Keepers' Diaries, May 2005

Voi Reintegration Unit

Emily, Aitong and Sweet Sally were absent until the 9th, when they turned up to await the return of the orphans on the road leading to the Stockades. Their appearance startled Mweiga, who bellowed, but was comforted immediately by the tender and reassuring touch of Emily’s trunk. Emily, Aitong and Sally then escorted her and the other small calves up to the Stockades where their milk awaited them, before returning to the road to greet the older orphans who were following at a more leisurely pace. There a joyful and extremely touching reunion took place. The next appearance of Emily. Aitong and Sally was on the 10th, when the Keepers remark that Aitong looks much more rotund with enlarged breasts suggesting that her pregnancy is well advanced. Four days later, on the 14th, Emily, Aitong and Sally turned up again, this time with Lissa and her family and Lissa wandered off with her older daughter, leaving little Lali in Emily’s care. This would be viewed by Emily as a great privilege, accepting her as a trust-worthy calf-sitter or “Auntie”. Emily and her satellites later followed in the direction taken by Lissa obviously with the intention of joining up and handing back her baby again. It is touching also that little Lali was happy to remain with Emily, Aitong and Sally rather than follow her mother and sister when they departed.

01 May 2005

Having left the Stockades, the orphans wanted to climb Mazinga Hill, where Lissa and her family were feeding, and having heard one of Lissa’s babies scream. However, having climbed half way up, the orphans relaxed and gave up the struggle, to return, feeding as they went. By 8 a.m. they were down, and ready to set off for their usual feeding grounds.

02 May 2005

Mweiga kept pace with the other orphans today during their feeding progress. Since the day was cool, there was no mudbath for the orphans today.

03 May 2005

The orphans were in a jovial mood this morning. Even Mweiga was trumpeting and swinging her trunk along with the others, and all enjoyed a wonderful mudbath at noon.

04 May 2005

Having just past through the entrance to their main feeding grounds, two dikdiks who were chasing one another dashed through the legs of Natumi, Burra and Morani, who wanted to charge them. However, the dikdiks continued to dodge around and through the elephants’ legs, as the elephants tried to kick them during this fascinating process. Burra miscalculated and touched the electric wire of the perimeter fence during the melee, which provided a distraction, and ended the pursuit. Morani empathized with his friend’s plight from a safe distance!

05 May 2005

The orphans began the day in a playful mood. Solango was trying to entice Mweiga into a pushing match, but found himself the loser when Mweiga shoved him down and prepared to give him one more. This made Solango bellow for help, so the Keepers came to his rescue, following which he gave up on such games and proceeded to concentrate on feeding.

06 May 2005

It was another cool day, so the orphans concentrated on feeding. Solango found the day somewhat boring since there was no pushing games. During the mudbath he used his head and trunk to activate Seraa, who obliged. Having had enough, they joined the other elephants who were resting under the shade of a nearby tree.

07 May 2005

It was a clear, hot day today, so the orphans enjoyed the mudbath greatly. Natumi played her Matriarchal role very effectively, deciding exactly where the group should go, and when. Emily, Aitong and Sally have been absent now for 6 days without making contact.

08 May 2005

Lissa, Mpenzi, and Lissa’s two calves, Lali and Lara came to drink at the Stockade waterhole when all the orphans were inside for the night. Having had their fill, they went to feed up Mazinga Hill.

09 May 2005

At 5 p.m. Emily, Aitong and Sweet Sally turned up at the Stockade to drink, and having done so, went down the road to wait for the babies’ return for their milk. As soon as the little orphans appeared, Emily, Aitong and Sally ran to greet them, scaring Mweiga in the process, who screamed. Emily comforted Mweiga, touching her gently to reassure her, and the three then escorted the babies back to the Stockade where their milk was waiting. Emily, Aitong and Sally then returned down the road to wait for the older group, who ran to greet them, surrounding them excitedly, touching and talking to them, before all returning together. Emily, Aitong and Sally left the Stockades at 6.30 p.m. once all the other elephants had gone inside for the night.

