Keepers' Diaries, March 2006

Voi Reintegration Unit

It has been a very busy month for all our elephants, since the BBC have been back to embark on the filming of Elephant Diaries Series II, following the success of Series I, as have many other Film Units.

01 March 2006

After the usual morning greeting, drink and play, Laikipia led the orphans to the feeding grounds in the Park, where they all scattered, each searching for anything to eat. Finding enough food during this very dry year takes priority each day, and when time to move to another place, Natumi, as Matriarch, usually gives the order. After the mudbath even the usual midday siesta gave way to a search for food, so that when evening came, and the orphans were back home, in the words of the Keepers, “they achieved a complete slumber like angels in a peaceful resting paradise”.

02 March 2006

Following the usual routine of the morning, when Morani, Solango and Seraa indulged in mock battles, the orphans set about the serious business of feeding out to in the Park. Laikipia used his tusks to dislodge some bark from an Acacia branch, which Morani tried to get, but was blocked by Laikipia who turned his bottom. By the time Morani had run round to Laikipia’s face, the bark had disappeared! The orphans had a wonderful mudbath, and in the evening hurried back to the Stockades for their Grewa and Copra rations.

03 March 2006

It was another serious feeding search. Because it was a hot day, Solango took the lead to the mudbath. On the way some warthogs ran past with tails erect, and Solango lengthened his stride excitedly, and with head held high, ears out and trunk swinging, he ran towards them, backed up by Mpala, Mweya, Nyiro and Lolokwe. They all had fun with the warthogs, subjecting them to mock charges and demonstrations accompanied by a great deal of trumpeting. When Solango and Mpala noticed that their peers were already taking their bottles of milk, they abandoned the warthog game and rushed to get their share. They enjoyed today’;s mudbath, and having fed for the rest of the afternoon, returned to the Stockades happy.

04 March 2006

It was a cloudy morning, so the orphans emerged from their Stockades in a jovial mood, congregating for the usual morning greeting of one another. Some like Natumi, Icholta and Ilingwezi were quiet and dignified, some went to drink water, and others engaged in baby games of hide and seek, waving their trunks about in the air and trumpeting in happiness. Soon Natumi decided that it was time to leave for the feeding ground. At the mubdath, Mweiga enjoyed splashing water on herself using her trunk and foreleg, whilst Ndara rolled around in the water like a fish, and Mvita and Edie sorted out a difference. The orphans took a short siesta before embarking on feeding again, and when it was time to return, Laikipia propelled his massive body in front to lead the others back and be first at the Copra hand-out.

05 March 2006

On the way out this morning, Mweiga, who was in the midst of all the others, deliberately dropped behind because Solango and Burra were chasing one another, and might have accidentally knocked her down. Mukwaju, the expert climber, decided that today the orphans should go up Mazinga Hill, where the orphans were clearly having a good time, because they did not come down for the mudbath. The Keepers called the youngsters to come for their noon milk feed, after which they went back up the hill, coming down at 3 p.m. for a mudbath and drink before returning to the Stockade for the night.

06 March 2006

Today, the usual morning games ended when Natumi called them all around her, and then took the lead, closely followed by all the others except Icholta, who seemed disinclined to obey, and irritated, because she lagged behind with Mweiga, and gave Burra and Morani a passing shove when they ran past to catch up, having been previously occupied in a pushing game. Since the day was cool, the orphans spent the entire time feeding, and at the mudbath only took a drink.

07 March 2006

It was a chilly morning, and whilst the other orphans were engaged in their usual morning games, Mweiga set out ahead. This was immediately noticed by both Mweya and Sosian, who left the others to escort her down the hill, where the others joined them later. Just before mudbath, Morani tried to grab some food from Mweiga, so she gave him a push. He ran fast to be first at the milk. Only a short time was spent at the mudbath, before feeding took precedence again.

08 March 2006

This morning Lolokwe and Edie enjoyed a game, as did Burra and Mpala before proceeding to the feeding grounds. Natumi and Icholta led the orphans to the Southern side of Mazinga Hill, which had enjoyed a little rain and where there were some green shoots. They took their usual mudbath at noon before returning to the same place. They returned in the evening with great satisfaction having enjoyed some tasty green shoots.

09 March 2006

The morning games were brief today, because the orphans were anxious to return to the Southern side of the hill. Nyiro and Lolokwe decided to have a shoving match en route and found themselves left way behind! They screamed for help, but none of the others responded, bent on reaching their new paradise! When Nyiro and Lolokwe caught up, they were irritated that none of the others had come to fetch them, but again no-one took any notice of their threats! The orphans enjoyed their mudbath, and then returned to feeding for the rest of the day.

