Keepers' Diaries, March 2010

Voi Reintegration Unit

Just as with the rest of Kenya, Voi has received enormous amounts of rain and the ground is completely saturated. The vegetation is lush and bountiful, and all the wildlife is beginning to look much healthier. The Orphans, who thankfully did not suffer as much as the other wildlife, are looking very plump and healthy now that food is no longer scarce.

01 March 2010

The orphans spent the morning on the Western side of Msinga Hill before heading down for their noon milk feed. As it was a cool day none of the orphans were interested in a mudbath. Wasessa led them back to Msinga Hill to browse for the rest of the day in a continuous trunk to mouth exercise. Taveta took the lead on the way to the stockades.

02 March 2010

As the stockade gates flung open Kenia, Shira, Mzima and Lempaute were the first to step out and rush over to the keepers for their milk and Copra cake. Lesanju led the group at a quick pace towards the Northern side of Msinga where they spent the morning feeding before attending the noon mudbath. The afternoon was spent browsing slowly all the way to the stockades.

03 March 2010

The orphans were up extra early awaiting the keepers to open the stockade doors and let them out. As they emerged Shira and Tassia engaged in a wonderful pushing game where Shira would push Tassia from behind with Tassia attempting to resist by digging his front legs into the ground. The game ended abruptly when Shira missed her target and got Tassia in the stomach which made him bellow loudly causing his “Mummy” Wasessa to rush to his rescue which had the desired effect of Shira making a hasty retreat. Following this incident Wasessa was very vigilant about making sure that Tassia was always by her side for the rest of the day. Sinya led the way home in the evening.

04 March 2010

A beautiful morning greeted the orphans as the left the stockades in a jovial mood. They browsed their way to their milk spot where they had a quick drink before returning to Msinga Hill to browse for the afternoon before heading home.

05 March 2010

The orphans gulped down their milk in the morning before marching to their feeding grounds led by Lesanju. On the way, Siria and Mzima began playing a game of hide and seek which attracted both Lempaute and Lesanju and soon escalated into a battle as they fought to hide in the same bush which was quickly flattened. At noon the youngsters had a fantastic time in the mudbath all thoroughly enjoying submerging themselves in the water and climbing over each other. The remainder of the day was spent browsing near the mudbath before Taveta led the way back to the stockades.

06 March 2010

Following the mornings milk feed a quarrel broke out between Wasessa and Lesanju over the copra cake. Wasessa was trying to reserve a mound of copra cake for little Tassia who was happily munching away by her side, which did not go down well with the rest of the group, especially Lesanju who really loves the morning treat and remains till every last crumb has been eaten. The day was spent browsing near the stockades with intermittent stops for a drink from the water trough.

07 March 2010

Shimba took the lead towards Msinga Hill which, following the recent rains, is full of lush green vegetation and is an oasis for the orphans. While feeding they occasionally stopped to drink from the rain filled crevices. As the orphans slowly made their way down the hill towards their noon milk feed Lesanju broke into a run causing the others to follow trumpeting loudly and running around in a panic, making hard for the worried keepers to keep up! Initially they thought that something had startled the orphans but soon realized that it was just Lesanju’s way of getting everyone moving faster. The Keepers had to gain control of the situation and calm the orphans before they could settle to have their milk. Sinya took the lead on the return journey to the stockades.

08 March 2010

As the stockade gates flung open the orphans all rushed to the opening trying to squeeze themselves out at the same time which created some excitement as they pushed and shoved playfully. Wasessa was the first to push through making sure her “baby” Tassia made it out before heading for the milk bottles. Tassia has become so attached to Wasessa that he will not finish his milk if she happens to finish hers before him, abandoning his bottle to follow her. The Keepers have taken to feeding them next to one another, making sure that Wasessa stays where Tassia can see her so that he feeds well. While browsing the orphans came across a large herd of impala. Taveta, Lempaute and Kenia spread their ears and fanned out before charging at the Impalas who quickly left. Once the initial excitement had passed Wasessa and Tassia decided to join the others, but unfortunately the game had ended as the Impalas were long gone! Mzima led the way home following an afternoon spent browsing near the waterhole.

09 March 2010

At dawn unexpected visitors arrived at the stockade. The keepers were delighted to see that it was Lissa and Mpenzi with their calves. Shimba, Mzima, Shira and Kenia were the first to finish their milk and headed to greet the waiting visitors. Lissa led the orphans up Msinga Hill to feed. There was plenty of socializing and game playing between the orphans and the wild calves. A little while after the group left the stockades two big wild bulls, who seemed to be following Lissa’s scent, passed by heading in the direction taken by the orphans. Lissa and her entourage remained with the orphans until noon when they parted ways and headed off in search of the wild bulls.

