Keepers' Diaries, March 2018
Voi Reintegration Unit
Rains fell across the lower plains of Tsavo near the Voi stockades this month, transforming the once parched landscape to a carpet of lush green. Grass, creepers, and bushes sprouted and flourished throughout the month, providing a lot of vegetation for the orphans to choose to browse from. Sometimes they like to go down on their knees to reach the fresh greens sprouting from the ground, which look the most enticing. They also made sure to step carefully after the rain so as not to slip, especially when crossing rocky areas.
01 March 2018
The morning began with the orphan elephants lining up for their morning milk bottle and supplement feeding. Naipoki wanted to lead them out of the stockade compound but they were not ready to leave as they were enjoying soil dusting and scratching games.
The orphan elephants spent the morning browsing on the northern side of the stockades before making their way to the middle waterhole. Before arriving they changed their mind and instead visited the baobab water hole where Lentili jumped into the water trough for a drink. She stood there with her front legs in the water. Araba had a wonderful time bathing with Ishaq-B until Kenia came and got her for some soil dusting games. The afternoon was spent browsing close to the waterhole.
02 March 2018
It was a wonderful beginning to the day with the orphan elephants walking out of their stables, amid light rain showers during their milk and supplement feeding. Arruba, her great friend Suswa, Rorogoi, Mudanda and Mashariki lay on the ground, in search of warmth, closing their eyes as if they wanted to go to sleep. They woke up as the rest of the orphans were leaving the stockade for the browsing grounds.
The orphans browsed their way half way up the eastern side of Msinga Hill, and were very selective about their browsing routes due to the rocks being wet from the recent rain. The orphans came down to drink their milk bottle at the base of the Hill, but didn’t visit the water hole.
Arruba and Rorogoi played a wonderful game of lying down against the walls of a deep erosion trench. Their game caught the attention of Ishaq-B, Nguvu, Bada, Ndii, Kihari and Tundani who all came to watch and join them.
03 March 2018
The orphan elephants exited their stockades in a happy mood emptying their delicious milk bottles before feeding on supplements and playing a game of hide and seek.
Soon after they left for the browsing fields, the keepers saw an orphan baby waterbuck running around on its own in total confusion with no sign of its mother. The keepers monitored the baby for over two hours before the decision was made to rescue it as it was only three weeks old and as such too young to have been left alone for such a length of time. The baby waterbuck was later air lifted to Kaluku where she can grow up with the other orphan water bucks already being raised there.
04 March 2018
This morning the orphans made their way to the browsing grounds under the leadership of Lentili and Mashariki. They enjoyed feeding on some moist grass as they browsed in single file.
Later in the morning Nelion separated himself from the group to enjoy a scratching session against the branches of a low lying tree. Kenia and Tundani approached him and watched him for awhile before feasting on the leaves of the tree.
Following the noon milk bottle the orphans went up Msinga Hill, with Ndii temporarily leaving Tahri’s side in order to manoeuvre her way to the peak of the hill. Ndii was in no hurry to come down, as she enjoyed browsing on some lush green grass, while enjoying the cool breeze from the recent rain showers. Ndii came down later and caught up with her darling Tahri at the base of the hill joining the others as they headed back to the stockade for the night.
05 March 2018
It was a nice beginning to the day with the orphan elephants concentrating on their milk and supplement feeding before engaging in some brief strength testing games with Nelion taking Bada to task. When they were done playing the orphans left the stockade compound and headed to the bush to begin the days browsing activities.
Two hours after their departure, Seraa, baby Solar, Ndara, Neptune, Wasessa, Lesanju, Sinya, Lempaute, Tassia, Layoni and Dabassa visited the stockade. Wasessa, Sinya and Lesanju were all seen in close contact with the two babies Solar and Neptune guarding them as proper nannies should. After drinking from the stockade water trough, the Ex Orphans fed on range cubes and copra cake. Solar was driven away by a naughty baboon that came to steal the supplements. Seraa took charge and chased the baboon away. It seems that Ndara may be forming her own herd and taking some of Emily’s herd with her with Lesanju’s herd together with Seraa being the latest to join.
06 March 2018
It was a cold morning as the orphan elephants enjoyed playing around the stockade compound before heading to the browsing fields. Ndii was seen in close browsing ties with her lovely adopted baby Tahri while Kenia stuck with her beloved Araba.
The orphan elephants visited the baobab water hole in groups of five, with Ndoria finishing her milk quickly after which she went to demand some of Rorogoi’s share. The keepers stood firm in guarding Rorogoi and her milk so that Ndoria could not get to either one. However once the milk feeding was done Ndoria chased Rorogoi to engage her in fight. Rorogoi was able to run away and evade Ndoria who took a while to calm down from the fact that she was not successful in getting more milk.
