Keepers' Diaries, May 2016

Voi Reintegration Unit

The first day of the month heralded the arrival of some long lost friends, Lesanju, Lempaute and Layoni, who had been missing from the area for more than two and a half weeks. Lempaute immediately assumed leadership of the dependent orphans, much to the displeasure of Kenia and Ndii who view themselves as the matriarchs of this junior group, consisting of Mudanda, Arruba, Suswa, Embu, Mashariki, Mbirikani, Mudanda, Naipoki, Kihari, Ishaq B, Lentili, Panda, Rorogoi, Ndoria, and boys Tundani, Bada and Nelion. Little Embu seems to have developed a great fondness for Lempaute and chooses to follow her around whenever she is visiting.

01 May 2016

The morning started well with the orphans happily coming out of the stockade compound and drinking their morning milk bottle before settling to eat some copra cake. There were only some brief games of scratching on the stockade rocks before the orphans left for the browsing grounds. After some three hours of a serious browsing, three unexpected guests arrived, Lesanju, Lempaute and Layoni, as they had been missing from the area for more than two and a half weeks! There was a highly charged greeting and Kenia and Ndii became slightly deflated as Lempaute assumed the leadership of their herd as soon after the initial greetings were over. Embu evidently had a soft spot for Lempaute and kept following her around whilst browsing. The juniors went to drink milk and water at the middle water hole, followed by the three arrivals, before moving off to browse in the area close to the mud bath. Lesanju, Lempaute and Layoni later left the stockade dependant orphans at around 3.20pm, heading towards the Voi River. It was a relief for some of them, as Lentili and Ishaq B resumed the leadership role after their three superior had left.

02 May 2016

The morning was good with the orphan elephants coming out of their stockades in a fine mood. When the stockade dependent orphans were busy feeding on their copra cake, two baboons began an ambushing mission to steal that delicious elephant food. Mashariki and Embu made a perfect team, taking turns to guard the others and block the baboons completely from accessing the copra cake. They posed as if they were drinking water from the stockade trough, but really they were keeping a keen eye on the movements of the baboons and they were ready to charge at a moment notice. There was a big browsing party when the orphans went up the Msinga Hill as they browsed amidst a big herd of impala. The orphans interacted with them browsing peacefully for one hour, before the impala came down the hill heading to the orphan’s water hole to drink. The orphans enjoyed their half of the day browsing up the hill and later came down in the afternoon heading to the same water hole but they did not find the impalas who had already moved away to graze.

03 May 2016

There was a dramatic moment today when a keeper took the lead of Ngulia the zebra, Kore, Tawi, and Jamuhuri the orphan baby buffalo browsing on the southern foot of Msinga Hill where they like to browse away from the stockade compound. They had a wonderful time browsing for half an hour after the orphan elephants had left the stockade for the field. Soon Ngulia noticed a baboon coming down the hill and she became nervous, watching with a keen eye to establish what trouble that baboon was up to. With her ears erect, Ngulia took off in running towards the stockade with Jamuhuri, Kore and Tawi following soot, leaving the keeper behind. Jamhuri ran as fast as he could to keep up with his adopted mother, and suddenly there was al almighty crash as he ran into the stockade electricity fence, which fell down like an empty sack. This fence line was the one surrounding the keeper’s canteen and the orphan’s milk mixing room and luckily the power had been switched off in the morning. Jamhuri screamed loudly in shock and his friend Tawi came up to console him with great urgency. Ngulia, who had ran the fastest, did not notice what had happened to her beloved baby. Tawi took most of her time assuring and consoling Jamhuri to make sure he was okay. Thankfully he was not even injured in the incident and he will be okay.

