Keepers' Diaries, March 2007

Voi Reintegration Unit

Lissa, now for many years a “wild” elephant, is now 2l, and has given birth to her third calf earlier this year. This time she has a little boy to join her two girls, Lara and Lali. He has been given the name “Lugard” and is about 2 months old. She, and her Nannie Mpenzi, who were in the company of 2 wild cows and a 4 year old calf of one of them, brought the new baby to the Stockade for the first time on the 14th. Lissa came in as a poaching orphan when just 6 months old and she represents the success of the Trust’s Orphans’ Project. Celebration indeed, and wonderful for Mpenzi, who lost her first baby to the lions, and who will enjoy being the Nannie to another newborn until she has another of her own.

01 March 2007

The younger elephants left their Night Stockade, and headed out to feed, today not having been collected by either Natumi or Emily. Thoma, Seraa and Mpala didn’t take long to locate Natumi and the older group, (who had been out all night) at the lower slopes of Mazinga Hill. Only Mweiga missed the joyful reunion, following slowly a long way behind all the others. Following a brief playing session, the entire group settled down to feed, and joined Uaso at 3 p.m. whom they found resting in the shade of a large Acacia tree. Later Mukwaju and Uaso left the others and Natumi’s group of older orphans turned up at the Stockades in the evening minus Mukwaju, who was obviously still with Uaso.

02 March 2007

Icholta returned on her own this morning to escort the youngsters out to the Feeding Grounds. She was “crowned” with love and affection from them all, as they crowded around her, touching her tenderly with their trunks. She escorted them to where Natumi’s and Emily’s group were together, having joined up during the course of the night. With them was a large wild Bull, and Uaso and Mukwaju were also there. Natumi kept on following the massive bull, tossing her trunk forward to investigate him closer. The two groups fed together until noon, when the younger set separated to go to the mudbath, without Emily’s group. Loisaba and remained with Emily and Natumi’s group went to the Stockades as usual in the evening for their Copra Cake hand-out.

03 March 2007

Again, Icholta turned up to escort the babies out to the feeding area. Natumi seems to be having to hand over leadership of the older group to Emily, who seems to be bent on meeting up with them and escorting them on their feeding tour. Natumi, obviously realized that Icholta was having an advantage over her by coming to take the babies off, and today Natumi was spotted following Icholta. The two met up at the Stockades, both eager to escort the babies to where Emily and the others were, including yesterday’s large wild bull. Uaso was slightly apart, being somewhat wary of the big wild Bull and did his best to entice some of the babies to come and rather be with him! The two groups remained together until the evening when Emily escorted them all back to the Stockade, and once the youngsters were in their Night Stockade, Emily then escorted the older orphans out again for the night, having enjoyed a long drink, and a rub against the rock near the Stockade waterhole.

04 March 2007

Today, it was the turn of Laikipia to accompany Natumi to the Stockade in order to escort the youngsters, Icholta absent on this occasion. Being the oldest Boy in Natumi’s group, he enjoys the hero-worship of all the smaller elephants, who greeted him warmly. Emily was not with the Big Group out in the bush, who were under the supervision of Icholta, since Natumi had gone to fetch the youngsters. All then joined up, and enjoyed feeding together, later joining a wild group with a tiny calf. Thoma and Mukwaju immediately went to greet the calf, stretching out their trunks to touch it, but this aroused the suspicion of its mother, who slapped them with her trunk to warn them off. Following this, the two fed close to the wild calf, careful not to arouse the displeasure of its mother. Meanwhile Laikipia found a wild age-mate and enjoyed a Pushing Game. The orphans left the wild herd at noon in order to go to the mudbath, after which they all fed close to the waterhole.

05 March 2007

Today, none of the older group turned up to escort the babies out in the morning, but they didn’t seem concerned, concentrating instead on a wonderful playing session around the Stockades. Burra then led them to the feeding area where they joined Natumi’s older group who was with that of Emily, Uaso now included, since the wild Bull had departed. There was a joyous welcoming session, after which Lolokwe went to tease Tsavo and Salama took on Sweet Sally (both members of Emily’s group). They all enjoyed the mudbath together at Noon, where they had a lot of fun, as Emily supervised events from a position of advantage on high ground. Lolokwe secured a branch with which to scratch an itch on his back that he could not reach with his trunk. Emily’s group separated from that of Natumi in the evening, when Natumi’s group escorted the babies back to their Night Stockade. However, Emily’s group came to the Stockade at 7 p.m. to drink and collect Natumi’s group for the night.