07 March 2018
There was a heavy down pour last night and it was quite cold when the orphans exited their stockades in the morning. The cold weather did not seem to bother them and they happily made their way to the browsing fields following their milk and supplement feeding.
Other than the usual attachments of Ndii, Tahri, Kenia and Araba there were no other browsing attachments today as the orphans spread out, grabbing as much vegetation as they could find to fill their bellies.
The orphans visited the water hole but were reluctant to take a bath as it was quite cold. Ndii poked at the soil with tusks lifting some baobab tree roots inviting Mudanda, Tahri, Rorogoi and Suswa to join her in eating them. The other orphans soon joined Ndii digging lifting roots to feed on.
08 March 2018
It was a perfect beginning to the day with the orphans making their way to the browsing grounds amid light rain. The orphans had an active day as they played chasing games while out in the fields. Arruba stuck with her long time friend Suswa while Nelion played with Tundani and Bada. Kihari, Naipoki and Ishaq-B were all scheming to see how they could take Tahri away from Ndii.
Once the orphans settled down to browse Tahri went down on her knees so as to access some fresh greens that were sprouting following the recent rains. Ndii investigated the contents of a hole in a tree trunk and was happy to find some rain water that had collected there.
The orphan herd visited the baobab water hole for a drink of water but did not wallow as it was a cold day. The afternoon was spent browsing close to the waterhole.
09 March 2018
The orphan elephants could not wait for the gates of their stockade to be flung open this morning and kept on tapping the door of the stable with their foreheads asking to be let out. Once the doors were open they ran to their milk bottles which they gulped down before proceeding to the supplement feeding area. Lentili and Mashariki led the group towards the bush, while Suswa and Tundani brought up the rear.
At mid day the orphans opted not to visit the water hole due to the cold weather, choosing instead to drink water from the many water pans that were now full of water following the recent rains.
The orphans concentrated their browsing activities on the base of Msinga Hill, with Ajali separating from the others, exploring the northern side of the Hill. Ajali rejoined the rest of the orphan herd when it was time to return to the safety of the stockades for the night.
Today Tawi the male orphan eland engaged Oltukai the orphan buffalo in a chasing game which the two thoroughly enjoyed. Ngulia and Kore chose to ignore the two and went about with their browsing activities.
10 March 2018
Once the orphans had left the stockade for the browsing grounds, Tawi greeted Oltukai. It is evident that Tawi is developing a special love for Oltukai as he came running up to Oltukai’s stockade knocking on his door so that the two could interact with one another. Oltukai came out of his stable in a happy playing mood, running and jumping in front of his friend Tawi. He then went to investigate the long hair growing under Tawi’s neck, and was seen licking it. The two then played a friendly strength testing game with Tawi making sure not to injure Oltukai with his long horns.
Later in the day, Aruba the Ex Orphan kudu approached at the stockade with her family of five. The keepers noticed that her first born had given birth to a female baby. It was amazing for us to see that Aruba who was raised in the stockade has now become a grandmother.
11 March 2018
It was a wonderful beginning to the day with the orphan elephants assembling for supplement feeding after downing their morning milk bottle. It was a cold morning but the orphans were all happy as the grass, creepers, and bushes had started turning green meaning that there would be a lot of vegetation for them to browse on in a few days time.
On the way to the northern side of the stockade browsing grounds, the stockade dependant orphan elephants met up with Layoni and Dabassa who were already there feeding and joined their older friends. Kenia and Ndii were happy to be with the two older boys as they know that they had no interest whatsoever in interfering with the leadership role of their herd or taking their adopted babies Tahri and Araba. Three hours later the two boys later separated from the orphan herd and made their way to the water pipe line area.
12 March 2018
The morning began with the orphan elephants lining up for their milk bottle before settling for supplement feeding followed by games around the stockade compound. Dabassa and Layoni arrived and joined the juniors who were feeding on range cubes and copra cake after which Layoni engaged Panda in a wrestling match.
It appears that Layoni and Dabassa are trying to woo Panda away from the orphan herd and get her to join them. Panda is tall and her tusks are growing leading the two boys to believe that it is time that went wild and joined up with them. Panda however does not feel ready enough to do so choosing instead to remain with the stockade dependent babies.
13 March 2018
It was drizzling as the orphans exited their stockades and assembled for their morning milk bottles after which they headed to the park under Naipoki and Kihari’s leadership. On arrival at the browsing grounds, Ajali took the lead wanting to move further afield. None of the orphans were interested in following him and he ended up just staying with the rest of the herd.