04 May 2016

It was a nice morning with the orphans coming out running for their delicious milk bottle. After milk feeding, Kenia and Ndii were given a private copra cake feeding time by the other stockade dependant orphans in great respect of their age. The two enjoyed their sweet copra cake feeding away from the other orphans who went to share several other piles availed to them that morning. Kenia and Ndii seemed to be in happy mood as Lesanju’s herd did not arrive to snatch their leadership roles this morning. The orphans then took off to the browsing grounds under the leadership of Naipoki and Kihari. In the field, Kenia was seen browsing closely with her adopted baby Araba as Ndii was seen to be tied to Mudanda. Arruba and Suswa, always together, invited Embu and Mashariki to their browsing company. The orphans visited the mud hole an hour after their milk was already delivered to their browsing grounds as they seemed to not be in a hurry, enjoying the vegetation they were feasting on. Lesanju, Lempaute and Layoni arrived at the stockade around 6.30pm, when the orphans were already in their stockades. They waited around for two hours before marching off towards the park after drinking clean water from the stockade trough and feeding on some copra cake.

05 May 2016

The morning was wonderful with the stockade dependant orphans coming out of their stables and assembling for a milk bottle. After there were some brief hide and seek games in the stockade compound before they moved out. Today we had some light showers on and off throughout the day and the orphans enjoyed browsing on the moist grass and twigs. The milk was taken to the western side of the stockade where they were browsing and they did not visit the water hole today due to the cloudy weather. Evening came fast and Rorogoi was left behind when the other orphans started to head back to the stockade for the night. She saw them when they were already a considerable distance away and she trotted fast, almost running, to catch up with them.

06 May 2016

The orphans enjoyed their milk and copra cake this morning. Kihari stood firm owning one copra cake pile to herself, refusing to share it with her friends. She occasionally threatened to fight any orphan that approached her copra cake pile and was left to feast on it all alone. After a good feed Mbirikani secured a rock to scratch herself on close to the water trough, and was nearly left behind by the others heading to the browsing grounds. After four hours of a very peaceful browsing session, the stockade dependant orphans were joined by a friendly wild bull elephant around 10am. The wild elephant bull felt very happy to be among the nineteen orphan baby elephants and was followed by Nelion and Mbirikani for a short distance when he decided to move off deeper into the park. However the two came running back to join the others in moving off towards the middle water pool where they had a lot of fun in the mud bath. The orphans browsed close to that water hole for the rest of the day and Mashariki enjoyed leading them back to the stockade later that evening.

07 May 2016

The morning was perfect with the orphan elephants concentrating on their usual milk and copra cake feeding routine before Kenia started scratching on a rock in the stockade compound. Ishaq B approached Kenia with her eye on the same scratching space, but before she could begin Kenia started leading the orphans out of the stockade to the park, giving Ishaq B no chance to scratch at all. The orphans browsed calmly on the lower flat side of Msinga Hill, visiting the water hole at noon. Here they only drank milk and water and moved on to the foot of the eastern side of Msinga Hill for the rest of the browsing day. Arruba and Suswa took little Araba to a private browsing place behind a big rock, away from the other orphans. More than ten Ostrich’s on a feeding mission approached the orphans but the orphans ignored them, so they were allowed to carry on grazing in peace. The peace was short lived however as Ndoria couldn’t help herself, and she went off charging and chasing them away from the elephant herd. The rest of the day went on perfectly well.

08 May 2016

It was a wonderful morning with the orphan elephants coming out of their stables to enjoy a morning milk bottle. They were busy eating copra cake when Kenia pushed Ishaq B against the rocks, in a bid to eliminate her from that feeding and so she could feast on it all alone. There were then some brief games in the stockade whilst Panda securing a scratching position on the same rock after she and Bada had shared some copra cake together. After these games they all took off towards the browsing grounds under the leadership of Lentili. The browsing went on peacefully until around 10.45 when a buffalo arrived to join the orphan elephant herd browsing. Mbirikani came forward to block the big male buffalo from joining their herd, and then Naipoki took over to drive the buffalo far away from the orphan elephants. This was all at the beginning of the journey to the middle water poor where they had a lot of fun in mud bathing games. The rest of the browsing went on close to that water hole for the remainder of the day.

