Keepers' Diaries, May 2007

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!

01 May 2007

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.

02 May 2007

Today, Edie turned up alone to fetch the babies who later joined a wild herd, Burra making the first introductory approach. Mpala found a wrestling age-mate who was bigger, but he stood his ground and lost control, taking the wild boy by surprise, who backed off. Although the wild boy could have trounced Mpala, he was obviously peaceful, and later followed the orphans when they headed for the mudbath, but when he noticed that his herd was not coming with him, turned back. Natumi’s group was not seen all day, but arrived at the Stockade at 8 p.m. to take a drink and collect Edie, who had been escorting the juniors.

03 May 2007

Natumi’s group assembled early at the Stockades to take the juniors off. They concentrated on feeding today, because the country is drying up rapidly, although the waterholes are still holding some rainwater. Arriving quietly at the noon mudbath, they surprised a wild dog who was there taking a drink and who ran off. Back at the Stockade in the evening Natumi’s group took their supplements, and then left once all the babies had settled.

04 May 2007

Mweiga needed the help of the Keepers to get up this morning, after which she spent a while scratching her buttocks against the rocks before joining the others. The youngsters met up with Natumi’s group on the western edge of Mazinga Hill. At the mudbath they all had a lot of fun, squirting each other with water, until it was time for a dustbath when there was a lot of trumpeting and dust flying around. It was a joyful day for them all.

05 May 2007

Thoma’s group met Natumi’s group above the Research Centre high up Mazinga Hill. They all came down the hill swinging their trunks in happiness and flapping their ears playfully to proceed to the feeding area. Mweiga followed at her slow pace doing the same. Since the day was cool, they merely sprayed water over themselves before following Natumi’s lead to the Northern side of Mazinga Hill. Laikipia led the juniors back home in the evening, eager to be first at the supplement hand-out.

06 May 2007

The Juniors left the Stockade without Natumi’s group today, encountering a wild herd on their way out, about whom they were not much bothered since they were intent on finding Natumi’s group. Solango and Mpala lagged behind with the wild herd for a while, but then hurried to catch up with the others, who found Natumi’s group further down in the Park. At the mudbath Nyiro and Laikipia had a wonderful time playing together, watched by all the others, while Sosian had fun with the old tractor tyre that the orphans had taken into the pool. Thoma and Morani enjoyed a wrestling match later, and in the evening Burra led the way back home.

07 May 2007

Edie has a very soft spot for the youngsters. She turned up early in the morning to escort them, taking them slowly to the Northern side of Mazinga Hill where they met up with Natumi\s group who were already at a waterhole. There was the usual highly charged greeting, after which all the orphans returned to the waterhole to enjoy a playful mudbath together. It was wonderful to watch this herd of bright red Tsavo elephants enjoying themselves, and then leaving to feed for the rest of the day.

08 May 2007

The youngsters played around the Stockade, until Edie came to collect them, taking them to meet up with Natumi’s group in the Park. They had a wonderful mudbath, Nyiro taking central stage in it, whilst Morani kept to the shallow side. Nyiro and Mweya then shared a tree trunk to take a scratch, each careful not to interfere with the scratching of the other to avoid any confrontation. The orphans fed quietly during the rest of the day.

09 May 2007

The two groups linked up at the foot of Mazinga Hill, the youngsters heading out without Edie today, but she made the first advance to welcome them as they approached. After the greeting, characterized as usual by caressing and displaying real affection and joy, it was then time to settle into serious feeding. Soft showers of rain characterized the day, so the grass was moist and soft.

10 May 2007

Edie arrived to collect the juniors and took them to Mazinga Hill. All enjoyed feeding up the hill, except Mweiga who was too weak to climb up. At noon the orphans came down to fetch Mweiga for the noon mudbath, today Mpala taking centre stage while Thoma rolled against the banks. Natumi’s group was not seen all day, but Edie was with the babies until they went into their Stockade in the evening.

11 May 2007

Natumi’s group turned up en masse to escort the youngsters in the morning, and took them up the hill opposite the offices, coming back to the Stockade to take water at noon before heading towards the Eastern side of the hill. Natumi’s group headed towards the Eastern side of the hill, but Edie returned later to spend the night with the babies.

12 May 2007

There was a shower of rain in the morning, as the youngsters and Edie left the Stockades. Solango, taking a lead from Mukwaju, propelled the youngsters up the hill. The youngsters and Edie returned for a drink at the Stockade, before feeding nearby for the remainder of the day. Natumi’s group came at 7 p.m. to collect Edie.