06 March 2007

Natumi’s group failed to turn up at the Stockades in the morning to escort the babies out. However, we found them, and Emily’s group, feeding with a small family of wild elephants along the Pipeline road. Today, they never linked up with the smaller orphans.

07 March 2007

Both Natumi and Icholta arrived at the Stockade in the morning to collect the younger orphans. They then linked up with Salama, Nyiro, Lolokwe, Ilingwezi, Sosian and Mukwaju at the Southern edge of Mazinga Hill, and then went further downhill to meet up with Uaso and Emily’s group. They were all together for most of the day. The youngsters reacted with screams, charging onto Uaso when he attempted to mount Emily. The Big Boys, Laikipia, Salama, and Tsavo threatened to engage him head on, but later changed their mind, persuading him to leave Emily by attempting to challenge him to pushing games. Natumi’s group escorted the little ones back to the Stockade in the evening, and left again at 6.40 p.m.

08 March 2007

The youngsters hung around the Stockades in the morning, because Natumi had not turned up to escort them out, but soon Emily and her group arrived, and were greeted enthusiastically. After the playing Stockade session, Emily took just a short time to find Natumi’s group. The two groups remained together throughout the day, but in the evening Emily’s group remained behind when Natumi’s group escorted the babies back. Natumi, at first, couldn’t make up her mind whether to remain with Emily, or return with the babies, but in the end she chose to escort the babies, but then returned to join Emily’s group who were moving down into the main Park area.

09 March 2007

Natumi came for the babies in the morning, which made Morani and Solango very happy and playful. Natumi took the youngsters down in the main Park, where they enjoyed moving across the plains, stopping to drink in puddles and splashing themselves with water at a waterhole. Emily’s group was not seen today. Natumi’s group escorted the babies back in the evening, before heading out again.

10 March 2007

No escort arrived for the babies today, but they did not seem to mind and seemed to know exactly where to go to find the others. They all fed together during the morning, and also to the waterhole, where they were joined by a massive wild Bull. At first the orphans were scared of him, but then approached him cautiously when they realized that he was very friendly. The Keepers later discovered this to be none other than DIKA who had lost part of one tusk. He remained with them for the rest of the day and joined them all in escorting the babies back to the Stockade in the evening. Having had a drink, and seen the youngsters to bed, Dika went with Natumi’s group back to the bush for the night.

11 March 2007

Aitong, Tsavo, Sally and a large wild Bull with sex on his mind arrived to escort the youngsters in the morning. Natumi’s group had arrived earlier, but then headed off ahead to the feeding area. However, soon Emily, Tsavo, Ilingwezi and Dika came to the Stockades, and the wild Bull made a hasty departure, leaving Dika to have a go at mounting Aitong. He was surrounded and stroked by all the youngsters as he went about his mission after which they all went off to the feeding grounds where they were joined by Uaso. The wild bull that had been at the Stockades earlier was also there, but kept a respectful distance from Dika. Uaso accompanied Natumi’s group when they escorted the babies back in the evening, and then he and Natumi’s group left.

12 March 2007

Natumi’s group arrived early to escort the babies, but today Icholta was missing from the group. Natumi escorted them out, and after a short time Icholta and Dika arrived at the Stockade, but found that they had missed escorting the babies. Icholta took the lead, followed swiftly by Dika, and very soon they met up with the others. There followed a very charged greeting session, Mweya, Thoma and Seraa unable to hide their happiness to have Icholta and Dika amongst them. They rolled on the ground, threw soil over themselves and dashed about happily. In the evening, when Natumi’s group escorted the babies back home, Dika remained behind.

13 March 2007

The small orphans left the Stockade this morning without Natumi’s group, led by Thoma and Seraa. They met up with Aitong, Sally and Aitong’s wild Bull friend and later on linked up with Emily’s group, consisting of Ilingwezi, Ndara, Loisaba and Tsavo and Dika. The wild bull gave way when he spotted Dika approaching, but Mukwaju kept him company, sensing that he needed company. They all fed together during the day, and were together at the noon waterhole. Natumi’s group escorted the babies back in the evening, leaving Mvita, Irima and Loisaba with Emily’s group.