10 March 2006

Another serious feeding routine, each elephant trying to find enough food to fill their growing bellies, which is difficult because it is so dry. At the mudbath Solango and Mpala competed in a pushing match rather than join in the wallowing, and later Nyiro and Lolokwe became embroiled in a tough fight which lasted a long time even when the others had left the mudbath. Eventually Laikipia came running back and warned them both, breaking up the fight temporarily, but it began again later and lasted until Nyiro accepted defeat. Lolokwe then ran around celebrating his victory. Laikipia led the group back in the evening, when Sosian kept Mweiga company at the rear of the column.

11 March 2006

As usual the orphans emerged in a jovial mood in the morning. Mweiga threw dust over herself, but refrained from the more exuberant games for fear of being knocked down. Soon Icholta took the lead, but the orphans refused to follow her, awaiting Natumi. As soon as Natumi got going, they followed swiftly, acknowledging that she, and not Icholta, is their Leader. On the way to the feeding grounds, games of hide and seek took place. At the mudbath, Loisaba, who is a “tail biter” plunged in, which made the others a bit wary of joining her, until she welcomed Mpala and Ndara to join in a game. This made Mpala very proud, so he tossed his trunk sideways whilst rubbing his buttocks against the bank, an action closely observed by Laikipia and Sosian who seemed a little jealous. As soon as Loisaba left the mudbath for a dustbath, all the others went in happily. The afternoon was spent feeding until it w s time to return in the evening.

12 March 2006

The orphans arrived at the feeding grounds early. Just before the mudbath, a fight broke out between Lolokwe and Salama which continued into the mudbath, and then out again into the bushes where they met a warthog. They then charged the pig, chasing it in circles, a game joined by Seraa and Thoma. In the afternoon they again fed on the South side of the hill, and on the way home in the evening, Burra gave Laikipia some competition regarding who should lead.

13 March 2006

It was a cloudy morning, so the orphans came out active, chasing each other around the Stockades. During the morning they fed calmly down on the plains, and only took water at the mudbath, joking by trying to splash each other with a spray from the trunk. Having fed during the afternoon, they hurried back to the Stockades for their supplements.

14 March 2006

After the usual morning antics, Mukwaju took the lead heading for his favourite place – Mazinga Hill. When it was milk time Solango led the milk candidates down for their ration, where they were joined by Natumi and Salama. Salama lay down so that the youngsters could climb on him, whilst Natumi watched closely. Meanwhile Mukwaju and Lolokwe were still up the hill and remained there whilst the others took their mudbath. The mudbath group then rejoined them up the hill. Mukwaju and Lolokwe were so enjoying themselves up the hill that they never took water all day, but slaked their thirst back at the Stockade in the evening.

15 March 2006

Because the day was cool, the orphans were reluctant to take their mudbath today. In the end Burra began playing on the banks in a bid to warm himself up before plunging in and lying half submerged, enticing Mukwaju and Laikipia to join him, which they did. Meanwhile Lolokwe engaged Nyiro and Burra took on Mpala in a test of strength. Edie remained at the water buckets, with one foreleg resting on the rim, as she took water and splashed it about. When she realised no-one was paying attention, she went to join the others, after which all returned to the serious business of feeding.

16 March 2006

Having had their early morning milk in the morning, Seraa, Mpala and Burra rushed to Mazinga Hill to get ahead of all the others and avoid competition for any tasty greens, but Ilingwezi caught up and overtook them. Meanwhile Sosian and Mweya went to take Mweiga to follow the others at her own pace. At the noon milk feed Natumi stood beside Mweiga while she had had her milk and then went slowly with her to join the others at the mudbath.

17 March 2006

It was another cool day, so the orphans, except for Burra, were again reluctant to go into the mudbath. Burra goes in rain or shine! He began splashing the water with his trunk, which made all the others retreat, but Mweya went in to join him, followed by Mpala. The three finally joined the other orphans for a final feeding session.

18 March 2006

The sky was clear, predicting a hot day. The orphans enjoyed their usual morning Stockade games, when Burra challenged Mpala, and Salama took Lolokwe in a test of strength. Lolokwe is emerging the best wrestler, so Salama very cunningly engaged him quietly for a very long time to ensure that Lolokwe tired, and he could win. Burra took the lead to Mazinga Hill, but at the base an altercation broke out between Natumi and Icholta. Icholta gave up when she realised she was about to be pushed into a rocky outcrop. The Keepers were unable to determine the cause of this altercation.

19 March 2006

After the others left the mudbath, Solango became excited, running here and there and scratching his itchy buttocks on the banks. Mweiga joined him in the water since the others were already out. Sosian made his own little mudbath by emptying one of the water drums, and enjoyed it all to himself, rolling around without interference from any of the others. Later he went down to escort Mweiga to the soil dusting place. Icholta and Solango each took a stick to scratch their itchy bodies, and after a brief stop-over under a tree, they resumed the task of finding food.