13 May 2007

Edie as usual turned up early to collect the youngsters and they joined Natumi’s group who were coming down from the Northern side of Mazinga Hill. They browsed along the lower slopes until it was time for the mudbath. En route back to the Stockades in the evening, they were met by a large wild cow and her family, but apart from a brief greeting, the orphans carried on since they were anxious to return before dark.

14 May 2007

The orphans left the Stockade without Natumi’s group or Edie this morning. Thoma enjoyed taking the lead with Burra and Mweya. Since there was light rain throughout the day, the orphans drank from rain puddles, and playing in the damp earth. They enjoyed feeding from a hole in a tree trunk that had collected fresh water, inserting their trunks in turn, just for fun. Natumi’s group came to drink at the Stockade at midnight.

15 May 2007

The youngsters took a drink at the Stockade waterhole and then enjoyed playing around the compound until Edie turned up to escort them out. As Edie approached in a rush, she gave a head-shake and a trumpet to alert the youngsters that it was time to head out, after which all followed rapidly in single file, swinging their trunks happily from side to side. Mweiga did her best to keep pace, but got her legs tangled in a Creeper, and fell in a trench. The Keepers helped her up, and she joined the other orphans who by now were far ahead. Later in the day, the babies met up with Natumi’s group, and spent the rest of the day together.

16 May 2007

Thoma joined Edie in leading the youngsters out today. The two share numerous characteristics, and seem together to decide where the day’s feeding activity will take place, often seen in a quiet moment with their heads touching. Today they decided to warm up by lying on the warm earth, joined by Solango, Burra, Mpala and Seraa, who turned the process into a dust-bathing session. They all had a lot of fun, Edie and Mweya taking turns to lie on one another. Burra engaged Solango in a wrestling match, and Morani became unpopular by trying to mount onto Mweya, who fought back. Edie again spent the night with the juniors.

17 May 2007

Edie was there to lead the youngsters out into the field in the morning. Since it was cool, they opted out of a mudbath, but just took a drink instead. Mweya and Solango then had a head-butting disagreement, interrupted by Mpala, who separated them. In the evening Natumi’s group turned up at the Stockades for a drink, taking Edie with them, who was reluctant to leave the babies, but followed them slowly.

18 May 2007

Edie was back early at the Stockade to take the babies out. Solango delayed the departure by engaging in a rubbing session against a rock, when Edie made a soft sound with her trunk curled, after which all, but Mpala, who was enjoying a dust-bath, responded to her call. Mpala then ran to catch up with the others. Solango wanted to climb up the hill, but the others moved towards the lowlands, so his ambition was thwarted. It was a lovely day for Serena, the young zebra foal who followed the Keepers and the elephants to the Baobab waterhole, where she met some wild zebra, but stuck to the Keepers. Ntumi’s group was absent today.

19 May 2007

Edie was there again to lead the youngsters out, having spent the night with them. At the Eastern side of Mazinga Hill, they met up with a wild herd of elephants, Edie moving ahead to introduce the babies to the wild Matriarch, who welcomed them for a joint feeding session. They spent two hours feeding together peacefully until Edie rounded up her charges to take them to the waterhole. During the night Natumi’s group came to the Stockade, but Edie was far too comfortable with the babies, and refused to follow them when they left. The Keepers went to investigate the report of a lone calf, presumed to be an orphan, which had been seen by a visitor at the Voi Safari Lodge. During our search we came across an open Sewage tank, which posed a serious threat to wildlife who could fall in, and were shocked to see a wild cow and her small calf drinking the sewage water. This was reported to the Lodge Management, who promised to do something about it.

20 May 2007

The orphans, accompanied by Edie, bounced out of the Stockades in a very happy mood, swinging their trunks from side to side, and ears flapping backwards and forwards. Mweiga could not keep pace, and remained behind, feeding, catching up with the others at the noon mudbath. Natumi’s group again came to the Stockades, but Edie was in with the youngsters, and ignored their presence.

21 May 2007

Natumi’s group met up with Edie and the youngsters at the foot of Mazinga hill this morning. They went down to the waterhole at noon where a wild herd was feeding nearby. A wild teenaged boy came to join the orphans at the mudbath, but it was too cool for the elephants, so instead Seraa engaged him in a friendly pushing bout. She was tempted to follow him and his family when they left heading towards the Voi river, but thought better of it, and returned to join the others, where Thoma was scratching herself against a tree, before they began heading home for the night.