14 March 2007

Natumi’s group arrived early to escort the babies out, and met up with Lissa, her two female calves, Lara and Lali, plus her latest newborn, a baby bull of about 2 months old, came to drink at the Stockade along with Mpenzi and two wild cows, one of whom had a 4 year old calf. Lissa has broken off part of her right tusk. There was a great deal of excitement when they met up with Natumi’s group. Edie rushed up to softly touch Lissa’s newborn with her trunk, but Lissa was protective, and would not allow too much contact. Today, Natumi’s group did not meet up with Emily’s group who were feeding on the far Northern side of Mazinga Hill, on this occasion with no Big Bulls in tow. Instead, Uaso “was running the show there, mounting onto Aitong, and Aitong did not seem to be bothered much, knowing that Uaso was just a small boy who was curious as to what the Bigger Boys found so interesting in there!” Sosian and Mukwaju had a pushing match to settle old scores, before joining the others who were already on their way back to the Stockade in the evening with the babies.

15 March 2007

Again, the small babies left the Stockade in the morning, without an escort. Instead they joined the older group on the Eastern side of Mazinga Hill, where Mweya remained at the bottom of the hill to keep Mweiga company. Sosian and Mpala were missing from Natumi’s group, and were still with Lissa’s group. Shortly afterwards Emily’s group plus Dika and the wild Bull came to join them on Mazinga where they fed until noon before all going off for a mudbath. There was a great deal of fun at the waterhole, with the small orphans showing off to the Big Bulls, Mvita scratching her backside on the banks whilst Seraa rolled around like a mud fish in the water. Sally, screamed when the wild Bull made overtures to Aitong, but later settled down and fed confidently close to him. They all browsed close to the waterhole for the rest of the day, after which Laikipia, Loisaba, Mvita, Ndara and Morani remained behind with Emily’s group, leaving Natumi and the others to escort the babies back to the Stockades in the evening.

16 March 2007

Natumi’s group was very punctual this morning to escort the babies out. They met up with Emily’s group plus Sosian, Mpala and the big Wild Bull. Dika was not there today. The orphans enjoyed feeding on soft grass during the morning half way up Mazinga Hill, and then enjoyed the Impomoea Creepers in the afternoon. There were hundreds of wild elephants along the Voi river, and many others around Mazinga Hill, since Kanderi Swamp had been inundated by floodwaters from the Taita Hills. Natumi’s group who had with them Ilingwezi and Tsavo from Emily’s group, escorted the babies back in the evening, leaving Loisaba and Mvita with Emily.

17 March 2007

Natumi’s group met up with the small orphans at the foot of Mazinga Hill in the morning. A large wild Bull detected their presence and came to join them for the morning. He was left behind when the orphans moved down to the mudbath venue. Emily’s group was not seen today.

18 March 2007

Natumi’s group arrived to take the babies out in the morning. Later Dika joined them and fed calmly in amongst them. Since it was a cool day, none of the elephants chose to go into the mudbath, but instead sprayed water over themselves. Later Dika began to take an interest in Edie, and chased after her wanting to mount her. Edie never returned that day, and the Keepers were worried that if Dika mounted her, she might collapse under his weight. Natumi escorted the babies home in the evening.

19 March 2007

The Keepers’ fears increased when Edie was not with Natumi’s group when they came to escort the youngsters. Later in the day, there was happiness when Edie appeared escorted by the massive Dika, both of whom joined the others at the mudbath. After mudbath, Dika joined the youngsters under shade, and remained behind when the orphans returned to the Stockades in the evening.

20 March 2007

A baby female buffalo calf was brought to the Voi Gate in the evening by a tour Driver who found her alone in the morning, and again in the evening, with no sign of a mother nearby. The calf was brought to us at the Stockades and was given rehydration and milk. Today, it was Dika and Uaso who arrived to escort the babies in the morning, much to their great delight. Natumi’s group had arrived earlier on, and they and Uaso began playing with the babies around the Stockade compound while Dika stood with his trunk over one tuck (an Elephant’s “peaceful” signal). Soon Natumi trumpeted that the time had come to go to the bush, and all walked in single file behind her. It was very thrilling for the Keepers to watch that long single line of young elephants, with massive Dika at the rear. Again Dika chased Edie in a quest to mount her, followed by Uaso. All three never appeared again that day.

21 March 2007

The Small orphans left the Stockade early and joined up with Natumi’s group further down towards the feeding area. At l0.30 a.m. Dika, accompanied by a wild teenaged Bull, brought Edie back to join them. When Dika and the teenaged wild bull decided to leave, Mpala grabbed the wild Bull’s tail, as though wanting to accompany them, but after some yards, turned back to rejoin his group.

22 March 2007

Thoma led the babies to join up with Natumi’s group out in the bush, where, as usual, there was an amazing Greeting Ceremony, before settling down to feeding. Dika and the teenaged Bull joined the youngsters at the waterhole in the afternoon, after which they fed with the orphans for the remainder of the day. When the orphans began their homeward journey in the evening, Dika and his wild friend remained behind.

