Keepers' Diaries, March 2005

Voi Reintegration Unit

Very evident in this month’s Voi Diary is the strong friendship and tremendous compassion displayed by the little Ugandan elephant, 4 year old Mweya, towards the weakling of the group, Mweiga, who has always been a particularly fragile member of the orphan unit. We read how Mweya helps Mweiga up the steep incline of a gulley, pushing her from behind with her forehead; how Mweya remains behind at the foot of Mazinga Hill with Mweiga, when the others ascend the hill; how she remains close to Mweiga’s side out in the feeding grounds, and instead of running ahead to the mudbath with the others, keeps pace with slow Mweiga, even holding onto the older elephant’s tail in a gesture of friendship. Nyiro, who has always shared Mweiga’s Stockade during the night, took to persistently trying to mount her during the night, prompting the Keepers to remove him from Mweiga’s Stockade and put him in with Natumi and her night-time colleagues. Since Nyiro’s big buddy happens to be Tsavo, who occupies Natumi’s Stockade at night, this could have been a deliberate ruse to initiate such a change! The fact that elephants reason is illustrated many times in the Diary – for instance when Mpala can’t reach a particular branch, and climbs onto a rock in order to do so, and when Burra can’t quite manage to mount Mpala, and takes advantage of a fallen log to gain height, ending up draped across the log as Mpala moves off!

01 March 2005

Mweiga was having difficulty climbing out of a deep erosion gully that the orphans were crossing, so Mweya went behind her, and helped by pushing her up the steep embankment. Mweiga rumbled softly to say “thanks” and the two fed close together for the rest of the day.

02 March 2005

Emily’s group (i.e. Emily, Aitong and Sweet Sally) arrived very early at the Stockades to escort the other orphans out into the bush. Once out in the feeding grounds, Ndara wanted to be very close to Emily, and tried to push Sweet Sally away, which resulted in a tussle between these two. The Keepers intervened and Sally went back to Emily and Aitong, while Ndara slowly moved away. Emily’s group escorted the orphans back to their Night Stockades in the evening and spent the night up Mazinga Hill, close by.

03 March 2005

Emily’s group were again at the Gates of the Stockade in the morning, and escorted the other orphans up Mazinga Hill, and later to the mudbath. They separated from the main group of orphans at 5 p.m. heading Eastwards.

04 March 2005

Today Emily’s group did not join the other orphans, but were seen near the Big Baobab mudbath, on their own. They later came to drink at the Stockades when the others were inside. Two large bachelor Bulls joined the orphans at the S. side of Mazinga Hill. At first the orphans were hesitant to mix with them without Emily, because the bulls were huge with very big tusks. Mukwaju made the first move to join them, whilst Laikipia was trying to push all the others (who were reluctant to go) towards them. Having made contact, the orphans browsed with these two bulls until noon and mudbath time, when Mukwaju remained behind with the bnlls, joining up with the others later at the mudbath. After mudbath Burra and Mpala went to scratch themselves against a fallen log. Burra tried to mount onto Mpala’s back, but found that Mpala was too tall, so he climbed up onto the log to gain height, and managed. However, when Mpala moved away, Burra found himself draped over the log!

05 March 2005

Emily, Aitong and Sally joined the orphans at 8 a.m., startling Mweiga, who cried loudly. Emily immediately went to her, placing her trunk gently on Mweiga’s back to reassure her. After this she and Mweiga went off happily, swinging their trumps joyfully.

06 March 2005

Nyiro mounted Mweiga, making her fall down, bellowing loudly. The Keepers rushed to help Mweiga get up. However, that night, Nyiro again became a nuisance trying to mount Mweiga, so the Keepers had to keep vigil at her Stockade.

07 March 2005

Again Nyiro persisted in trying to mount Mweiga in the Stockade during the night, so the Keepers moved him to Natumi’s Stockade.

08 March 2005

Nyiro was very happy to have spent the night with his closest friend, Tsavo and when the orphans returned in the evening, he went straight into Natumi’s Stockade alongside Tsavo.

09 March 2005

Emily, Aitong and Sally joined the other orphans at 10 a.m. and took the orphans to the mudbath early, since it was very hot. Emily, Aitong and Sally escorted the orphans back to the Stockades in the evening, and spent the night nearby up Mazinga Hill.

10 March 2005

The orphans joined Emily’s group up Mazinga Hill, and came down with them at 8 a.m. Emily’s group were with the other orphans all day, escorting them back to the Stockade in the evening, leaving at 7.30 p.m. heading East again.

11 March 2005

Mpala found himself unable to reach a branch he particularly wanted, going round and round the tree. Before the Keepers could help him, he climbed onto a nearby rock in order to reach the branch. Icholta charged and chased off some hyrax that were basking in the sun at 7.28 a.m. They went into a cave, and she waited at the entrance for some time, but they never emerged.

12 March 2005

The orphans were very scared when they came across a very large wild bull, who was going to drink at their mudbath at l0 a.m. They stood some way away until the Bull had taken his fill, after which he left, and the orphans then came to the mudbath. Emily’s group joined the babies at 4.30 p.m. Sally became very jealous when she saw the other babies close to Emily or Aitong, pushing them away. Emily disapproved, rumbled and pushed Sally away, after which Sally behaved well. Emily’s group accompanied the babies back to the Stockade in the evening.

