Keepers' Diaries, March 2019

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Voi Reintegration Unit

Because of the dry weather we have enjoyed a lot of wild elephants in the area, congregating around water points and almost every day the orphans have ended up interacting with wild elephant herds. For the most part these interactions were very amicable and extremely good for the orphans. They stretch their trunks towards their wild friends and welcome them to join them, sometimes even initiating playful pushing games with them. 

The only time things did not go according to plan was when the orphans were too eager to greet the other elephants, running up to them would on occasion scare them off, as well as when trying to steal any young babies from the herd in order to play with them; that would always catch the mothers attention and they would then spirit their calf away. 

One day the orphans and Keepers came across such a big wild bull with such huge tusks, even the orphans stopped and stood in awe of him. Kihari, Kenia, Ndii, Arruba and Araba ran away from the big bull whenever he tried to greet them they were so overawed. Mbegu’s herd members kept completely away from him, lifting their trunks to sniff him from a distance only. After browsing together for more than ten minutes, Mbegu and Ndotto felt comfortable enough to approach him however, but did so slowly. Eventually the bull then left the orphans as he headed towards the Mzima Spring-Mombasa water pipeline area. The little bulls in the dependent orphan herd were completely impressed with all that they saw that day.

At one stage in the month there were water shortages in the area due to a broken pipe along the main Mzima Springs-Mombasa water pipeline. The Kanderi borehole however, drilled by SWT, was a great help for the thirsty wild animals visiting the baobab tree water hole for a drink and our bowser was able to ensure that nobody suffered during this time. Thick clouds are starting to build and we really hope the rains will come soon. The orphans made use of the mud bath on most days this month in order to keep cool, and had a lot of fun playing and messing around there, sliding down the steep sides and spraying water up into the air with their trunks to rain down on their backs. Throughout the day the midday mud bath that was built for our orphans has become a very popular haunt for the wildlife in the area, and there is constant action throughout the day with herds of elephants coming and going, but buffalos, zebras, impalas and others are also enjoying it in the dry season too, when many waterholes have now dried.

Although Kenia, Kihari, Ndii, Panda, Ishaq-B and Ndoria are no longer milk dependent and do not have milk bottles at feeding times, they are still very much ‘stockade dependent’. This means they are reliant on the herd as a family, and are obviously very attached to the youngsters in the herd as well, so they are certainly not ready to leave them. It is for this same reason Mbirikani chooses to browse with the orphans often during the day as well. We are so thrilled to see Mbirikani again after her long absence and looking so well, and the older females are more tolerant of her these days as well, although she still chooses to sleep outside of the stockade compound at night.

Kihari, Kenia and Ndii all still jostle for the attention and affection of Tahri, the cosseted baby of the group who is even a year younger than Mbegu’s herd from the Nursery, so is still viewed as very much their little baby. Mbegu’s herd has also remained quite aloof from the other Voi orphans, and very loyal to Mbegu, refusing to be overwhelmed by the attentions meted out over them by the likes of Ishaq-B, Panda or Ndii. Of course they all do play together quite happily, but they would never abandon Mbegu entirely. Perhaps one day, Mbegu’s herd will become a separate graduate orphan herd with Mbegu their Matriarch. Tahri remains particularly fond of Kenia, but likes to race Godoma at milk feeding times, being another little girl close in age.

We also saw Kore, our hand raised eland, a couple of times this month with a wild zebra herd which was lovely. The Keepers thought she looked a little skinny, typical of most animals during these dry months, and tried to call her back to the stockades for some supplements, but she chose to stay with her wild friends. 

March 2019 day to day

01 Mar

The day started with the milk dependent orphans running out of the stockades to gulp down their milk feed before joining their older friends for the supplement feeding. Arruba stretched her trunk to harvest green leaves from one of the trees in the stockade compound while Suswa waited to see if any more Lucerne pellets would be brought out, but had to give up her quest and follow her friends to the browsing fields as she did not want to fall behind.  

The morning browsing session took place from the western to the northern side of Msinga Hill before the orphans made their way to the baobab tree waterhole.  Many wild elephant herds had visited the baobab tree water hole prior to their arrival. Nelion made his way to the water trough, where the cleanest water could be found, for a drink.

Panda plunged into the centre of the water for a bath, with Mudanda and Tundani following suit.

Rorogoi had a wonderful dust bathing session after mud bathing. Araba chose a small tree to have a scratching session against leaving the other big trees for her senior friends. Naipoki enjoyed a game of lying and rolling on the mud bath walls. The afternoons browsing activities took place close to the water hole.

Arruba reaching for leaves

Suswa waiting for more Lucerne pellets

Panda having fun at the mudbath