09 May 2016

The morning was good and Kihari took up position scratching on a rock close to the stockade water trough. Naipoki waited patiently in the queue so she could move in after Kihari had finished scratching. Mashariki was also in the queue but got tired of waiting, so she moved onto a separate rock, before all the orphans started out to the browsing grounds. On arriving at the browsing grounds Tundani went off on his own private browsing mission away from the others, stuffing a lot of grass into his mouth and keeping a close eye on the movement of his friends. Two hours later the orphan elephants welcomed two giraffe that came to watch the browsing orphan elephants with great curiosity. A few minutes’ later five wild zebra stopped close by and watched them browsing too; none of the orphans made an attempt to charge them as they identified the two species as friendly. The orphan’s milk was taken to the northern side of the stockade where the orphans were browsing as it was cold and they were not willing to visit the water hole at noon. On the way back to the stockade in the evening, our Ex Orphan Kudu Chia was sighted with her three babies dashing into a near-by bush. The babies were all born wild hence being shyer than their mother who was raised in the stockade a few years back.

10 May 2016

As usual the orphans drank their milk in the morning before quickly settling down to eat some copra cake. Nelion, Araba and Ndoria were impatient to begin browsing though, and began quickly browsing on the move around the stockade compound. They were soon joined by all the others and they all moved off towards the browsing grounds. Today the zebra Ngulia lead her little herd of Jamuhuri, the orphan baby buffalo, Kore and Tawi the baby orphan elands, to follow behind the orphan elephants out towards the field. They had followed them for some distance until Ngulia turned around and ran back towards the stockade. Jamuhuri, Kore and Tawi took their time turning and followed her back, but were very careful not to start running excitedly to avoid any accidents like before!

11 May 2016

The morning was calm with the orphans concentrating on their usual routine of milk and copra cake feeding before moving out to the browsing grounds. Here they browsed nicely until visiting the middle water hole for an afternoon milk bottle. They only took a very brief mud bath as it was fairly cold. They later went on with their usual browsing, but Tundani found himself in big trouble today. First Nelion came in, provoking him for a fight and Tundani just backed away. Nelion kept following him until Tundani could back away no more and he gave in to play fighting which he really hates doing. After a while he deliberately lay down on the ground to avoid fighting anymore, but this turned out to be a mistake as Panda and Bada took the advantage of his lying down position attacking him from both sides. Ishaq B later came in as a peace maker, giving Tundani the chance to get up. He did not seek revenge but held little Bada’s trunk as if to ask why they were all picking on him. Lesanju, Lempaute, Dabassa, Sinya, Layoni, Kivuko and Mzima who had separated themselves from Emily’s herd recently, were seen browsing on the southern side of the stockade today, but they never came up to the stockade.

12 May 2016

The morning was good and Kenia seemed to be in happy mood, noticing that Lesanju’s herd was not close by. She allowed her herd to enjoy their wonderful playing moment in the stockade before moving off to browse. They later visited the middle water hole where Ndii, Embu, Mudanda and Ndoria had a wonderful time playing together before going to join their friends to browse for the rest of the day.

13 May 2016

It was a beautiful beginning of the day with the orphans enjoying some games in the stockade compound after all the feeding activity was over. The journey towards the browsing grounds begun with Rorogoi propelling them to browse high up on the Msinga Hill. They very much enjoyed browsing on the vegetation here which was fresh and had not been browsed on before. They were certainly not in a hurry to come down the hill very soon! Bada, one of the three boys, was trying very hard to establish his place in the hierarchy and today engaged Suswa head-on whilst they were browsing on the hill. Suswa ignored his attempts to play a pushing game as she thought the game would be dangerous whilst playing on a hill with precarious rocks all around. The orphans came down the hill much later in the afternoon, where they were given their milk bottles on the foot of the hill before moving on with to browse for the rest of the day, until they returned home to the stockades.