22 May 2007

Edie and the youngsters caught up with Natumi’s group early in the morning at the foot of Mazinga Hill. Meanwhile, the friendly wild boy of yesterday returned to the waterhole, obviously searching for them, but by the time they arrived, he had given up and left, so they missed him. However, the orphans had a lot of fun at the waterhole, and all returned to the Stockade in the evening. When Natumi’s group left, Edie remained behind with the babies.

23 May 2007

The friendly wild boy again brought his family to the Orphans’ waterhole, wandering around searching for them, but left with his family before the orphans turned up. There was great excitement when the orphans assembled at a rugged trench for a soil dusting session, Burra tossing huge chunks of soil high in the air, and Mpala sitting down on his buttocks. Solango dug with his little tusks into the ground to uproot a bush that was in his way. Natumi’s group was not seen during the day, but came to the Stockade for a drink in the evening.

24 May 2007

Natumi’s group was seen in amongst a large wild herd of elephants in the morning. Uaso was there with them. Icholta was eyeing a tiny wild calf, feeding close to it and tossing her trunk to touch it. Edie and the youngsters did not reach that area. Later Natumi’s group with Uaso met up with the youngsters at the mudbath, but it was too cold for the elephants to go in. They fed together for the rest of the day, after which Uaso moved off to rejoin the wild group, leaving Natumi’s group accompanying the babies back in the evening. When Natumi’s group left the Stockade, Edie went with them, but returned later to be with the youngsters.

25 May 2007

Edie and the youngsters joined a wild herd of elephants this morning, and fed amongst them until it was time to go to the waterhole. It was too cold to wallow, so the orphans fed close to the waterhole for the rest of the day before returning in the evening.

26 May 2007

Natumi’s group were at the Stockade early to accompany the others, slowly heading towards the waterhole, feeding as they went. At the waterhole they met up with Uaso, who fed with them for a while before leaving for the Voi river area. In the evening the orphans took a break from feeding to test their strength, Nyiro taking on first Edie, and then Lolokwe, whilst Mukwaju took on Solango. Mweya absented herself from these activities, resting against a tree trunk some way off. Rukinga and Serena spent the whole day with the orphans out in the field, keeping their distance from the elephants to avoid being chased.

27 May 2007

Edie took the orphans out in the morning, moving slowly as it was raining, so that Mweiga could keep pace. They fed on the lower slopes of Mazinga Hill, and never went to the waterhole. Natumi’s group was not around, and in the evening Burra led the orphans home, Mweiga beginning the homeward journey earlier so that the others could catch up with her. Only Icholta, Laikipia and Nyiro turned up at the Stockades to take their Copra cake hand-out, the rest of Natumi’s group not with them.

28 May 2007

The orphans hurried out today, hoping to meet up with Natumi’s group but they were unsuccessful. Mweiga could not keep pace, and instead headed slowly to the waterhole, where the others met her. Only Mpala went into the mud, since it was cold, desperately trying to coax Solango to join him for a mud wrestle, which Solango refused, meaning that Mpala had to come out in order to engage him. The orphans met up with Natumi’s group later who were heading towards the Stockades. Uaso turned up at the Stockades later, and went off with Natumi’s group.

29 May 2007

Edie was there to lead the youngsters out into the field, as usual. There they met a wild herd, who were very friendly. Burra fed close to a very large wild cow whose calf was suckling, very interested in the procedure. Uaso was spotted hurrying towards the Western side of Mazinga hill in the evening, and turned up later at the Stockades along with Natumi’s group, leaving with them having taken water.

30 May 2007

Edie took the babies out again, and took good care of them throughout the day. It was too cold for a wallow, so they all concentrated on feeding. In the evening Lolokwe came alone to the Stockade and left with Edie, but Edie returned later, to be in with the babies.

31 May 2007

Natumi’s group was not seen today, but Edie took good care of the babies, as usual. At noon Uaso came to the Stockade for a drink, but wandered off later. Notes:- Although Mweiga is still weak, she has shown great improvement. She can now get up unaided in flat areas, but needs help if she falls in a dip. Emily’s group, comprised of Emily, Aitong, Sweet Sally, Tsavo, Loisaba, Mvita, Ilingwezi and Ndara has not been sighted all month, and are obviously far afield.