of the day with the orphans, returning with them to the Stockades in the evening. Just after mudbath, Edie found a paper bag, and introduced Ilingwezi and Natumi to an interesting game, kicking it around, and lifting it up. Afterwards, Emily lay down in the sand, and Tsavo enjoyed climbing on her and slipping off due to the mud.

14 March 2002

Nyiro took Kinna unawares as she was rubbing her eye with her trunk, trying to mount her. She wanted revenge, but Nyiro proved too strong, and tried again, sending Kinna running to the Keepers for help. In the evening Laikipia put his trunk through the electric fence to snatch some greens, and got a small shock, which he did not enjoy.

15 March 2002

On the way out today, Kinna, Ndara and Nyiro initiated the chasing of a dikdik, joined by Emily's and Natumi's groups. They went so far that the Keepers envisaged difficulty in reuniting them all, but were spared the trouble when the orphans happened upon two cantankerous old buffaloes who saw them off. Emily immediately rounded up all the orphans and together they ran back to the Keepers for protection.

16 March 2002

Lolokwe tried to mount Nyiro in the morning, and this started a tussle. On the way out, Mvita got left behind, but came when called, welcomed warmly by Ndara and Maungu, who were so pleased to see her that they began the bush bashing game. During the course of the morning Tsavo found himself isolated from his group and started yelling. Emily and Aitong rushed to retrieve him, bringing him safely back.

17 March 2002

When trying to dislodge a tick from the underside of his trunk rubbing it against a tree, Mukwaju got his trunk pricked, and yelled out in pain. Edie discovered a new method of digging up roots, kneeling down to use her tiny tusks. Having managed to extract the root, Icholta tried to grab it, but Edie refused to let it go, which started a tug-of-war. Emily and Aitong became scared by two male giraffes who were fighting. At 12 noon Mvita joined a wild cow who had two youngsters. She spent 45 minutes with them, but when called return to join Yatta's group.

18 March 2002

On the way to the mudbath, Laikipia found himself in trouble when he accidentally stepped on Loisaba's foot. She jabbed him with her tusks, causing him to run to the Keepers for protection. Emily was in high spirits when she emerged from the mudbath, swinging her trunk to and fro, and in the process accidentally hit Tsavo, who became very upset and had to be reassured that this was not meant.

19 March 2002

Kinna, Yatta, Natumi and Icholta had a wonderful time in the mudbath today, spending a long time rolling round and round in the mud. Emily, Aitong and Tsavo charged the lorry that was bringing lunch for the Keepers, and had to be controlled by the Keepers.

20 March 2002

Ndume joined Emily's group at 7.30 a.m. and later tried to teach Emily new tactics of using her trunk as a weapon. Later Ndume joined the baby group where he was warmly welcomed by Kinna, Mukwaju and Yatta. Ndara, Maungu and Mvita were a bit apprehensive, smelling him tentatively with outstretched ears.

21 March 2002

Kinna, Mukwaju, Nasalot and Ndara tried to chase off a group of zebra who were grazing nearby. The zebra refused to budge, kicking out at them with their hind legs, so the babies gave up and returned to their Keepers. Just before noon, a wild bull peeled off from a group of wild elephants to join Emily's group, smelling Emily. He remained for 15 minutes and then rejoined the wild elephants. At 3 p.m. Salama mounted Lolokwe, looking for a tussle, but Lolokwe did not retaliate.

22 March 2002

Ndume turned up at the Stockade at 8.30 a.m., limping. The Keepers tried to check his feet, but could not see anything. We kept an eye on him all day, and by the evening there was improvement. Imenti led the other orphans out today, but Emily lagged behind to keep Mweiga company, so Imenti went off on his own, joining the others later at the mudbath. Meanwhile Edo turned up at 9 a.m. and spent the rest of the day with Emily's group. The other two groups scattered as they fed today, which entailed a lot of work rounding them all up, something that took 3 hours. Salama, Laikipia and Edie dominated the mudwallow today splashing water around and dashing about.

23 March 2002

All the orphans felt threatened when a lion roared from a nearby bush. They came rushing back to the Keepers, and we all left that spot! In the evening, the orphans found Edo drinking water at the Stockades. Laikipia was scared, but Edo reassured him by laying his trunk over his back in a gesture of friendliness, after which they drank together.

24 March 2002

Today, it was two hyaenas who emerged from a hole that frightened the orphans, scattering them in all directions. Maungu was especially scared and spent the rest of the day close to the Keepers. At 3 p.m. Imenti left the orphans and returned alone to the Stockades ahead of them.

25 March 2002

Ndume arrived at the Stockades at 6 a.m., showing the Keepers and other orphans that he was now O.K. He spent the rest of the day with Emily's group. Edie left to join Yatta's Baby Group and took Kinna Maungu, Mvita and Ndara off to feed with her in a thicket. The Keepers went along, only to find them in there with two buffaloes, who immediately charged the Keepers, sending us rapidly up a tree. Later the buffaloes left and the Keepers were able to come down.

26 March 2002

Today it was a tickbird that troubled Maungu. It kept landing on her back to pick off a tick. Salama watched Ndara take her milk at noon, and became very jealous, pushing her when she had finished.

27 March 2002

Maungu, Ndara, Lolokwe and Mukwaju felt very threatened when a dry branch broke and fell near them. After that they would not go near that tree, but kept beside the Keepers. During the mudbath Laikipia stood on Edie's head, so Edie punished him by biting his ears. In the evening Emily wanted to spend time with the little babies in their Stockade, and spent an hour in there with them before returning to her own Stockade.

28 March 2002

It was a grey day, so the babies were not very active today. Maungu and Ndara went to feed alone together, but returned to the others when called. Imenti decided to remain with Natumi's group today, rather than that of Emily. He spent a lot of time playing with Salama, kneeling down to match Salama in size and pushing each other in turns..

29 March 2002

Nasalot encouraged her friend Mulika to take a mudbath today. (Mulika is not very fond of cold water!) Nasalot drew water up in her trunk and sprayed it over Mulika, until Mulika decided to join her in the pool. After the mudbath, Aitong was inadvertently left behind dozing under a tree. Emily noticed her absence, and alerted the Keepers to it by trumpeting, turning back to go and fetch her. Later Emily came striding "majestically" back with Aitong. Edo dropped by the Stockades at 4 p.m. but left a little later.

30 March 2002

At the mudbath today, Emily discovered a turtle in the water. She began to play with it, kicking it around, coming out of the pool, and then charging back in at speed. This game lasted about an hour, and Loisaba and Tsavo joined in. An altercation broke out between Nyiro and Lolokwe over the evening milk feed. Having taken the Copra cake, Natumi went off to feed in a nearby bush, and when she returned she found she had been locked out. She went to find the Keepers who were on Night Duty, so that they could open the Stockade and let her in.

31 March 2002

Nyiro decided to spend the day within Emily's group today in order to play with his friend Tsavo. They pushed each other here and there, trumpeting with excitement. This was not a fight, but a real game, because Tsavo would run here and there and then return looking for his friend Nyiro. At 10.15 a.m. Emily, Aitong, Loisaba and Imenti alerted the Keepers that something was wrong, rumbling and raising their trunks as they moved in one direction. The Keepers followed to see what had alerted them, and found a dead baby buffalo, which had been dead for some days and was stinking.