14 May 2016

It was a nice and a warm morning and the orphans ran out of their stockades to empty a milk bottle and feed on the copra cake piles made for them by their loving keepers. There were no games in the stockade today for the orphans wanted to leave for the browsing grounds as soon as possible in this nice weather. Panda, who had returned in the stockade trough to drink water, was left behind by the others and she came running up behind them, charging and trumpeting in protest at having been left behind. The browsing day went on well, with the orphan elephants moving to the water hole to drink water, but they decided not to go for a mud bath as although it was a nicer day, they thought the temperature was still too cold to bathe. The rest of the browsing went on close to the base of Msinga Hill before they all returned home in the early evening.

15 May 2016

After their milk this morning, the orphans decided to head to the southern side of the stockade to browse half way up the hill. They later came back to the stockade for their afternoon milk bottle, which was the closest feeding area to their browsing grounds. Here they found Lempaute alone; she has come without other members of Lesanju’s herd and was enjoying scratching on the rocks after drinking from the stockade water trough. Kenia went straight up to scratch on the same rock, as if that was the ticket to be a shining star and to render Lempaute’s games irrelevant. Tundani began a slightly different game by jumping into the stockade trough as if it were a bath made available for him to swim. The orphans later went back to the same browsing grounds for the remainder of the day; Kenia was not very comfortable with the fact that Lempaute was escorting them. However, Lempaute left them around two hours later just after 1pm, moving further to the south where Lesanju and the others were believed to be browsing.

16 May 2016

The morning started well with the orphan elephants coming out for their milk feed before assembling around the stockade trough to drink water and then proceeding for some copra cake. Bada and Nelion stayed close together as two of only three boys they are good friends, whilst they can sometimes be mean to the other boy Tundani without any meaningful reason. On arrival at the browsing grounds Lesanju and Emily’s herd were seen browsing along the far northern side of the stockades together with a teenage wild elephant cow seen taking lead of the two Ex Orphan herds. Lesanju dreams of being the head matriarch and sometimes tries to take control of the herd, leading at the front. The rest of the day went on perfectly well, with the dependent orphans not interacting with the Ex Orphans as they were too far apart.

17 May 2016

The day was sunny and beautifully bright and the dependent orphans followed their normal routine before starting to browse on time. Nelion and Bada have been interacting more and more with Bada becoming more independent from the females that were keeping him under their watchful eye. It is as if he feels more of a big boy than he used to be and continues to work with Nelion to pick on Tundani. Their close friendship continued into the second session of browsing until it was the end of the day and all the orphans returned to their stockades.

18 May 2016

The morning was very orderly with the orphans coming out of their stables running for their milk in a near-perfect straight line. There were only a few games of running here and there in a mission of chasing away baboons coming down the Msinga Hill to the stockade premises. Soon the orphans left for browsing heading towards the southern side of the stockade where they settled down for the better half of the day. The orphans then came to the stockade at noon for milk and water then they interacted with visiting school children from the local community. Soon after they finished drinking their milk and water, Lesanju, Sinya, Lempaute and Dabassa came rushing into the stockade. Naipoki went to greet Lesanju and exchanged some trunk touching to greet each other. Mudanda mixed freely with Lesanju’s herd, whilst Sinya tried to comfort Kenia who was not in a good mood. The two herds left the stockade together with Lesanju’s herd proceeding straight towards the Voi river circuit for more browsing.

19 May 2016

As soon as the elephants left the stockades in the morning Lesanju, Lempaute, Sinya, Taveta and Layoni arrived at 7.10am, assembling to drink water in the stockade trough. They had a wonderful time feeding on some copra cake piles before leaving the stockade following Kenia’s herd. Mzima and Kivuko were believed to have been left with Emily’s herd, while Wasessa and Rombo who had joined a wild herd of elephants a few months ago were still missing in the area.