10 May 2005

Emily, Aitong and Sally came to drink at the Stockades at 10 a.m., after which they took a rest under a tree. Aitong’s stomach and breasts seem much more enlarged, so the Keepers suspect that she is many months pregnant.

11 May 2005

Mvita, Mweya and Sosian decided to climb Mazinga Hill, leaving the others behind. A cow buffalo, bellowing for her calf who was in amongst about 7 others, frightened the three orphans, who came tearing down the hill rapidly to join the others. They all went feeding together, and enjoyed the noon mudbath.

12 May 2005

The orphans received a special welcome from a large wild herd of elephants who were passing, walking rapidly. The orphans tried to keep pace with them, but found that they could not, so peeled off to feed at a more leisurely pace.

13 May 2005

The day was fairly hot, so the orphans decided to take an early mudbath, where they were joined by a wild group at 9.40 a.m. One wild cow had huge tusks, which daunted the orphans somewhat, but they ended up enjoying the mudbath together, and spending the next two hours feeding together. Mukwaju and Edie formed a quick friendship with one teenage bull, whilst Tsavo and Loisaba engaged another wild friend of their size, playing pushing games together. Tsavo retreated rapidly when the cow with huge tusks came to feed nearby. The wild group left at 11.40 a.m. taking Laikipia and Salama with them. These two returned to join the other orphans after having been gone for an hour. At 2 p.m. another small wild herd with a small calf strolled past, but when the orphans approached them, the Matriarch appeared aggressive, forcing the orphans to keep their distance.

14 May 2005

Emily, Aitong and Sally, along with Lissa’s family, appeared from the Western side of Mazinga Hill for a drink at the Stockades. On this occasion Uaso was not with them. Having had a drink, Lissa left her smallest calf with Emily, and wandered off with the rest of the family, trusting Emily to take care of her baby. Later Emily’s group, along with the baby, followed the direction Lissa had taken.

15 May 2005

The day was cool, so the orphans spent most of the day feeding. Mweiga lagged behind kept company by Sosian and Mweya, who remained close to her throughout, resting with her under a tree, when Mweiga placed her trunk gently on Sosian’s ears, in a gesture of appreciation. Later the other orphans returned to join them there and escort them to the mudbath.

16 May 2005

The orphans received a warm welcome from three wild cows who had a 4 month old calf with them. Laikipia and Salama made the first approach, tossing their trunks forward to touch the visitors, after which the others joined the wild group to feed comfortably with them. Lolokwe and Nyiro engaged a wild friend who was a little older than them, whilst all the other orphans were fascinated with the wild baby. Natumi and Ilingwezi went forward to try and entice the wild baby to follow them, watched closely by the wild mother, who moved in to retrieve her baby. Thereafter Ilingwezi and Natumi had to be content to touch the wild baby between the legs of the wild adults. The wild herd joined the orphans at the mudbath. Once the wild group had departed, the orphans engaged their friends in a trial of strength. Laikipia took his best friend, Mukwaju, whilst Solango chose Burra. Morani meanwhile went to scratch his bottom against the mudbath wall. The orphans then divided themselves into two separate groups, one lead off by Natumi, whilst the other remained behind with Mweiga. Laikipia remained behind to ensure harmony, pushing away any youngster who was tempted to try and mount on weak Mweiga. It amazed us Keepers that Laikipia understood Mweiga’s fragility, and took steps to insulate her from playful others. At 11.20 a.m., Emily, Aitong and Sally came to join the babies from the Northern side of Mazinga Hill, escorting them back to the mudbath. Laikipia tried to block Mukwaju, but Mukwaju used all his strength to shove him aside, and continued unabashed. Emily’s group remained with the orphans until 4.12 p.m. when they wandered off towards the Airstrip. Ndara went with them, but returned in a hurry, trumpeting, 20 minutes later.