10 March 2010

Lesanju led the orphans out to browse along the Southern Edge of Msinga Hill. On the way there Shimba and Mzima became preoccupied feeding and lagged behind leaving a large gap between them and the rest of the group. Upon realizing that they were alone they bellowed and ran at full speed to join the others. When they arrived the others gave them a warm greeting and they all proceeded to play in the soil together. Mzima, Siria and Shimba rolled around mounting one another trumpeting happily. They later browsed their way towards the waterhole where Kenia was the most playful at the mudbath. As it was a hot afternoon they took refuge under the shade of an acacia tree. Taveta took the lead on the way to the stockade.

11 March 2010

Following the morning milk feed, Shimba, Kenia, and Mzima took to browsing while the rest enjoyed pushing and strength testing games. The three ignored the Keepers when they were called to come and join the group so they could go to the browsing fields. As their calls fell on deaf ears the Keepers had to lead the rest up to where Kenia, Mzima, and Shimba were feeding. The browsing continued throughout the day, stopping only for a drink of milk and some water at the stockades. There was plenty of game playing inside the stockades as the day wound down.

12 March 2010

Upon finishing her milk, Lesanju hung around waiting for more before giving up as Wasessa was already leading the rest of the group out for the day. She ran to join them and they settled at the base of Msinga Hill to browse before Shimba led them further up. Shimba remained at the top of the Hill long after the other orphans had returned for the night and had to be fetched by the Keepers.

13 March 2010

The orphans split into two groups as Shira and Shimba headed up the Hill to browse while the rest led by Lesanju went to the Park. As they were in the minority, Shira and Shimba begrudgingly followed the others who soon joined a wild herd for a short while before heading to the waterhole for their noon milk bottle. They had a quick dip at the mudwallow before going back out to feed. Shira led the way to the stockades in the evening.

14 March 2010

The morning was spent browsing, scratching, playing, and breaking branches for bark peeling. Following last nights shower Siria and Mzima found themselves relaxing on a cold sandy patch enjoying the morning rays. Sinya and Kenia enjoyed one another’s company, browsing and playing side by side. As they were enjoying themselves and did not want to leave the area they had their milk and their noon mudbath a few meters away.

15 March 2010

Upon exiting the stockades the orphans had their milk bottle and some Copra cake before Lempaute, Lesanju, and Sinya led them to the fields were they began grabbing large amounts of creepers and stuffing it into their mouths. Mzima tried to engage the others in a game by rolling around on the ground but had no takers. The orphans enjoyed a lovely mudbath where they all dove in and clambered over one another in an ungainly manner.

16 March 2010

The orphans were greeted by a beautiful morning as they stopped for a drink at the water trough before heading out. The morning was uneventful and the afternoon was spent browsing on the Hill with Shira and Mzima distancing themselves from the rest by browsing higher up joining the others on the way home. Lempaute was the first to enter the stockades where all the orphans enjoyed a sumptuous buffet of milk, copra cake, and grevia branches.

17 March 2010

The orphans left the stockade amid a light rain shower and immediately began feeding and playing in the warm moist soil extracting whatever warmth they could from it. As usual the elephants embraced the rain and the new life that it would eventually bring. Shimba & Siria led the orphans to Msinga Hill for the afternoon where they joined a group of wild elephants. Shira was the 1st to greet the wild group and both she and Siria enjoyed browsing with them. The rest of the group, who were a little shy, browsed a few metres away. When it was time to head home Shira was reluctant to follow the orphans, instead holding back for a while before deciding to join them.

18 March 2010

As the orphans made their way to browse for the day, Lempaute, Shimba and Siria had a sudden change in pace as they all picked up speed with their trunks raised sniffing the air. The keepers went ahead to check what was causing the keenness of the orphans and saw a group of wild elephants heading towards them. The orphans fed with the wild group till noon, with Shira showing the most interest in the wild members of the herd particularly a young calf. She only separated herself when she heard Kenia trumpeting excitedly as she raced Mzima for the noon milk feed. The Orphans spent the rest of the day browsing near the mudwallow on their own.

19 March 2010

The orphans could not hide their joyous mood as they had their morning milk before going to their usual feeding grounds. With the arrival of the long rains, the drought has finally ended and Tsavo has retuned to having plenty of food & water to sustain the rich life it supports. The orphans are all looking very healthy and round, especially when compared to wild elephants, which suffered terribly during the drought and are still recovering. As they settled to browse on the Western side of Msinga Hill, Siria & Shira noticed a wild herd further up the Hill. They attempted to get the orphans to join the wild group but none of them showed interest. Instead Lesanju led them in a different direction, with Shira having no option but to follow heavy heartedly. Emily & Edie’s group came to visit the stockades in the late evening, it appeared Burra was missing from the group. About half an hour later Burra came and joined them. Following a drink at the trough they moved on in an easterly direction.

20 March 2010

Shimba, Kenia, and Mzima quickly led the orphans to Msinga Hill were they browsed for the morning before heading to the noon mudbath to quench their thirst. They had a fantastic mudwallow with all the orphans climbing on top of one another before going back to browse, leaving Siria playing in the water. Moments later, a big wild bull came to the mudwallow, walking close to unsuspecting Siria and tossed his trunk towards him giving him a fright. Siria screamed loudly as he quickly exited the water and ran to his friends who had already taken off upon hearing his bellowing! The wild bull looked for the orphans in an attempt to greet them to no avail as they were long gone.

