Keepers' Diaries, May 2009

Voi Reintegration Unit

It has been a very exciting month for Lesanju, Lempaute, Shimba, Wasessa, Siria, Sinya and Mzima, now based at the Voi Stockades in Voi. Wasessa, who was orphaned older than the others, and who also comes from the area not far from the Voi Stockades, is the most outgoing of all when it comes to meeting wild herds, quick to run and greet the wild herds without any hesitation, whereas the others are more reticent. On the 5th , whilst feeding out in the bush, the orphans encountered a wild herd, and Wasessa spent a long time interacting with a wild calf who even tried to suckle her ears in a very familiar way. It is not beyond the bounds of possibility that Wasessa actually knows this wild group -perhaps they may even be part of her former wild family. Her joyful interaction with the wild group on that day encouraged the other Voi orphans to pluck up sufficient courage to come and join in leaving their Keepers behind observing events from a safe distance. Eventually, Lesanju decided enough was enough, and headed back to the Keepers, followed by all the others save Wasessa, who headed off instead in amongst her wild friends. She was so obviously comfortable amongst this wild group that the Keepers feared she might join up with them permanently.

01 May 2009

Having emerged from their Night Stockades, and after a drink of water at the Stockade trough, Lesanju led the orphans out to browse towards Mazinga Hill, waiting for the Keepers to join them and escort them further afield. They all browsed calmly throughout the morning, and having taken their noon milk feed enjoyed a mudbath, Mzima and Wasessa competing to be the best “wallower”, which ended when Wasessa tried to climb onto Mzima’s back. He then left the wallow and went to join Shimba in a dust-bath. Lesanju and Siria enjoyed a pushing game in the water while Lempaute first went to scratch against a tree before joining the others. It was a hot afternoon, so he orphans kept to the shade during the afternoon browsing session, and before returning to the Stockades in the evening.

02 May 2009

The orphans emerged in a jovial mood, with rumbles and trumpets as they romped around the compound. It was a cool morning, so the orphans enjoyed browsing close to the Stockade, until two dikdiks ran out of the bush and triggered an elephant stampede back to the Keepers for protection! The Keepers had difficulty comforting the group. Wasessa and Siria decided to stick close to the Keepers until it was time for the noon milk feed, and a drink of water. The orphans fed quietly for the rest of the afternoon, until Shimba led the group back in the evening.

03 May 2009

Lesanju led the group to the Stockade trough to take on water before heading out to browse while the temperature was still sufficiently cool. By 11 a.m. however, it had turned very hot, so the elephants took to the shade. After their noon milk feed, all enjoyed a prolonged mudbath. It was still hot in the afternoon, so the orphans had to flap their ears to try and cool themselves, and did their best to keep under shade. At 4 p.m. it was cooler, so the elephants resumed feeding, until 5 p.m. when they gathered around their Keepers and were ready to be escorted back home.

04 May 2009

Mzima led the group to the Stockade water trough once the Gates of their Stockade were opened. Siria found a nice rock to scratch himself against, while Lesanju went to inspect the Greens Lorry. The Keepers then escorted them out to browse. At 11 a.m. the group crowded around their Keepers, indicating that it was time to be taken for their noon milk and the mudbath, where they all had fun for half an hour. Sinya spent time splashing water over her body, while Wasessa found a tree to scratch her ears against. The elephants resumed feeding after the mudbath until it was time to return in the evening.

05 May 2009

Lesanju led the orphans to the water trough this morning, while Siria and Mzima took a while to scratch themselves before joining the others. As the orphans were browsing at the base of Mazinga Hill, they were joined by a wild herd, whom Wasessa, Siria and Mzima immediately went to greet. Amongst the wild herd was a small calf upon whom Wasessa focused her attention. She and the wild calf played happily together, as though known to one another, with the wild calf even sucking on Wasessa’s ears. Meanwhile, the other orphans were keeping their distance, but when they saw Wasessa having fun with the wild baby, they, too, joined the wild group and fed amongst them for a while until Lesanju and Lempaute decided to separate and feed slightly apart. Shimba, Siria and Mzima decided to join them, leaving Wasessa in amongst the wild herd playing a pushing game with the wild baby. Wasessa seemed so accepted by the wild herd that the Keepers feared she might be taken off by them. She and the wild group then began to head towards the waterhole, so the Keepers and the other orphans trailed them, and upon arrival at the waterhole, were happy to find Wasessa wallowing happily in amongst her wild friends. Lesanju and Shimba decided to join her and the wild herd in the waterhole, leaving the other orphans with the Keepers. It was a historic afternoon for the Keepers and also the elephants. Once the wild herd had left, Wasessa rejoined the other orphans, and all fed peacefully for what remained of the afternoon before returning to the stockades in the evening.

