Keepers' Diaries, May 2004

Voi Reintegration Unit

In late afternoon of 12th May, we received a message from Save the Elephants in Samburu National Reserve that a young elephant calf had been seen trailing the wild herds, but was being constantly rejected, so it was obviously another milk dependent orphan in need of help. Even when it tried to cross the Uaso Nyiro river with a wild herd, one member of the group was seen pushing it under water, which would appear un-elephant-like behaviour towards a needy baby! The calf was estimated to be between 4 and 6 months old and was, we were told, in the process of being captured.

01 May 2004

Dika joined the orphans at the noon mudbath. After a wonderful bath, he picked up a dry stick and scratched between his forelegs, which the other orphans watched very closely.

02 May 2004

It was a cold day, so the orphans all concentrated on feeding, with less interaction.

03 May 2004

After trying for several days, Dika managed to mount Emily “on target”. Aitong, who was next to them when this happened charged about screaming loudly.

04 May 2004

Laikipia mounted onto Lolokwe at 4 p.m. and had a comfortable rest on Lolokwe’s back, closing his eyes.

05 May 2004

Dika joined the orphans at 6 a.m. and persisted in mounting Emily. He accompanied the orphans to the Noon mudbath, where the small elephants touched his huge body with their trunks as he lay in the pool. Salama and Laikipia played a pushing game during the mudbath.

06 May 2004

Dika joined the orphans on their way out to feed in the morning and spent the rest of the day mounting Emily. At 5.40 p.m. Aitong and Sosian chased off two dikdiks who were close by.

07 May 2004

A wild bull joined the orphans at 9.30 a.m. Emily was scared of him, because he had huge tusks. She ran to the Keepers, who were, themselves, trying to keep a safe distance from the wild bull. The bull wandered off. On the way to the mudbath, all the orphans went in a straight line, each putting a trunk on the one in front. Morani was the leader, and Laikipia at the tail end.

08 May 2004

Lissa’s family, who were with a wild herd, joined the orphans at 7.15 a.m. Natumi played with Lissa’s first wildborn, “Lara: whilst Laikipia took on Uaso, who was with this herd. Meanwhile a wild bull of her size took on Emily. The orphans separated on their way to the noon mudbath.

09 May 2004

Dika joined the orphans at 3.30 p.m. and was with them until 6 p.m. when they were ready to return to the Stockades.

10 May 2004

Lissa and family, who were with about 20 wild elephants, approached the orphans in the morning at l0 a.m. Laikipia, Salama, Edie, Ilingwezi and Mukwaju immediately intermingled with the wild group, but one wild cow was very aggressive to Emily, chasing her off and making her keep her distance.

11 May 2004

At 8 a.m. Dika again joined the orphans, but left again at l0.45 a.m. After mudbath, Laikipia and Ilingwezi had a game of mounting one another and chasing each other here and there.

12 May 2004

Mpala, Thoma, Seraa and Irima chased off 2 waterbucks who came to drink water at the noon mudbath.

13 May 2004

Dika joined the orphans for their mudbath, but left immediately afterwards. Laikipia and Edie followed him, but returned after half an hour. Meanwhile the other orphans played games in groups of friends – Nyiro with Mukwaju, Mvita with Lolokwe and Solango with Mpala.

14 May 2004

Again the orphans teamed up in groups to play games at mudbnath. Maeya and Sally played togerher whilst Salama tried to mount onto Nyiro, whilst Tsavo’s head was resting on Lolokwe’s back.

15 May 2004

The day was cloudy and cool. The orphans did not wallow but took water with their trunks and sprayed it over themselves.

16 May 2004

At 3.30 p.m., Natumi, Ilingwezi, Sally and Kinna chased off a group of baboons.

17 May 2004

Sweet Sally became very restless when she could not see Aitong, who was behind a nearby bush. She screamed and Aitong rushed to her, touching her mouth tenderly with her trunk to reassure her.

18 May 2004

At 8 a.m. the orphans joined a wild herd of 5 elephants. Aitong, Morani, Laikipia and Sweet Sally made the first approach, joined by the other orphans later. The wild group left at l0 a.m.

19 May 2004

Mpala and Solango had a disagreement over the noon milk feed. The Keepers had to intervene to stop the quarrel.

20 May 2004

A wild bull the size of Aitong joined the orphans at l0 a.m. The bull later wandered off before the orphans arrived at the mudwallow. Uaso came alone and joined the orphans at 2.15 p.m. All the orphans were very excited to see him, surrounding him, tossing their trunks to touch him and rumbling. He returned to the Stockades with them, but wandered off at l0 p.m.

21 May 2004

Uaso again joined the orphans at 6 a.m., testing his strength against Emily. He wandered off at 9 a.m., but joined them again at the mudbath. He welcomed another wild group, who also took a mudbath, and left later. One of the wild bulls tried to mount Aitong, but she would not cooperate.

22 May 2004

Solango and Mweya were left behind by the others in the afternoon, but came running and trumpeting to join them, received by Thoma, Irima, and Sally who happily greeted them, touching them with their trunks.

23 May 2004

Lolokwe and Tsavo enjoyed a game of chase in the afternoon, which made Loisaba very jealous. She threatened to knock them down.

24 May 2004

Uaso, who was again with the orphans, attempted to mount weakling Mweiga, who screamed for help. The Keepers and other elephants ran to her rescue.

26 May 2004

Laikipia chased off a group of impala who were resting under a tree, forcing them to flee in all directions.

27 May 2004

Mpala and Morani had a disagreement over a bush on which they were both browsing. Thoma and Solango watched closely but did not interfere.

28 May 2004

A cloud of quelea scared Mweiga, Loisaba, Yatta, Burra and Sosian who went to rest under the tree in which they were perched.

29 May 2004

Uaso was there to join the orphans when they were leaving the Stockades in the morning and accompanied them. The smaller orphans avoided him because he attempted to mount them whenever they approached too closely.

30 May 2004

Dika and a wild bull friend joined the orphans at 6.40 a.m. and were with the orphans all day, leaving the orphans only when they returned to the Stockade in the evening. Morani and Mpala tested their strength in competition with one another, and Mpala proved stronger, so Morani gave up the struggle.

31 May 2004

Dika joined the orphans during the course of the morning, going straight up to Aitong to mount her. At 9.30 a.m. another large wild bull came and chased Dika off before mounting Aitong. This went on until 4 p.m. when another bull arrived to chase the second bull off, taking over until the orphans returned to the Stockade in the evening. Dika met up with them again on their way to the Stockades, leaving at midnight. Notes:- This might be the season that Aitong has also reached sexual maturity, because she has attracted many bulls who have come to mount her.