20 May 2016

The orphan elephants took partners for browsing today with Araba taking Panda, Suswa taking her long time friend Arruba and Naipoki settling in with Mudanda. Ndoria was seen playing her own dusting game where she tossed huge chunks of soil in the air, and she was not bothered that no was watching. The orphan’s milk was taken to the northern side of the stockade with all the elephants arriving at the waterhole at 3pm when it grew warmer. On the way to the water hole Nelion grabbed Ishaq-B with his trunk; Ishaq-B was very shy and sped off away from him. Nelion gave up trying to play with Ishaq-B and carried on with his bathing. During the orphans’ mud bath Panda played some great mud games with Ndii and Mbirikani jumping around in the water. After the bath, Mashariki, Arruba and Tundani then went to enjoy some scratching on a thick tree trunk.

21 May 2016

Today the orphans travelled to the southern side of the stockade where they spent the better half of the day browsing before returning to the stockade for milk and water and meeting another group of visiting school children. Soon after they emptied their milk bottles Emily’s herd arrived only with Kivuko and Mzima and without members of the Lesanju’s herd. The school children were surprised how calm and friendly the elephants could become and had a wonderful time watching them drinking water in the stockade water trough. Emily then decided to become mischievous, sitting on the rock scratching herself and playing around. She then marched out of the stockade to follow her Ex Orphan herd that had already started to leave. Mzima went to join Kenia’s herd briefly in browsing afterwards before following Emily’s herd twenty minutes later.

22 May 2016

Another beautiful morning with the orphan elephants coming out of their stables looking forward to a nice day out browsing. Lentili took the lead of the dependent orphans, browsing on the southern side of the stockade grounds before coming back to the stockade at noon for their milk bottles and clean water. Here they interacted once again with visiting school children who were very happy standing on the inside of the fence touching and watching the elephants, which they have never done in their life before. The orphan elephants then proceeded to the middle water hole where they had a lot of fun playing mud bathing games before enjoying soil dusting games. Little Araba really enjoyed her playtime rolling around in the dust, whilst Mbirikani played with Naipoki and Mudanda. The rest of the day’s browsing continued close to the water hole.

23 May 2016

The day started well with the normal morning feeding routine and the orphans playing a wonderful game of hide and seek in the stockade compound before taking off into the browsing grounds. The orphans browsed in single file for the whole of this day. Rorogoi attempted to take the lead to her favourite feeding spot on the western side of the stockade but her request was turned down by the other orphans as it was nearly time to leave for the water hole that afternoon. The orphans had a great time bathing after drinking their noon milk bottle before going to the foot of Msinga Hill for the remaining half of the day.

24 May 2016

It was a nice and bright morning with the orphans having playing games in the stockade compound after feeding. In the afternoon Lesanju’s herd arrived at the stockades with the boys leading at the front. First came in Taveta followed closely by Layoni then Lesanju, Lempaute, Sinya and Dabassa. There was a big congregation of the dependant orphans and Ex Orphans today and the visiting school children were amazed. Lesanju and Lempaute forced themselves into the middle of the dependant orphans to show their superiority which did not amuse Kenia very much. Panda went close to the electric fence to greet the school children allowing them to touch her, whilst Naipoki and Bada were busy scratching on the rocks, sharing turns with Ndii and Nelion. Lesanju’s herd then followed Kenia’s herd to the field, but then marched off towards the water pipe line side a few minutes later.

25 May 2016

It was a wonderful morning once again with the sun rising early predicting a warm day. The orphans left the stockade early, catching the first light of the day in the browsing grounds. Here they settled into browsing quickly without games knowing to conserve their energy as it was going to be a hot day The orphans then proceeded on to the water hole in groups of five, with Rorogoi, Araba, Bada, Mudanda and Ndoria moving first then followed closely by the other group. Ndii, Mbirikani and Tundani engaged one another in a bathing competition, with Tundani sneaking out of the water when the game became too competitive. Ndii and Mbirikani were surprised to find that they were only two in the game when they noticed their other competitor Tundani had snuck off. After the bath, Ndii and Kihari stood on opposite sides of a tree both scratching on the thick trunk at the same time, before joining the others in browsing for the last session of the day.