13 March 2005

Salama found himself left behind up Mazinga Hill when the others headed to the mudbath at 11 a.m. He bellowed, which prompted the orphans to run back and fetch him. Emily, Aitong, and Sally also heard his bellows and suddenly appeared in response to Salama’s cries. When the two groups met up, there was great joy, trumpeting and rushing around here and there. They all went to the mudbath together, after which Emily’s group left heading South.

14 March 2005

Emily’s group were at the Stockades to escort the babies out in the morning, taking them up Mazinga Hill. Mweiga, who could not go up, was left behind and Mweya remained back with her at the foot of the hill until the others came down 3 hours later. Emily escorted the orphans back in the evening, but left at midnight.

15 March 2005

Following rain, the orphans were very jovial this morning, sliding down the slope of Mazinga Hill and playing mounting games. Burra played with Solango, whilst Icholta chose Lolokwe. The games went on for a full hour before proceeding to the feeding area. Emily’s group joined the orphans at 7 a.m. and were with them the entire day, escorting them back in the evening, and leaving at 9 p.m. heading East.

16 March 2005

The orphans went to feed up Mazinga Hill without Emily today, but became very scared when they heard a wild baby from Naomi’s group screaming far up the hill. They ran back down and went to the West side of the hill instead.

17 March 2005

Emily, Aitong and Sally came to escort the babies when they left the Stockade in the morning. They were standing at the gate of Natumi’s Stockade until it was opened and spent the day together until it was time to return in the evening, when Emily’s group separated, heading Southwards.

18 March 2005

The orphans chased off 2 lesser kudus that came to drink at their waterhole at noon. The kudus found themselves in more trouble when they ran into Emily’s group, who were coming to join the others at the mudbath. All the orphans bathed together, after which Emily’s group left, heading South.

19 March 2005

Laikipia went to feed apart from the others at 7 a.m, but got a shock when Emily’s group suddenly appeared out of the bush close by. He was trembling as the three surrounded him, trumpeting and stretching out their trunks to touch him. At first Laikipia was somewhat overwhelmed but he soon calmed down and led Emily’s group to join the others. The two groups browsed together for the whole day, returning to the Stockade together, when Emily left at 6.40 p.m.

20 March 2005

On the way back to the Stockade in the evening, Mweiga was trailing the other orphans, so Mweya went to help her, going behind, and touching Mweiga’s back legs gently with her trunk. Mweiga was very happy to have Mweya with her, always glancing behind to make sure she was still there.

21 March 2005

Mweya again remained behind with Mweiga when the others went ahead to the mudbath. On the way, an ostrich was in their path, so Mweya charged to chase it off, backed up by Mweiga. They mudwallowed wonderfully together, and fed close to one another all day.

22 March 2005

Having taken an early drink upon leaving the Stockades, the orphans went to scratch themselves against the big rock, tossing their trunks skywards happily.

23 March 2005

Mweiga, Mweya, Thoma and Seraa were separated from the other orphans, who like to wander far afield in search of new greens, when Mweiga tires easily. The four young females were quite happy feeding together without the company of the others.

24 March 2005

Salama was very pleased with himself when he managed to dig up some roots, kneeling down, using his tusks and trunk. Having succeeded he went to test his strength against Sosian, a round won by Sosian. Emily’s group joined the babies at 3.20 p.m., but left them again at 5.10 p.m. when it was time to head back to the Stockades.

25 March 2005

Emily, Aitong and Sally joined the babies in the morning, and took Salana with them when they wandered off towards the Northern side of the hill. They returned to the Stockade at 6.20 p.m. for a drink, but took Salama with them again to spend a night out. He was delighted, keeping pace close to Emily when she and her group left the Stockade at 7.15 p.m.

26 March 2005

Emily, Aitong, Sally and Salama came to the Stockade at l0 a.m. to drink. They then went to join the other orphans at the mudbath. Sosian, who had been missing Salama very much, went to welcome him to the mudbath. Emily’s group wandered off at 3 p.m., this time leaving Salama behind with the other orphans.

27 March 2005

The orphans were very happy this morning, enjoying playing in the loose soil. Ilingwezi played a mounting game with Laikipia. Emily joined the group at 8 a.m. and had a wonderful mudbath with them. She and her group left the others at 5 p.m.

28 March 2005

Thoma tried to play a pushing game with Mweiga, but Mweiga resisted, pushing Thoma away. Thoma took the hint, and continued feeding away from Mweiga.

29 March 2005

Thoma and Seraa enjoyed a rolling around game in loose soil, and Mweiga, who was watching the action closely, slowly went down to join in, but decided to abandon the game when Thoma looked like mounting onto her. She then went to Mweya, and the two fed close to one another.

30 March 2005

Emily’s group joined the babies at 10 a.m. and together they went to the mudbath. Afterwards, the orphans spent a long time resting under the shade of trees, having eaten their fill of new greens. Salama went off with Emily’s group when they left at 4.40 p.m., but changed his mind, and came running back l0 minutes later.

31 March 2005

Mweya remained behind with Mweiga, when Seraa and Thoma left to take water at l0 a.m., mischievously hanging onto Mweiga’s tail as she followed. The four young females had a wonderful wallow, after which they enjoyed scratching themselves against a lying drum of reserve water.