Keepers' Diaries, May 2007

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Voi Reintegration Unit

It has been a very interesting month involving the Voi Unit, as a pattern further unfolds relating to the relationship between those orphans that are now independent of their Keepers, and free to come and go at will, and those that remain enclosed in their Night Stockades, being considered too young, and therefore vulnerable to predation, to be at large throughout the night with the others. Those youngsters who are still in their Stockade at night are known as “Thoma’s group” and the older elephants, “Natumi’s Group”, whilst “Emily’s Group” is now considered totally rehabilitated and therefore fully “wild”. It would appear that Edie has been assigned the new Matriarchal role of the youngsters, for she has been turning up each early morning at the Stockades often alone, almost on a daily basis, to escort the youngsters out to join up with the others in the bush, and has also opted to remain with them on occasions throughout the night, rather than join the older independent group, when she insists on going into the Stockades with them. On occasions she has followed the older group when they leave the juniors in the evening, but has turned back to be with the youngsters. Every day’s reunion is charged with delighted elephant emotion, almost as though the youngsters had been separated not for just a night, but for months and the strong family bonding that exists between them all cannot be doubted!

It has been a very interesting month involving the Voi Unit, as a pattern further unfolds relating to the relationship between those orphans that are now independent of their Keepers, and free to come and go at will, and those that remain enclosed in their Night Stockades, being considered too young, and therefore vulnerable to predation, to be at large throughout the night with the others. Those youngsters who are still in their Stockade at night are known as “Thoma’s group” and the older elephants, “Natumi’s Group”, whilst “Emily’s Group” is now considered totally rehabilitated and therefore fully “wild”. It would appear that Edie has been assigned the new Matriarchal role of the youngsters, for she has been turning up each early morning at the Stockades often alone, almost on a daily basis, to escort the youngsters out to join up with the others in the bush, and has also opted to remain with them on occasions throughout the night, rather than join the older independent group, when she insists on going into the Stockades with them. On occasions she has followed the older group when they leave the juniors in the evening, but has turned back to be with the youngsters. Every day’s reunion is charged with delighted elephant emotion, almost as though the youngsters had been separated not for just a night, but for months and the strong family bonding that exists between them all cannot be doubted!

There have been one or two days during the month when the juniors have not joined the older unit, but this is unusual, and it is obvious that communication occurs between the two groups, because they invariably know exactly where to find each other, sometimes meeting with, and fraternizing with, other wild herds on the way.
Sometimes they find their Seniors in amongst a wild herd, when Edie moves forward to “introduce” the babies, and then they slot into the herd as well.

Mweiga’s condition has definitely improved somewhat, although she remains weak in comparison to the others, but she can at least get up unaided from a sleeping position on level terrain. She remains amongst the junior Stockade set, despite being 9 years old, and older than Natumi, who is the Matriarch of the Senior group. Mweiga is now having special supplements, and new Animal Stem Cell therapy, which we hope may help heal whatever is causing her ill health. However, ever since arrival as a 7 month old, Mweiga has obviously suffered a medical condition, which we suspect could be a combination of a heart defect, and joint problems. For the joints, she is back on the Aloe Vera and Glucosamine.

There has been no sign this month of Emily’s now wild family, which includes Aitong, Sweet Sally, Ndara, Tsavo, Loisaba and Ilingwezi. They are obviously elsewhere with their wild friends, investigating new pastures, and so, from the Trust’s point of view, this is an amazing success story, since it is the first time that a Nursery reared infant has grown up to become the Tsavo Orphans’ Matriarch, and then made the transition into the wild herds, taking with her preferred members of her erstwhile orphaned family. Uaso, now classified as one of the now independent Big Boys, made an appearance towards the end of the month, spending time with the orphans and also paying a visit to the Stockades for a drink at the end of the month.

Sadly, the Tsavo so-called “long rains” of April/May, which in that part of the world are always the “short rains”, failed almost entirely, with just a few light showers to relieve what has been an unusually hot May. Already, there is no doubt that we are beginning to feel the affects of the Global Warming, so the orphans face a very challenging, long dry season ahead. We are fortunate indeed that the October/November rains went on longer than usual, leaving the countryside around Voi is still tinged with green, although there has been very little re-growth of the vegetation.

May 2007 day to day

01 May

Natumi’s group were at the Stockades to escort Thomas’ group of younger orphans out into the bush, some playing together tossing chunks of earth into the air, and others standing quietly together as though in conference. They all browsed quietly on the slopes of Mazinga Hill before moving to the mudbath, where Mweiga ventured in for a brief time, after which Mweya helped her soil dusting to dry off. Laikipia occupied the central position in the mudwallow playing wonderful games with Mweya and Burra while Solango challenged Salama and then Morani to a test of strength. They finished the day feeding at the foot of Mazinga Hill before Irima bounced forward, signaling that it was time to return to the Stockades. Natumi’s group accompanied the babies, but left having taken their hand-out of Copra.

Laikipia enjoys himself in the mudwallow

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