06 May 2009

It was a cloudy morning so the orphans emerged in a happy mood, amidst rumbles and trumpets. Sinya and Wasessa enjoyed a pushing game while Lempaute was busy scratching herself against the rocks. Siria decided to try and get water from the Water Bowser until Shimba led the group to the Southern side of Mazinga Hill where they planned to spend the morning. At noon the orphans enjoyed their milk, little Mzima insisting on holding his own bottle, which amused the Keepers. The elephants enjoyed a prolonged mudbath followed by a dustbath and a peaceful afternoon’s browsing session before returning to the stockades in the evening.

07 May 2009

The orphans left early to browse today, because it was cool morning. At the mudbath Mzima, Wasessa, Lesanju and Siria went straight into the water, while Shimba, Sinya and Lempaute took water into their trunk to splash it over themselves. After a dustbath, all enjoyed scratching themselves against various fallen logs and tress. Lempaute and Wasessa enjoyed playing a game in some loose soil before joining the others for the afternoon browsing session.

08 May 2009

Lesanju led the group out into the Park today. It was a cool morning, so the orphans took time out to play, Shimba and Mzima enjoying a pushing game while Lempaute enjoyed a dustbath. It was too cool for a wallow today, so having taken their milk, the orphans resumed feeding for the rest of the afternoon. On the way back in the evening, the orphans raised their trunks in the air to smell a wild herd who were taking water at the Stockade water trough. Wasessa ran to greet them, even before returning to take her evening milk feed.

09 May 2009

The orphans were all so eager to emerge this morning, that each one wanted to be first out. Lempaute squashed Siria, who cried for help. Having first taken water, Lempaute was first to begin browsing around the Stockades until she was joined by the others. It was a hot day, so the orphans enjoyed a prolonged mudbath, after which they resumed feeding until it was time to return when Shimba led the group back in the evening.

10 May 2009

Having been let out in the morning, Lesanju and Mzima ran to scratch their bodies against the rocks before taking a drink. Lesanju led the group out to feed, Mzima and Sinya enjoying a pushing game en route whilst walking. All enjoyed the noon milk and mudbath, and fed quietly during the afternoon. In the evening, once the orphans were back in their Night Stockade, a wild group turned up to drink at the Stockade trough, and spent time around the Stockades rumbling to the orphans.

11 May 2009

Lesanju led her group out to feed today. At the mudbath Siria and Wasessa spent time playing while Shimba and Mzima took a dust-bath. The orphans fed quietly all afternoon until the Keepers led them back in the evening. At the Stockades they had a surprise awaiting them, because Natumi’s group had turned up in amongst a large wild herd of elephants, and were very happy to find new recruits back at base. Solango rushed to greet the babies, and was somewhat disconcerted to find them more interested in their evening milk bottles! The new orphans did not interact with Natumi’s group on this day, because they were in amongst so many wild elephants. However, they “spoke” to each other in rumbles. Lolokwe played with a wild calf, and eventually Natumi’s group left in amongst the wild herd.

12 May 2009

Natumi’s group came down from Mazinga Hill this morning, and just missed meeting the babies, who had already left for the main Park. Whilst the group was drinking at the Stockade trough, it was noticed that Natumi and Lolokwe had some wounds which were disturbing them. The Vet attached to the Trust’s mobile Veterinary Unit was summonsed who immobilized the two ex orphans and removed arrow heads from Natumi’s neck and thigh, and on from Lolokwe\s hind quarters. The wounds were carefully cleaned and antibiotic injections administered. Once Natumi and Lolokwe were awoken, the group left together to browse around the base of Mazinga Hill, and returned in the evening to greet the new orphans as they returned to the Stockades. Natumi’s group would have liked to enter the Stockades with the new babies, but the Keepers did not want them to finish off the Grewia branches that had been brought for the new orphans’ night fodder. Instead they greeted each other with rumbles and trunk waving.