21 March 2010

Emily & Edie’s groups arrived at the stockades soon after the youngsters had left. Mweya has been showing a keen interest in Emily’s calf, often standing close to her and assuring her by gently touching her with her trunk. The orphans were browsing close by and Sosian headed to greet them. Upon seeing him approaching Kenia trumpeted loudly and ran towards the Keepers. Sosian feeling sensitive to the youngsters’ trepidation decided to back away and re-join Emily’s group. During the mudbath Wasessa had a lovely time lying on Mzima while Lempaute dug up soil with her little tusks, throwing the loosened soil over herself.

22 March 2010

Mpenzi, her calf, and Uaso were seen on the southern side of Msinga Hill walking at a quick pace in an effort to catch up with Lissa and her calves who were a few miles ahead. Emily’s group was also seen browsing a mile away from Lissa’s group. There was no indication that the two groups would join up as they were browsing in what seemed to be opposite directions.

23 March 2010

After a morning spent browsing intensively, Lempaute lay down intending to take a nap. Mzima interpreted this action as an invite to play and proceeded to climb on Lempaute’s back. After realizing this was not Lempaute’s intention Mzima lay near her before engaging Kenia in a soil dusting game. At the noon mudbath Siria lay on top of Mzima in the water causing him discomfort. Wasessa came to Mzima’s rescue pushing Siria off who was not deterred and tried to entice Mzima to play ‘boys games’.

24 March 2010

It was a fairly cold day and as such none of the orphans partook in the mudbath, choosing instead to wet their bodies with some water using their trunks as their splashing aid. Kenia led the Orphans home in the evening.

25 March 2010

At 11am Siria and Mzima broke the morning silence by engaging in a strength testing game in an eroded trench. The others ignored them and headed to the mudwallow were they quickly downed their milk and ran to join a group of 5 elephant females with their 7 calves. The wild group was startled upon seeing the orphans running towards them followed by the Keepers and ran off. Siria and Shira ran to join them but Siria soon turned back as he noticed that they were moving quite far from the Orphans group. Shira on the other hand got enveloped by the wild group and disappeared with them. The Keepers called for a vehicle to assist in getting Shira back but this caused the Wild females to head further into the thickets taking Shira with them. The Keepers efforts to get her back were further hindered by the buffalo’s in the area who charged the vehicle. This coupled with the fact that night was falling, forced the Keepers to abandon their search.

26 March 2010

The Keepers had an early start in search of Shira, both on foot and by car. As the area was teaming with wild elephants and was full of dense vegetation, it was difficult to check everywhere. After a full day spent searching Shira had yet to be found. The rest of the orphans seemed un-phased about Shira’s absence and enjoyed a day full of fun & games. Siria pinned Mzima in an eroded gully forcing him to call out for the Keepers assistance. This was not the end of Mzima being on the receiving end of another rambunctious orphan, as he was later mounted on at the mudbath by Taveta! Sinya, who normally does not part-take of the mudwallow, was the most playful in the water.

27 March 2010

Today Lesanju noticed Shira’s absence and was showing signs of concern as she inspected the rest of the orphans while rumbling. The day was spent browsing before returning to the stockades where Lesanju went round the inside partition of the stockades calling out to Shira who has yet to be seen despite our efforts to locate her.

28 March 2010

Upon arriving at the western foot of Msinga Hill, Siria and Mzima began playing together which attracted Shimba’s attention. The boys enjoyed a good tussle game together after which Shimba and Lesanju went to scratch against the rocks. As it was a cool day no one was interested in the mudbath. Sinya led the way home in the evening.

29 March 2010

Emily & Edie’s group together with Burra, visited the stockades water trough at noon. They hung around for about half an hour and were given some copra cake as a treat which was thoroughly enjoyed by both Emily & Edie’s calves. The youngsters did not meet with the ex-orphans.

30 March 2010

Shimba led the group to Msinga Hill where they browsed for the entire day, stopping only for their noon milk feed & some water at the stockades. Shimba remained on the Hill after the orphans returned in the evening, joining them in the stockades 20 minutes later.

31 March 2010

It was a cold morning but this did not dampen the orphans spirits who headed straight out for a day of feeding and playing, trying to shove as much of the new greens into their mouths as they possibly could. Shimba, Siria, Kenia, and Mzima started walking up the Hill while Lesanju, Lempaute, Wasessa, Sinya, & the 2 younger babies remained on the lower plains. The 4 on the Hill called to others to join them but their invites were ignored. The two groups joined up on the way to the mudbath and by the time they arrived they were one big happy family. After a lovely mudbath they rested and browsed under the shade of the acacia trees. Shira has yet to be seen, and although the Keepers are worried, we are sure she is in safe hands with her wild friends. In hind sight the Keepers could see this step coming as she was more and more drawn to the wild elephants during their encounters and was always reluctant to re-join the orphan group.