Today the orphan elephant’s noon milk feed was brought to then on the eastern side of Msinga Hill as they were not interested in visiting the waterhole. Embu and Ishaq-B introduced the others to a game of rolling in the erosion trenches with Nelion and Bada joining in on the fun.
14 March 2018
The morning began with Dabassa and Layoni coming to the stockade compound and waiting patiently for the juniors to finish their milk bottles so that they could join them for the supplement feeding. The two boys then tried to separate Panda from the rest of the orphan herd in a bid to get her to join them. Panda resisted their attempts and managed to rejoin the juniors. The two older boys then turned their attention to Nelion to see if they would have better luck with him. Nelion got left behind by the orphan herd as they left for the browsing grounds but it was not long before he came running up to rejoin them.
In the afternoon Kihari lay down in a small water pool that was full of rain water to enjoy a wallow. Araba tried to join her but was unable to do so as the waterhole was not big enough to accommodate them both.
15 March 2018
This morning Mbirikani, Rorogoi and Ajali took the lead of the orphan elephants up to the peak of Msinga Hill for the morning browsing session. Naipoki assisted Mashariki up the hill by pushing her backside with her tusks helping her get to the peak.
The orphans browsed until 3pm when they started playing games. Mudanda and Kihari lay down on separate playing grounds, dusting themselves with some moist soil. Arruba enjoyed a scratching session against a rock where she was joined by Nelion. Kenia and Araba were seen embracing one another today with Araba hiding her face under Kenia’s ears which Kenia seemed to enjoy as she stood with her eyes closed savoring the affection she was getting from her adopted baby.
16 March 2018
The morning began with the orphan elephants playing games around the stockade compound before leaving for the browsing grounds under the leadership of Lentili and Mashariki. On arriving at the eastern foot of Msinga Hill, the stockade dependant orphan elephants spotted Layoni and Dabassa busy browsing half way up the hill. Tundani went to join the two Ex Orphans while the rest of the junior herd made their way towards the northern side of the hill. Tundani stayed with the two older boys for the whole day before returning to the stockades at 4:40 pm.
Today Ndii, Panda and Ishaq-B all wanted to keep company with Tahri and shower her with love and affection. The three of them surrounded the little girl who could not have been happier with all the attention she was getting.
The orphans visited the baobab tree water hole but didn’t wallow as it was rather cold. Ishaq-B found a small hole where she enjoyed some dust bathing games while Rorogoi and Bada watched.
17 March 2018
The stockade dependant orphan elephants left the stockade compound early in the morning, heading out to the browsing fields at the first light of day. There was light rain falling as the orphans arrived in the browsing fields and they all enjoyed playing in an erosion trench. Arruba slid head first into the erosion trench, banging her head which caused her to scream loudly. Thankfully she was not injured and Kihari came to console her and show her the correct way to slide into the trench, bottom first. Bada was busy enjoying his own game as he took a dry stick and pushed it between his trunk and his tusks.
The orphan elephants visited the baobab water hole in the afternoon but did not fully wallow in the water as it was a fairly cold day.
18 March 2018
The morning was cool following last night’s rains. Once the orphans had finished with their milk and supplement feeding they lay on the ground in the stockade compound, trying to draw some warmth from the soil. Kihari was so comfortable that she closed her eyes to rest and didn’t notice that the rest of the orphan group was leaving for the browsing grounds. When she realized she had been left behind she quickly got up and ran to catch up with the orphan herd.
The orphans browsed in single file on the western foot of Msinga Hill, with Embu, Panda, Mbirikani, Rorogoi and Ndii assembling around a very big and round rock boulder to enjoy a scratching session together while Lentili had a private scratching session against a rock a few meters from the five friends.
19 March 2018
Another day started with the orphan elephants coming out of their respective stockades running to their milk bottles which they downed before feeding on dairy cubes, copra cake and lucerne grass pellets. The long walk to the browsing grounds started in earnest with Suswa and Arruba taking the lead.
In the morning, a male baby zebra that was found being chased by community people for bush meat near Ndara plains was rescued and brought to the stockade by the Kenya Wildlife Service Rangers. This orphan baby zebra was very dehydrated and thin and needed lots of care and attention. Ngulia was quite jealous of this new baby and the keeper made sure to keep Ngulia away while allowing Kore and Tawi to come close as they gently greeted the baby.
In the afternoon while the orphan elephants were browsing on the western foot of Msinga Hill, Tundani put his trunk into a big cave surrounded by rocks and drew up some rainwater that he found there and had a drink. Nelion approached him, and gave him a slight push with his fore head, taking his place. However he did not put his trunk into the hole, investigating it first to ensure that nothing would happen to his trunk if he put it in there.