23 March 2007

Again, Thoma led the babies to join up with Natumi’s group out in the bush. Natumi seems to no longer worry about coming to take the little ones in the morning, because Thoma knows exactly how to find them. Emily’s group has been absent now for a few days. There was a lot of fund at the noon mudbath with Salama’s rolling games attracting the attention of both Ilingwezi and Tsavo, who are now back with Natumi’s group rather than with Emily. Salama loved hosting Ilingwezi for a game in the mudbath, sitting on his haunches, with a pleased expression on his face. Dika’s teenaged wild friend joined the orphans in the evening, without Dika. He tried to mount Edie, but the other orphans surrounded him and would not allow it. Later he became shy following the orphans back in the evening, since the Keepers had moved in to be with them.

24 March 2007

The day began well with Natumi and Thoma’s groups meeting up early in the morning. Emily has not been back to collect Tsavo and Ilingwezi from Natumi’s group, but has instead taken Loisaba and Mvita to introduce them to the wild living. Ndara and Morani at first missed their close friend, Loisaba, but have since settled down.

25 March 2007

Natumi’s group came to drink at the Stockades early, and escorted the youngsters out to the feeding area where they were joined by a large Wild Bull who treated the small guys to his presence all morning. They left him to go to the mudbath, and then browsed on the lower slopes of Mazinga hill for the rest of the day.

26 March 2007

The wild Bull that had joined the orphans yesterday obviously enjoyed their company, because he returned with a wild friend, looking for them in the same area, lifting their heads high and testing the air for the scent of the youngsters until they found them. When the orphans set off for the mudbath, the two wild bulls followed them for a short distance, but then fell back, feeding.

27 March 2007

Natumi’s group met up with the babies out in the bush this morning. Emily’s group and Dika were not with Natumi’s herd. Salama engaged Sosian in a wrestling match at the mudbath. Then Ilingwezi joined in, having enjoyed playing with Salama previously, and Salama immersed himself entirely in the water, with just the tip of his trunk showing. Morani and Ndara, who usually enjoyed the protection of Loisaba in the water, were scared to go in too deep for fear of others submerging them.

28 March 2007

Natumi’s unit left the Stockades with the babies in the morning, having arrived early amidst showers to take them out. Because it was a cool morning, there was no mudbath at noon. Instead Mukwaju dug up piles of soil, and Edie, Morani and Ilingwezi copied him, putting chunks of earth into their mouths. Uaso and his wild friend (the Bull who had been with Dika) then turned up. The wild friend engaged Laikipia in a pushing match in the shallows and later he and Uaso left the orphans, heading towards the northern side of Mazinga Hill.

29 March 2007

The youngsters met up with Natumi’s group and a large wild herd down at the feeding grounds. Both the wild elephants, and Natumi’s group welcomed the babies warmly after which they all browsed together. A wild Bull with huge tusks that reached right to the ground followed the orphans and the wild herd, watching them closely, but maintaining his dignity by feeding slightly apart which was just as well because the orphans would probably have been daunted by him. At the mudbath, Nyiro and Lolokwe had a pushing match, and Laikipia led the babies back home in the evening.

30 March 2007

The youngsters and Natumi’s group met up during the morning as usual, and enjoyed the day without interruption, since rain-showers provided a lot of diversion, so that they played in the mud and drank from rainwater pools throughout the day.

31 March 2007

As usual the babies joined Natumi’s group out in the bush, and later met up with Emily’s group who were with a large wild herd. Emily took charge, introducing the youngsters to a large wild Matriarch who wanted to know who the strangers were. They all settled well, Emily playing with a wild teenaged bull. Emily devised a strategy of enticing the orphans away from the wild herd, obviously fearing that some of them might be taken from her. She was successful and when Natumi’s group began returning with the babies to the Stockades, Emily followed the wild herd towards the Voi River with Tsavo, Loisaba, Mvita and Ndara in tow. Keepers’ Notes:- Mweiga’s condition has deteriorated since she was weaned off milk. The youngsters are very anxious to be allowed to join Natumi’s group and be free to forage with them at night, but the Keepers are reluctant to allow Mweiga out, for fear that she might either fall, or be knocked down, and have difficulty getting up without their assistance, since she calls for the Keepers’ assistance in order to get up each morning. Also, she might be left trailing far behind all the others, and become a target for a pride of lions, being so obviously weak.