13 May 2009

Natumi’s group returned to the stockades at l0 a.m., the new orphans having already left for the main Park. After drinking water at the Stockade trough, Natumi and Lolokwe, who were much improved now that the arrows had been removed, spent time splashing water over their wounds. They remained behind when the rest of their group left, but joined them later at mid day and did not return in the evening.

14 May 2009

The youngsters left in the morning as usual, and browsed, making their way slowly towards the mudbath where they had a lot of fun having taken their noon day milk feed. They browsed close to the waterhole for what remained of the afternoon. In the evening another group of wild elephants who had 2 tiny calves with them came to drink at the Stockades, and rumbled greetings to our orphans, who were already in for the night.

15 May 2009

Lesanju and Lempaute led the group to the Stockade water trough for a drink this morning, after which Sinya and Mzima scratched themselves against rocks while Siria and Shimba began browsing along the road leading to the Headquarters. The Keepers led the orphans to the Southern part of Mazinga Hill to feed today. Having taken their noon milk feed, Mzima, ever ready to play, led the group into the mudbath where Lesanju and Wasessa enjoyed a pushing game. Mzima remained in the mudbath long after the others had left and were browsing round about. All then fed for the remainder of the afternoon until it was time to return in the evening.

16 May 2009

It was a wonderful morning because Natumi and her group arrived early to greet the new orphans as they were just emerging from their Night Stockades. Wasessa immediately ran to welcome them amidst rumbled and trumpets, but Lesanju and the others were reticent and hung back. However, when they observed that Wasessa was thoroughly enjoying the encounter, they plucked up courage and went in to join the big group. They all drank water together and hung around the Stockades, rumbling and interacting until the Keepers called the new orphans indicating that it was time to go out to feed. Natumi’s group escorted the babies to the Spring Gates and then left to feed on Mazinga Hill. The babies were so excited running down the hill that they didn’t notice the departure of the bigger group, and soon settled down to feed happily.

17 May 2009

During a routine patrol undertaken by some of the Keepers, they came across Emily’s group at Ngutuni. Emily was being mated by a very big wild bull, who was aggressive when he noticed the approach of the Keepers who were anxious to establish the whereabouts of baby Eve. The rest of the group could not be easily seen as the bush was thick. Having established that Eve was indeed flourishing, the Keepers left.

18 May 2009

Lesanju led the orphans out for a day’s activity. Natumi’s group, who had spent a few days around Mazinga Hill seems to have departed and gone elsewhere, because they never turned up today even during the night.

19 May 2009

The Keepers searched Mazinga Hill for Natumi’s group, but they were nowhere to be seen. Meanwhile the new orphans enjoyed feeding around the hill, took their noon milk feed and mudbath and returned in the evening. An afternoon recce by some of the Keepers failed to locate Natumi’s group, so they decided to continue the search the next day.

20 May 2009

The search to establish the whereabouts of Natumi’s group resumed today, and went into Ngutuni Ranch. Just as the Keepers were about to call it a day, not having met with success, they spotted all the orphans together – Emily’s group along with that of Natumi. There was much excitement when the Keepers suddenly noticed that Edie had a wild-born female baby, and that Mweya was lavishing attention on the newborn, stroking the little one with her trunk and following its every movement. Edie was keeping a close eye on events, but showed no sign of jealousy. Later she took her calf and kept it close beside her. Meanwhile Vita and Sweet Sally were giving baby Eve a lot of loving company. The wild bull who had been mating Emily a few days ago had departed, but there were many other wild elephants nearby.

21 May 2009

The orphans emerged in a happy and playful mood today. They fed quietly out in the bush during the morning until the mudbath hour when they romped in the mud. During the soil dusting time Mzima engaged Siria in a tough encounter which ended when Siria wandered off to avoid embarrassment. Later they took a break under shade before resuming feeding for the rest of the day.