20 March 2018
The orphan baby zebra although weak was feeding well during the night but sadly collapsed and died at about 6:20 am. The keepers suspected that it sustained internal injuries from the attack it suffered and those injuries would have resulted in internal bleeding.
Later in the day, Panda separated Tahri from Ndii embracing her for a browsing session away from the main orphan elephant herd. Ndii substituted Tahri with Ndoria for more than half an hour and the two browsed together before Ndii decided to go and get Tahri back from Panda as she saw that Panda had no intention of brining Tahri back to her.
The orphans visited the baobab water hole to drink milk and water but didn’t wallow as it was a chilly day. The afternoon was spent browsing close to the waterhole with Kihari scooping up soil and pilling it up onto her back like a blanket, hoping to draw some warmth from the soil as she browsed.
21 March 2018
The morning began with the stockade dependant orphan elephants running and emptying their morning milk bottles before settling to enjoy copra cake and range cubes where they were joined by Layoni and Dabassa who were welcomed into the herd by Kenia. The two boys went straight for Panda to get her to join them. Ndii was sweet enough to come to Panda’s aid and prevented the two Ex Orphans from taking her away by distracting them as she engaged Layoni in a strength testing game. Kenia, Kihari and Mudanda took the lead of the junior herd and led them away from the stockades leaving the two boys behind.
Later in the day, the orphans enjoyed playing on a huge pile of soil, the result of a landslide following rains the night before. Naipoki went and pushed the soil up with her forehead, something that the keepers didn’t like as they were worried a second landslide would happen. The managed to steer Naipoki away to a safer area to continue her game. The afternoons browsing activities took place at the foot of Msinga Hill.
22 March 2018
This morning the orphans were full of zest as they downed their morning milk bottle after which they left the stockade for the browsing grounds under Mashariki and Lentili’s leadership.
Mashariki wanted to lead the orphans up Msinga Hill which the rest of the group found too dangerous and as such Mashariki found herself on her own, which resulted in her coming back down to join her friends browsing on the lower plains.
Panda and Ishaq-B took little Tahri to drink rain water that had collected in hole in a tree trunk. Tahri was too short to reach the hole so she resorted to putting her trunk into Ishaq-B’s mouth to see if she could get an idea of what the water tasted like. Ndii engaged Araba in some fun and games in an erosion trench. The orphan elephants visited the baobab water hole to drink water but didn’t wallow as it was another cold day.
23 March 2018
It was a wonderful beginning to the day as the orphans downed their morning milk bottle before proceeding to the browsing grounds. Mbirikani and Kihari took the lead of the group halfway up the western side of Msinga Hill where they spent the morning feeding.
At noon, the orphan elephants saw the stockade pickup carrying milk driving towards the baobab water hole. They came running down the hill to catch up with their bottles. Suswa could not run as fast as the rest and was the last to arrive at the milk feeding area. Once she had finished her bottles she joined the rest of the group for a mud bath at the main waterhole.
Ajali left the others bathing and headed off to explore the northern side of the waterhole where he settled to browse for the afternoon, joining up with the rest of the orphan herd as they were making their back to the safety of the stockades for the night.
24 March 2018
The gates of the stockade were flung open at 6am, and the orphan elephants came running out full of excitement for their milk bottles. They then played around the stockade for a while before following Bada to the browsing fields. Msinga Hill is green following the rains and the orphans enjoyed feasting on the fresh green browse.
Ajali, Nelion and Tundani explored further uphill and enjoyed a spectacular aerial view of their friends browsing half way down the same hill. Suswa and Arruba were browsing close to each other while the rest of the seventeen orphans browsed in single file.
The orphan elephants came down a few minutes before 11am, in perfect time for their milk feed. Rorogoi, Suswa and Ajali welcomed the rest of the group for a mud bath in a small water pool before proceeding to the main baobab tree water hole where they had a lot of fun playing mud bathing games before resuming their browsing activities.
25 March 2018
Layoni and Dabassa arrived at the stockades early this morning and joined the juniors who were busy feeding on supplements following their morning milk bottles. The orphans and Ex Orphans then engaged one another in strength testing games with Dabassa taking on Nelion while Layoni took on Panda. Kihari came to give Panda reinforcement and the two took on Layoni together.
Tahri seemed not to like all the ruckus caused by the pushing games and ran to Suswa for comfort. As things got more heated Panda and Kihari tried to get away from Layoni by climbing a stockade terrace. Kenia and Ndii then took charge, leading their herd from the stockade compound, leaving behind the two older boys who left a half hour later.
