Keepers' Diaries, May 2010

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Voi Reintegration Unit

Established females of the Voi Unit are Lesanju, (the main Matriarch) Lempaute, Wasessa, Sinya and Kenia, Shira having left with a wild herd a month or two ago. The boys of the unit are Siria, (seemingly the most assertive) Shimba and Mzima who are good friends, and Taveta and Tassia who are also close, although Tassia is very possessive of his adopted “mother” Wasessa, having been chosen as her favourite early on.

Established females of the Voi Unit are Lesanju, (the main Matriarch) Lempaute, Wasessa, Sinya and Kenia, Shira having left with a wild herd a month or two ago. The boys of the unit are Siria, (seemingly the most assertive) Shimba and Mzima who are good friends, and Taveta and Tassia who are also close, although Tassia is very possessive of his adopted “mother” Wasessa, having been chosen as her favourite early on.

Having left their Night Stockades each morning, taken their morning milk feed and enjoyed time playing Stockade games, the Voi orphans go to browse usually around or up nearby Mazinga Hill. The noon milk feed and mudbath then usually takes place back at the Stockades, but when they head off down into the main Park, the mudbath is at a large natural waterhole for as long as it holds rainwater, and when it dries out, at an artificial mudbath created for the orphans somewhere out in the bush, with bins filled with fresh drinking water.

Unfortunately, since hordes of cattle invaded the Park during the 2009 drought, the wild elephants, along with our orphans, often leave the Park boundaries for the neighbouring Taita ranches. One of their favourite haunts is Ngutuni ranch, just across the boundary, and it was there during a regular motorized patrol that on the 4th the Keepers came across Emily’s unit and noticed that Emily had an arrow imbedded in her rump. The Keepers managed to entice her and her group back across the Voi river and back into the Park, but had to leave them there having been overtaken by nightfall. Meanwhile the Trust’s Mobile Veterinary Unit was alerted to the fact that Emily would need help the next day.

Early in the morning of the 5th the Keepers set out again to locate Emily and came across her only 200 yards from the Stockades as she and those with her were making their own way back to the Stockades, the arrowhead obviously causing Emily discomfort. Those accompanying Emily were enticed into a Stockade and given a hand-out of Copra, but Sweet Sally, who is Nannie to Emily’s wildborn calf, Eve, refused to go in, and was visibly anxious when she saw Emily go down after having been darted. The Keepers had to keep her and little Eve at bay whilst Dr. Pogrom removed the arrowhead from Emily’s rump, cleaned the wound, gave her a long acting injectible antibiotic, and eventually revived her to be joined by her group who were let out of the stockade.

Irima, who is a member of Emily’s group had an arrowhead removed some time ago, and because the wound looked as though it was still oozing pus, the Vet then immobilized him to make sure there was no part of the arrow still left inside. Fortunately, there wasn’t, and the wound was healing well from the inside, so Irima was revived, and having all spent a while around the Stockades, Emily led her group off to browse around Mazinga Hill.

The following day they were joined by Lesanju’s Keeper Dependent group, when Siria had a wonderful time playing with the Bigger Boys in Emily’s unit. Lesanju was not happy when her group decided to accompany that of Emily further round the hill, and did her best to try and persuade them to come with her in the opposite direction instead. However, the pull of their noon milk eventually persuaded them to leave Emily’s unit and return to the Stockades, after which Lesanju was careful to lead them in the opposite direction to that taken by Emily!

The next day Siria was eager to find Emily’s group again, having greatly enjoyed his time with the bigger boys, but unhappily for him, Emily’s group had moved off. However, they returned to the Stockades again at noon on the l0th, when Lesanju’s group hurried back, obviously fearful that Emily’s group would deprive them of their milk, which, indeed, some of the bigger boys attempted to do. Lolokwe homed in on Shimba’s share, whilst Solango went for Lempaute’s bottle and Big Boy Laikipia had a go at Siria’s. However, the Keepers kept them at bay!

Meanwhile the Keepers had been busy making preparations for the arrival of 3 more Nursery Elephants due on the llth. A new mudbath was prepared at the Stockades, which was well christened by all the ex orphans as well as Lesanju’s Keeper Dependent group.

At noon on the 11th, Dida, Ndii and little Kimana arrived, having left the Nursery at 5 a.m. Their journey had suffered delays when two of the trucks had fuel problems, and the elephants were very tired and drawn when they stepped out. However, they were greeted with enthusiasm by Lesanju, Lempaute, Sinya and especially Kenia, who was very close to all three in the Nursery, and was amongst those transferred more recently. Kimana felt the heat of Tsavo, and immediately plonked himself in the Stockade water trough, taking his milk feed standing in the water, while Dida and Ndii hovered close to the Keepers who had accompanied them, somewhat confused by suddenly finding themselves in a strange environment, and amongst elephants they had known in the Nursery! Meanwhile, as usual, Wasessa was preoccupied with Tassia, her favourite, never having been particularly close to the new arrivals in the Nursery, where she had only spent a limited amount of time having been orphaned older.

There was instant rivalry between Lesanju, Lempaute, Sinya and Kenia for possession of the new arrivals. Kenia was intent on little Kimana, as was Lesanju and Lempaute, but in the end Kenia won that round, so Lesanju and Lempaute decided on Dida. Ndii, however, wanted to remain close to the Keepers whilst all this was going on, but will probably end up with Sinya!

Emily’s group was spotted again in the vicinity of Mazinga Hill on the l9th, when Irima, who was lagging behind, accompanied by Nyiro and Burra appeared to be limping slightly. However, when they turned up at the Stockades at 6 p.m. on the 20th, the Keepers could find nothing obviously wrong with Irima’s leg or foot – so it was probably just a strain.

Kimana and Ndii were the leaders when the Keeper Dependent group left the Stockades on the 21st, but when they ran into a dikdik en route to Mazinga Hill, they were terrified, and fled back to their Keepers. The Keepers and the older orphans had to calm them down!

Tassia and Taveta had an altercation when Tassia objected to Taveta coming too close to Wasessa. Wasessa actually has a soft spot for both, but Tassia is definitely her favourite, so poor Taveta was gently pushed away. However, Tassia and Taveta resolved their difference a few days later, when they happily played a hide and seek game together.

By month end, the 3 newcomers to the Voi Unit had settled happily. Kenia very much in control of little Kimana, standing still for him to enjoy suckling her ears, with Lesanju and Lempaute sharing Dida and Ndii still opting for the Keepers, although Sinya is there for her when she becomes more independent of the human family!

May 2010 day to day

01 May

The orphans emerged in a happy mood, Shimba, Mzima, Siria and Tassia playing a rolling game on soft soil ;until the Keepers signaled that it was time to head out to browse. At the mudbath Siria, Wasessa and Mzima teamed up for fun in the mudbath. Later they fed close to the waterhole until Lesanju led them back home in the evening

Wasessa left, Siria & Mzima

Lesanju in the lead

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