Keepers' Diaries, March 2016

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Voi Reintegration Unit

March was an extremely hectic month for our Voi team, and a month that will never be forgotten.

March was an extremely hectic month for our Voi team, and a month that will never be forgotten.

It began with the Voi Keepers rescuing a baby buffalo calf from Kanderi swamp. Ngulia, our resident orphaned Zebra female, has become the adoptive parent for all our orphaned animals, and the self-appointed nanny to quite a varied herd, which include buffalo, eland, Oryx and Zebra! March is habitually the hottest month of the year, so our orphans have been savoring the mud bath sessions where they are able to cool down, socialize with each other, and then rest up under trees during the hottest hours of the day. Mornings are reserved for serious browsing, and our dependent orphans have enjoyed the company of both our Ex Orphans as well as those who are still partially independent, which is always a treat. Partially independent orphans include Lesanju, Taveta, Sinya, Mzima, Kivuko and Lempaute who have formed their own herd, with Wasessa, Dabassa, Layoni and Mzima, who used to be from Lesanju’s herd, seemingly now absorbed into Emily’s group. However, such dynamics tend to change daily, since they are all friends. Emily’s ex orphan herd with their wild born babies remain close to home and have visited regularly throughout the month, and on some days have been joined for hours at a time while out in the Park by our dependent orphans too.

Our beautiful big bull, Laikipia, has visited his little friends more frequently than usual, enjoying the company of the juniors whilst out browsing. He is always greeted warmly, the babies surrounding him, and tossing their trunks in the air in appreciation of his imposing presence. Little bull Bada particularly is in awe of Laikipia, opting to browse in his shadow throughout the day until Laikipia heads off towards the Voi River. The juniors follow him for as long as possible before returning to cool off at the mud wallow.

Mountain bull, Nelion, who originated from Mt. Kenya seems to be a born mountaineer, for he climbs higher than all the others to browse on Mazinga Hill, where he finds fresh untapped grass amongst the rocks. Although the others attempt to keep up with him, few can compete with him in this respect.

This month has seen a spate of rescues within the Tsavo Eco system, we suspect victims of human wildlife conflict, possibly finding themselves amongst human cultivation and in trouble when beyond the boundaries of the Park. Such conflict is usually more prevalent during the dry months when wildlife and livestock compete for food and water resources.

On the 9th , we rescued an elephant from the Mbololo river in Tsavo East, and brought her to the Voi stockades. She was an older calf with extremely severe bullet wounds to her rear leg, and was in a collapsed state upon arrival at the stockades. Following plenty of IV drips, she revived but sadly died the following day.

On the 10th another female orphaned elephant came into our care, rescued close to Ndara and brought to the stockade in the evening. Again she was an older elephant of approximately three years old whom we named . Yatima. Being too big to transport to Nairobi, she was attended to daily by Dr. Poghon at the Voi stockades. On the 11th another calf was rescued after reports were received from a tour driver of an abandoned calf along the Voi river circuit. Given the close proximity to where the other orphans were browsing, it was decided to herd this newcomer to the area where the orphans were browsing along the Voi river circuit, hoping he would mingle amongst them. He seemed to respond to this well, browsing in amongst them, but then he peeled off and wondered a couple of kilometres off on his own. Since he was extremely weak and emaciated and clearly an orphan due to his body condition, the decision was made to rescue him before he fell victim to the Tsavo lions. The reason for him being an orphan remains unclear as no carcass has been found in the area. He was brought back to the stockades but sadly his rescue came too late, and he died shortly afterwards..

As if this month had not been dramatic enough for our Voi Unit, the 21st of March was a day no one will ever forget. It began with a call from KWS rangers about an elephant orphan that required rescuing up in the Sobo area of Tsavo East. Immediately a group of our Voi Keepers drove to where the calf was last sighted and followed the tracks until they located the orphan sheltering under a tree due to the incredibly hot temperatures. In the meantime, as is the routine every day, the dependent elephant orphans went out into the bush with their beloved Keepers to browse and feed and enjoy their day in the Park. Joseph Musau Mulei, a very long serving Keeper loved by all, suddenly fell backwards whilst overseeing the orphans from the vantage point of a rocky outcrop under the shade of a tree and was dead within minutes from a massive heart attack.. Our team were exemplary on this day, as was Dr. Poghon, everyone pulling together during an extremely challenging time. Meanwhile, the rescue of the calf from Sobo continued effectively and efficiently despite the tragic and unexpected shocking loss of that morning and this young calf was driven to Voi where he was collected and flown directly to the Nairobi Nursery.

There are so many stories relating to the various individuals that can be enjoyed through the Keepers Daily entries.

March 2016 day to day

01 Mar

The morning was good with the orphan elephants coming out of their stables assembling for their morning milk bottle before settling down to eat copra cake. The orphans only spent a brief time in the stockade compound before Ndii and Kenia took the lead of taking the others out towards the browsing grounds. Ndoria, who could not imagine missing out on any games, took her wonderful buttock scratching game to an outcropping rock close to the stockade water trough. Lentili, who had already been overtaken by Ndii and Kenia in the leadership role this morning, pulled back to wait for Ndoria to finish her scratching and then fetched her to follow the other orphans to the browsing grounds. The orphans had a wonderful browsing moment for the better half of the day and visited the middle water hole for a brief bath. Mashariki went to scratch her fore foot on a tree stump and then join the others in browsing. The rest of the browsing day went on peacefully with Ishaq-B enjoying the lead of taking them back to the stockade that evening.

Ndoria scratching

Mashariki scratching her foot