22 May 2009

The day commenced with the usual play at the Stockade compound before moving into the main Park to browse. After their noon milk feed they had a lot of fun in the mudbath, Siria and Mzima scratching their backs against the banks. This ended when Siria got his revenge over Mzima, pinning him down with his short tusks. Mzima bellowed, which brought Lesanju to the rescue, but by the time she arrived at the scene, the altercation between the two was over. During a monitoring patrol on the Southern side of Mazinga Hill, Lissa and her three calves (Lara, Lali and Lugard) plus Mpenzi and her wild-born baby and Uaso were sited in amongst a large wild herd of elephants. One wild calf of about 4 years was playing with Mpenzi’s baby carefully overseen by Mpenzi. Lissa’s last baby, Lugard had sun damage on his right ear. The Keepers watched them for a while until they wandered off towards the water pipeline, Mpenzi and her baby (named “Asante” taking the lead.

23 May 2009

A wild elephant cow who had just given birth was sited on the Western side of Mazinga Hill. The newborn baby was just getting up on wobbly legs and was being taken by its mother slowly while the rest of the herd kept close vigil on the newborn. The orphans had only just left the area, so did not encounter the new arrival.

24 May 2009

It was a cool day so the orphans were very active around the Stockades, playing their usual morning games. They concentrated on feeding throughout the day, took their noon milk feed, but decided not to wallow, and continued to feed throughout the rest of the afternoon.

25 May 2009

A wild cow and her calf came to drink at the Stockade trough when the orphans were already in their Night Stockades. A teenaged bull attached to the herd came first, followed by the cow and its calf, but the rest of the herd shied off, having detected the presence of the Keepers.

26 May 2009

It was another cool day so the orphans concentrated upon feeding. They assembled behind the Pickup truck bringing their noon milk feed, and took their milk, plus a drink of water from the drums, but decided against the mud wallow.

27 May 2009

Another cool day, without much activity except feeding. Lempaute kept coming to the Keepers wanting them to blow into her trunk. The day ended happily with all the orphans well fed and happy to return to their Night Stockade for a rest.

28 May 2009

Another large wild elephant group came to drink at the Stockade trough when the orphans were inside their Night Stockade. This wild group was comfortable drinking with the Keepers just a few meters away from them. A young calf who was with them had to kneel down and drink with his mouth. The wild group hung around the Stockades for a long time, rumbling greetings to the orphans.

29 May 2009

Lesanju took the lead this morning, reasserting her Matriarchal role over Wasessa, who has been a more comfortable Leader, being well established. Lesanju decided on the feeding pattern today. All fed happily throughout the day, without a wallow, because it was cool, and returned in the evening to the Night Stockades.

30 May 2009

It was a warmer day today, so the orphans had a lot of fun at the mudbath, Wasessa, Mzima and Siria being particularly active until Mzima spotted Lempaute scratching her body against the bank, and went to join her. Siria then began playing with an old tractor tyre. Finally Wasessa and Sinya decided it was time to resume browsing, so the others vacated the wallow and followed their lead.

31 May 2009

The orphans began the day by chasing off the baboons which took them some distance from the Stockades. They returned in a hurry running fast with Sinya and Shimba in the lead. The Keepers went to calm them down before heading out for the day. They had fun at the mudbath today with Lesanju and Wasessa competing for Leadership afterwards. Eventually Wasessa pulled back to allow Lesanju to lead the column back in the evening. Others:- While studying a recent photograph of the now wild orphans, a swelling was noticed on Laikipia’s leg which could be caused by a wire snare. The Mobile Veterinary Unit accompanied the Keepers and located the orphaned group at Ngutuni Ranch in amongst a lot of wild elephants. They were able to single out Laikipia, and undertake a physical assessment of the leg, which had obviously had a snare around it, but the wire had become detached, simply leaving a mark but no wound. Laikipia is now just over l0 years old and is very large in stature with nice long tusks. The three orphaned baby kudus at the Voi Stockades, named Mkuki, Njia and Aruba are all doing well, and often mix with a wild Kudu group who frequents the area. Unfortunately attempts to capture an image of this interaction is difficult because the wild kudus are very shy and run off whenever the Keepers approach. Makonge is an orphaned eland whom the Keepers are rearing at the Stockades and who is also doing well and beginning to browse a little. The 3 kudus do not associate much with him because of his size.