26 March 2018
The morning began with the orphan elephants concentrating on their milk and supplement feeding before engaging in games around the stockade compound. Bada had a wonderful time rolling around on the red earth soil piles with Rorogoi and Embu coming to watch. His game was brought to an abrupt halt by a scavenging baboon that jumped down from a tree close to him. Naipoki and Kihari got took the opportunity to bring little Tahri in for a dust bath.
Panda placed herself between two trees that were growing close together for a scratching session and got a little stuck. She struggled to get free and finally managed to do so after expending a lot of energy and effort.
The orphans spent the day peacefully browsing in the fields before returning to the stockades for the night.
27 March 2018
It was a beautiful beginning to the day as the orphans raced to catch up with the first light of day out at the browsing fields. Ajali separated himself from the rest of the herd choosing to browse alone for the morning.
The orphans heard the stockade pick up ferrying their milk towards the milk feeding area and ran to catch up with it. Kihari, Bada, Embu, Rorogoi and Lentili were the first to arrive, with Ajali coming in close behind them thinking that something was wrong and ending up surprised to see a milk bottle in front of him. As Ajali does not get milk due to his age he quickly moved aside allowing the rest of the orphans to have their share.
At the noon mud bath, Ndii sat on the opposite side of the mud bath from Ndoria. Kenia and Araba stood by and cheered on them on. The rest of the days browsing activities took place close to the water hole.
28 March 2018
Another morning began with the orphan elephants playing happily around the stockade compound following the milk and range cubes feeding. Ajali led the group towards the browsing grounds and once out in the fields moved further ahead of the rest of the group wanting to browse on his own. He didn’t join the rest of the orphan herd when they made their way to the mud bath for their afternoon milk bottle and a wallow.
The orphans had a lot of fun playing mud bathing games, with Bada competing with Araba for the bathing trophy. Embu came and stood behind Araba occasionally touching her with her trunk in order to give Araba encouragement. The competition was high, with Arruba lying and rolling in the water like a mud fish. Ishaq-B was in a naughty mood and came into the water to lie on Arruba’s stomach preventing Arruba from playing. She then went to lay on Naipoki who ran into the water where Ndii cornered her and prevented her from taking part in the bathing competition.
The mud-bathing games were brought to an end when Tundani and Bada engaged in a strength testing pushing game which had all the orphans running out of the water. Ajali rejoined the orphan herd at 2pm, returning to the stockades with them in the evening.
29 March 2018
The morning was wonderful with the orphan elephants enjoying playing around the stockade compound after their milk and supplement feeding was over. They then followed Kenia and Lentili to the browsing grounds.
Soon after they had left the stockade, Tawi the orphan male eland, left Ngulia and Kore in the stockade, and took Oltukai out into the park. The two went all the way to the northern foot of Msinga Hill with the keepers following closely behind to make sure they were safe. The two grazed for more than one hour before the keepers led them back to the stockades as there was a pride of six lions and their cubs on the western side of the same hill. These lions came very close to the keepers and the orphan elephants that were browsing on that side of the hill, staring for them for some time. The orphans did not notice the arrival of the lions as the keepers made sure to move them away as soon as they saw the pride watching the orphan herd.
30 March 2018
The orphans began the days browsing activities a few meters from the Northern foot of Msinga Hill. Most of the group browsed happily on the hill except for Bada and Ndoria who stayed at the bottom of the hill to feed. After browsing for more than three hours, the keepers noticed the same pride of six lions and their cubs that were seen yesterday approaching Bada and Ndoria. The keepers acted quickly and led Bada and Ndoria uphill to join their friends. The orphans saw the pride of lions and moved further uphill, settling to browse at the peak.
The orphan elephants were very reluctant to come downhill in the afternoon and chose to remain where they were, forgoing their noon milk bottle. They slowly made their way downhill in the evening so as to return to the safety of the stockades for the night.
31 March 2018
The orphan elephant’s memories of their lion encounter the day before was still fresh in their mind and they were quite alert as they followed Kenia, Ndii and Kihari towards the middle and big water hole browsing grounds. They chose this spot for their borwisng activities as it was far away from where the lions had been seen and as such they perceived it to be safer for them.
It was a wonderful end to the month with the ex-orphan Kudus visited the stockade compound soon after the orphans had entered their stockades for the night. It is now evident that, Mukuki the ex-orphan male Kudu, was the father of nearly all the babies of the female orphan Kudus in the group. Mukuki was there with three females, one being Aruba and her two mature babies, and a teenage male. They spent a short spell at the stockade before continuing with their browsing activities in a nearby thick bush.