17 May 2005

Emily, Aitong and Sally arrived before dawn to escort the other orphans in the morning. Since it was hot, they all went for an early drink at 9 a.m. and decided to hang around the mudwallow for a while when Lolokwe and Nyiro enjoyed a pushing match. Emily’s group remained browsing with the other orphans until 2.30 p.m. when they wandered off towards the West side of Mazinga Hill.

18 May 2005

It was a hot and humid morning. The orphans formed a straight line, led by Mweya, with Mweiga following confidently lose behind her. They passed big groups of wild elephants, and were joined by one group at 8 a.m., consisting of 3 cows and 6 youngsters. Tsavo and Laikipia were anxious to win over one very playful wild youngster, who chose Tsavo, ignoring Laikipia. The wild group were with the orphans during the entire morning and at the mudbath, after which the wild group left, leaving behind the playful youngster, who didn’t notice the departure of his family. When he became aware, he tried to push the orphans in the direction his family had taken, but without success, so he gave up and ran to catch up with the rest of his family. At 4.25 p.m. Salama wanted to mount Lolokwe, chasing him around, until Lolokwe gave up, and put up with being mounted. Salama felt very sheepish when Lolokwe stopped running, and went to join the others who were feeding some distance away. The wild herd led by the Matriarch called “Catherine” came to drink at the Stockades when the orphans were already in for the night. They all went round Natumi’s Stockade, scenting the orphans, and then fed close by until 7.30 p.m. before leaving towards the Western side of Mazinga Hill.

19 May 2005

Laikipia led the orphans to join a wild herd of five at 9 a.m. Salama engaged a wild friend, and the two played chasing games, until they decided on a test of strength. Salama came as reinforcement for Laikipia, which angered the wild calf, who became aggressive, but the two orphans continued to take him on, until he gave up. The wild Matriarch then rounded up her family and took them to the mudbath, where they were joined by the orphans. When the tractor arrived with water, they all enjoyed a drink from the drums. Once the wild herd had departed, Nyiro went to play with the drums, sitting on one, so the Keepers had to intervene to save damage. Emily, Aitong and Sally joined the orphans on their way back to the Stockades in the evening, bidding farewell at the Spring Gates and then heading Southwards.

20 May 2005

Natumi led the orphans to the feeding grounds today paying no attention to the many wild herds near the Airfield, numbering hundreds. A light shower of rain at 2 p.m. caused immense excitement. All the orphans dashed about, colliding with each other and knocking down small bushes. Lolokwe engaged Laikipia in a test of strength, but realising that he was out-classed, decided to try Solango instead. Solango was not interested, because it was time to return to the Stockades for the night.

21 May 2005

It was a cloudy morning. The orphans were very happy because of yesterday’s rain, running around playfully, and rolling in the puddles and damp earth. Icholta played a trick on the others, picking up a stick and tossing it in amongst the playful group, causing a disruption! After this, the orphans began feeding, and remained playful throughout the day.

22 May 2005

The day began happily, with all the orphans running towards the Spring Gate entrance to the Park. Burra and Morani were close front-runners, but Burra won the race in the end. Because it was cool, only Ndara was brave enough to plunge into the mudbath. Loisaba and Morani decided to share one of the drums of water, blocking the others from having access, until the Keepers intervened so that the others could have a turn. Burra engaged Solango in a test of strength, whilst Mukwaju took on Ilingwezi until Lolokwe interrupted the competition, taking Mukwaju’s place. Irima tried to prompt Burra into a competition with Thoma, but he thought better of it, whilst Solango coiled his trunk over Seraa’s head.

23 May 2005

Having taken a drink after leaving the Stockades, the orphans began playing happily. Natumi went rolling in the soft earth, whilst Thoma went sliding with bent back legs down a slope. Solango went to sharpen his little tusks on a sharp rock, whilst Morani climbed the rock and enjoyed being above all the others, trumpeting with happiness whilst touching the backs of the others with his trunk. At noon Solango and Burra had a tough fight for dominance, Solango obviously pleased with his sharpened tusks, because Burra ran off. Soon afterwards a big group of 8 wild elephants with 3 calves overtook the orphans heading for the water drums, but were disappointed to find that the orphans had finished all the clean water, so they had to drink from the mudbath instead.

