Keepers' Diaries, May 2019

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Voi Reintegration Unit

The month of May proved to be wet and chilly and we were delighted to receive more rains in the area. With the onset of rains come the other predictable outcomes; that wild elephants will disperse across the Park and the orphans will interact with them less frequently, and that the orphans will also visit the waterhole less often too, being that so many days were cloudy and wet and so they had no desire for a mud bath at all. 

With all the water pans filled up across the landscape as well, the orphans had no need to go to the water trough beside the mud bath either. With some rain, the conditions are ripe to move some of the Nairobi Nursery babies down to our Voi Unit as well.

Towards the end of the month when the orphans did come across a wild herd again, they were so excited they managed to scare the herd away from the water trough where they were drinking as they ran down the hill out of control to greet them. The wild herd stopped a short distance away to browse and Embu approached them slowly and cautiously, so they allowed her to spend about half an hour with then before she re-joined the orphan herd. Ishaq-B also enjoyed a friendly interaction with a wild teenager that left its herd to mingle with the orphans. In a friendly match, the wild friend bumped Ishaq-B’s bottom, but upon seeing Ishaq-B turn and ready herself to fight back, the wild friend also turned to allow Ishaq-B to push back, levelling the playing field before their wrestling match ensued. 

Ishaq-B was very playful and active this month, always trying to get the attention of the others by starting one game or another, whether it be taking up a funny scratching position or trying to dig up soil using her close, pointed tusks, and thus not being very successful in doing so. If she saw someone else’s game was attracting more attention, she would do her best to disrupt it as well. She remains undeterred in trying to capture Mbegu’s little secular groups’ hearts, and tries to single them out to play and browse with. One day she engaged Ndotto in a play-fight, stopping to rest her trunk on Ndotto’s head in a sign of affection.

Mbegu still likes to lead, along with Lentili, and often they will take the lead together instead of trying to fight over that pole position. Mbegu does still like her herd to stick together though, and likes them to follow her while browsing. Her little herd in particular have been enjoying the rainy season, frolicking in the trenches carved out of the soft soil on Msinga Hill and rolling in the damp muddy earth. We watched on one day as Ngilai slid down the walls of a trench, while Godoma sat on the ground and spun around on her bottom while playing with her friends.

Ndoria has become more independent these days and has been pulling back from the group to browse on her own, or even walking slowly back towards the compound in the afternoon as if reluctant to go in for the night. She has to stay with the herd for the time being however, as she needs to be with a herd so she is not vulnerable on her own, and there have been lions about. It is interesting to note she has started showing these signs of independence. Mbirikani still opts to spend the majority of her time with the dependent orphan herd, sometimes choosing to spend the nights outside of the compound, but always joining them during the day to browse.

Kihari and Ndii remain devoted to babies Araba and Tahri, with Kihari often blocking the others like Ndii, Panda, Ishaq-B and Lentili from interacting with Tahri. One day we watched as she went so far as spreading her ears to prevent Lentili from even looking at Tahri, who was peeping through Kihari legs to look at the others!

With regards to the other stockade raised orphans at Voi, Kore the eland has been sampling a wild life with a group of wild buffalos and zebras, and most recently our other eland Tawi, and his friend Ol-Tulsi the buffalo, went wild with a different group, last spotted near the baobab tree water hole. Ngulia the zebra went off into the wild with other zebras near Arruba dam, later seen a number of times at Ndara waterhole with her friends, so we have only our little elephant charges in the Voi stockades for now. At Kaluku, our Tsavo HQ, we have baby buffalos and now a baby oryx too, all destined for the Voi Reintegration Unit once older. 

Although we finally received better rains than in April, other parts of Tsavo towards Tsavo West received a lot more and are a lot greener, and that is where our ex-orphans like to spend time during the dry season. As it is so much greener there, they have not yet returned to see us at the stockades, but we can’t help thinking that they might one day soon, with a little calf tottering behind Mweya who was so expectant when we last saw her. We are sure she will want to come and show off her calf to the Keepers soon, and we wait with baited breath for our 31st wild born baby.

May 2019 day to day

01 May

It was a wonderful beginning to the day with the stockade dependent orphan elephants gathering at the milk feeding area for their milk bottles before proceeding to feast on Lucerne pellets. The weather was fairly cold as Lentili and Mbegu took the lead of their friends towards the browsing grounds. Mbegu wanted her six herd members, Ndotto, Godoma, Murit, Lasayen and Ngilai to follow her.  The orphans stopped to browse on the northern side of Msinga Hill where they browsed in single file until noon when they made their way to the baobab tree waterhole.

After milk feeding the orphans had a drink of clean water from the water trough but due to the chilly weather they were reluctant to wallow. Embu stood at the edge of the water hole and sprayed herself with the cold water as Ndotto did the same. Embu then enjoyed a scratching session against a tree close to the waterhole while Nelion and Lentili enjoyed scratching against the big baobab tree.

Embu spraying herself with water

Lentili enjoying a scratch

Nelion enjoying a scratch