26 May 2016

Today the orphans went to the western side of the stockades under the leadership of Ishaq-B and Naipoki. Here they settled down to browse with minimal games until the afternoon when they headed back to the stockade to meet the school children. Lesanju’s herd arrived at the stockades at 10.50am, perfect timing to welcome Kenia’s herd who came in ten minutes later. The school children were very excited but made a lot of noise which disturbed Embu who charged around before the noise was contained by the keepers and their teachers. There was then a call about an orphan baby buffalo that was reported to the stockade team by a KWS ranger near Mackinnon road post. The rangers found the orphan female baby buffalo that had been rescued by Taita Sanctuary scouts and took her up to the Makinon post where the calf was then collected and brought to the stockade. This orphan buffalo might have been left by its mother for several days and was very weak. After milk feeding, the buffalo managed to stand up and started to get its strength back which was a good sign.

27 May 2016

In a show of supremacy Nelion approached and pushed Tundani away from a rock where Tundani was busy enjoying a scratch. Tundani peacefully walked away from the rock paying no attention to the mean Nelion. Soon after they had left the stockade Lesanju got her timing wrong and came in at 7.20am, twenty minutes after Kenia’s herd had left the stockade. So Lesanju’s herd drank water in the stockade water trough and settled in to feed on an acacia tree in the stockade before leaving an hour later. Lesanju and Lempaute followed Kenia’s herd catching up with them in the middle water pool. In a playful noon mud bath, Mashariki lay on Lesanju, as Rorogoi got up onto Panda’s back.

28 May 2016

After four hours of undisturbed browsing, a wild herd of elephants passed the orphan elephants with Kenia joining them before taking one of the wild cows and bringing her to meet the orphan herd. The wild elephant cow had a brief moment with them before moving off to follow her herd that had already travelled some distance away. Later in the afternoon, Lesanju, Lempaute, Sinya, Mzima and Kivuko visited the stockade. They drank clean water from the stockade water trough and bathed in the stockade water hole. They then hung around the stockade compound scratching on trees for more than an hour before moving to the main park for browsing.

29 May 2016

Kenia took the lead today heading out with all the orphans for a day or browsing as Lesanju’s herd hadn’t arrived yet. The dependent orphans enjoyed browsing on the foot of Msinga Hill before moving on to the middle water hole where they had a lot of fun in the mud. Lesanju, Sinya, Lempaute, Kivuko and Layoni later came to the stockade at 1.05pm and soon after a small herd of wild elephants of two cows and two calves arrived, Lesanju didn’t show any interest in greeting them and stayed put under a tree. After the wild herd had drank some water and left, Layoni and Kivuko went straight to the trough checking to see whether the wild herd had emptied the whole trough, but were relieved to see it was almost half full.

30 May 2016

Just like yesterday Kenia took the lead of her dependent orphans heading towards the browsing grounds. Nelion and Rorogoi started walking up hill upon arriving at the base of Msinga Hill, browsing half way up for the better half of this day. The orphans enjoyed browsing on some lush green grass with Embu taking the first group downhill heading to the middle water hole. After drinking milk, the weather was very cloudy and a bit cold so the orphans didn’t want to play in the water hole very much. The new orphan baby buffalo that was brought in a few days ago was still very weak and not feeding well. During the course of the day she seemed to get worse and sadly died in the evening despite medical attention and round the clock care.

31 May 2016

The morning started out well with the dependent orphans heading towards the southern side of the stockade for browsing. They later turned up at the stockade for milk and water whilst also getting the chance to interact with the visiting school children. Panda was very entertaining for the school children today getting close to the fence and letting them all touch her. Ndii felt very jealous of the attention Panda was getting and gave a funny pose on the stockade water trough, successfully obtaining the kids attention and delight. As early as 8am today Lesanju’s herd was seen close to the middle water hole in an attempt to find Kenia’s herd. Mzima was with them today but they were not very lucky in finding his other friends as Kenia concentrated her herd’s browsing on the southern side and didn’t visit the water hole. Kenia had taken little Araba for some browsing company with Ndii taking Mudanda.