24 May 2005

It was hot today, so the orphans went for an early mudbath to find a herd of 10 buffaloes there. The orphans moved calmly to join the buffaloes without scaring them but the buffaloes moved off, waiting at a distance, hoping that the orphans would move off. Instead the orphans remained behind for an hour or so, playing with one another. Sosian and Ndara enjoyed a dustbath together, and when Ndara tried to leave, Sosian tried to pull her back, entwining his trunk round her head. Salama came unstuck when he fell whilst trying to mount onto Laikipia, who was in a depression. At 4 p.m. Icholta, Solango and Mweya played a rolling game together whilst Laikipia and Lolokwe had a wonderful pushing game, until Laikipia spotted Irima lying down, and rushed over to mount on him. Irima rose hastily when he noticed that Icholta had the same intention, so Laikipia selected Solango instead. Lolokwe decided to take on Tsavo, a competition that Tsavo won when Lolokwe took refuge behind Laikipia.

25 May 2005

The orphans concentrated on feeding during the morning, without joining any wild herds. They went to the mudbath at 10 a.m. because it was a hot day, and there Morani found himself left behind when the others wandered off. He bellowed, and all the others charged back, amidst loud trumpets, to collect him. They all then went back into the mudbath. Edie and Tsavo enjoyed close touchings whilst wallowing wonderfully. Edie, who usually doesn’t indulge in baby games, greatly enjoyed playing with little Morani, whilst Ndara sat on her buttocks in the mud “like a shop-keeper in a window waiting for consumers to come and purchase goods”! The games ended abruptly when Laikipia lay on Mpala, which made him bellow for help. A light shower at 4 p.m. prompted all the games to begin again. Salama “felt as though he was in heaven” closing his eyes in bliss when he was able to lie on Laikipia’s stomach. Only when Natumi rounded the orphans up for their return to the Stockades, did the games end.

26 May 2005

The day was cloudy and calm. At noon when the orphans went to the mudbath, Burra, Solango and Mpala waited at the road for the milk tractor and as soon as it was spotted, took to running around trumpeting with joy!

27 May 2005

It was a cloudy morning, so the orphans were happy to find themselves feeding near many wild herds, but did not actually join them. Salama challenged Lolokwe but Laikipia came between them, and took on Salama. Mvita was very interested in the contest and engaged Thoma, but Solango snatched Thoma away. Meanwhile Burra and Morani had a match.

28 May 2005

Having accessed the main Park to feed, the orphans were very calm, concentrating on feeding. Solango and Seraa suddenly broke the peace by embarking on an amazing pushing game, which ended when the Tractor appeared with the milk. After the mudbath, Burra and Seraa combined their strength to assist Thoma who was having difficulty in getting up, but Edie pushed Burra and Seraa aside and tried to mount on Thoma who screamed loudly. Thoma had a struggle to get up due to Edie’s weight.

29 May 2005

Emily, Aitong and Sally came to drink water at the Stockades in the evening. Loisaba, who was leading the others to the upper stockade screamed loudly when she found Emily’s group drinking, who then ran to the babies at the top, trumpeting loudly. They all then went to drink together, before the babies returned to their Stockade. Emily’s group meandered off in a westerly direction at 7 p.m.

30 May 2005

The day was characterised by the usual baby plays and feeding. Burra enticed a reluctant Solango into a pushing game, but noting that Solango was half-hearted about this contest, he took on Seraa, who sat down and stretched out her trunk to touch Burra. Solango became so jealous that he went to lie down next to them to divert Seraa’s attention. Burra, Thoma and Seraa then explored Solango’s entire body with their trunks, before Burra decided to engage Morani in a pushing game. At noon a wild cow with a 5 month old calf left its herd to come and join the orphans. All the orphans paid close attention to the calf, following its every footstep whilst throwing their trunks forward to touch it. The wild cow wpent 10 minutes with our orphans, before returning to the herd, which by now was some distance away. Loisaba went along too, but returned before reaching the wild unit.