20 March 2006

Emily, Aitong, Tsavo and Sweet Sally were spotted feeding on the Southern side of Mazinga Hill, in amongst a herd of buffalo. The Keepers were surprised that the orphans, who usually charged the buffalo to dispel them, were now happily feeding in amongst them! The South African Vet who had come down to Tsavo was able to take some dung from both Emily and Aitong for a pregnancy test. In the afternoon there was a heavy downpour of rain, which made everyone, both elephant and human, very happy. When Mweiga returned to the Stockade in the evening, she was given her first contraceptive injection because she is too weak to risk a pregnancy.

21 March 2006

The day was pretty cold after yesterday’s rains. Mweiga was much slower than usual today, either stiff because of the cold, or due to yesterday’s injection. Even Sosian found her pace too slow for him, and hurried to join the others, leaving Mweiga with the Keepers. Once she reached the feeding grounds, she kept pace with the others, many of whom were kneeling to get every tiny green shoot. Mweiga returned as usual to the Stockade, but behind the others.

22 March 2006

Mweiga emerged as usual today and was able to keep pace, though at the rear of the column, as the orphans proceeded to the Southern part of Mazinga Hill, where there was a tinge of green. Moving further South, the orphans joined a wild group of 3 big cows, 2 middle aged calves their size and a tiny baby. Loisaba and Mvita played pushing games with wild age-mates while Ilingwezi was focusing on the tiny calf. When it was time to go home, Natumi took the lead, leaving the wild herd to continue towards the pipeline road. Ilingwezi remained behind with the wild group, despite the Keepers’ attempts to call her back. We called the BBC Filming Crew, (who have arrived to film Series II of Elephant Diaries) to report that Ilingwezi had been taken by the wild herd and we all went out to try and find the wild herd and film Ilingwezi with them. Amazingly, we found them at the Pipeline waterhole where Emily had already taken possession of Ilingwezi and was paying her very special attention, communicating in deep rumbles. Ilingwezi seemed very happy to be in Emily’s group, although a little anxious about a new bush life. We left them feeding in peace at about 7 p.m.

23 March 2006

Ilingwezi, who is now in Emily’s group, seems settled and happy. She was seen feeding along with the others along the Pipeline on the Eastern side of Mazinga Hill, where there is plenty of feed. She was keeping very close to Tsavo, who recently joined Emily’s “wild” family. The other orphans in the still dependent group seem comfortable about her absence.

24 March 2006

The orphans concentrated on serious feeding today. Mweiga, having had her first dose of medicine, seems much stronger. Edie and Nyiro led the orphans to the noon mudbath from the N. side of Mazing hill, where they were feeding in the morning. Only Ndara and Lolokwe plunged into the mudbath, whilst the others stood on the edge.

25 March 2006

The orphans again fed on the N. face of Mazinga Hill, and only took a brief mudbath. Laikipia, who is very greedy over the Copra cake, led the orphans back in the evening very fast, and noticing that Mweiga was way behind, Burra returned to fetch her.

26 March 2006

Mweiga seems much stronger, and went high up the hill to feed until 1.30 p.m. when they came down for their milk and the mudbath. Mweiga descended carefully, zigzagging around the rocks, to reach the base safely. They returned to feed at the base of the hill for the rest of the day.

27 March 2006

The orphans enjoyed their usual games before going to feed. Solango challenged Burra to a test of strength, whilst Nyiro took on Lolokwe. Today, Icholta led the orphans out to feed near Mazinga Hill, and Edie took them to the mudbath at noon where Salama and Laikipia had a test of strength, during which they inadvertently knocked down Solango. He ran to the others, and commenced feeding.

28 March 2006

The sun is very hot, and the fresh shoots of green are drying fast. We went to look for better feeding grounds today.

29 March 2006

We left the Stockade early with the tractor to cut a road to a place that was looking green from the top of the hill. This place is about 5 kms from Mazinga Hill, and offers better food for the elephants.

30 March 2006

Mweiga kept pace with the others went they went to browse on the Eastern side of Mazinga hill. They all had a wonderful mudbath today, and Laikipia led them back to the Stockade in the evening.

31 March 2006

We left the Stockades early to walk to the new feeding grounds, which the orphans managed easily. Other Notes:- Emily’s group has not come to the Stockades all month. Ilingwezi is now with them, and they are often spotted feeding along the Pipeline road, where both food and water is plentiful. Aitong is putting on some weight now. Although Mweiga still looks skinny (and always has) the supplements and Aloe juice she is having seems to be having positive results, and she seems much stronger, keeping pace well with the others. Serena, the little orphaned zebra is doing well and has also put on weight, though is still not strong enough for a very long walk with the elephants. The orphans, including Mweiga, easily manage the walk to the new feeding area we have identified some 5 kms. from Mazinga Hill to the North. The repair of the Orphans electrically driven borehole pump is ongoing and we hope for a successful completion soon.