Keepers' Diaries, May 2020

Select your unit:

Voi Reintegration Unit

It seems we might have seen the end of the rains as clear hot days have seen the grass start to turn yellow and begin to dry out. It has been a good innings with the rains continuing from October right through to May this year. There remain plenty of waterholes filled and the wild herds are still widespread throughout the ecosystem with other areas of the Park still very green. As we head into late May, June and July the temperatures will get much cooler which does inhibit the mud bathing sessions, as the south east winds at this time of year can be cool so the orphans do sometimes opt to skip the mud bath on cooler days. The times they did choose to dive into the mud bath they certainly made up for it with lavish mud games. Some of our Voi babies however opted to stand on the edge and splash the water on themselves, rather than completely submerge.  

The biggest event for the Voi Unit this month was of course the arrival of Tagwa and Tamiyoi on the 11th. This was a return trip for Tagwa who first moved to the Voi Reintegration Unit back in June last year, but we decided to bring her back to the Nursery a couple of months later as her one tusk was giving her problems, pushing through her skin as oppose to coming out where it normally should, creating a painful and infected area meaning she lost condition as a result. Not wanting to take any risks we delivered her back to Nairobi where the more hands-on attention we can afford there could see her have medication and cleaning administered daily.  With that tusk safely through now and in the company of her long-time friend Tamiyoi, the two girls are a wonderful addition to the dependent herd at our Voi reintegration Unit, with some of the older orphans in Kenia’s herd now exploring their independence further afield. Tagwa seemed shy at first, uncertain why she was back, but Tamiyoi was eager to explore the area and greet her new friends, with many of those remembered from her Nursery days, such as Mbegu, Ndotto, Lasayen, Godoma, Emoli, Sagala and others. It was incredibly heart-warming for many to see Tamiyoi embarking on this next phase of her journey back to the wild. Saving Tamiyoi required a herculean effort from many SWT team members; she was tiny when rescued and she remained precarious for over a year, such was her wavering health, so we certainly had to work very hard for her survival. The successful outcome was in no small part due to her own extraordinary will to live as well. Tagwa and Tamiyoi have settled into the Voi herd extremely well and are already leading the group from place to place on a daily basis. They have formed a friendly trio with Sagala, who was actually moved to Voi with Tagwa the first time around, and a strong bond has formed once again.  Lasayen strangely was smitten with Tamiyoi from the outset, and as a much older bull this seemed an unlikely match, but they really enjoy their browsing sessions together.  

On the 10th we received some more happy news when Nelion, Ishaq-B, Ndoria and Tundani came to the stockade after a week’s absence, but the happiest news of all was that they were escorting Mashariki home. Mashariki had been missing from the group for over a month, and while we didn’t know for sure where she was it was assumed she had joined a wild herd, as Mashariki is a very outgoing elephant who loves her wild interactions. Despite the Keepers patrols in an effort check on her she wasn’t sighted for a number of weeks.  Her return was both unexpected and well rewarded as the newcomers to our Voi Unit arrived the following day, and there was no elephant more excited by this than Mashariki, who was obviously thrilled to be among her old friends again, and some little newcomers in their midst was the cherry on the top of her home coming.  Since her return she has been bouncing between Kenia’s more independent herd and spending time with the dependent Voi orphan group.

Tawi the eland was a bit of a handful around the stockade compound this month, becoming increasingly jealous of Diria the zebra baby who has made Voi his home, as well as our buffalo orphans Ivia and Cheza , and for the safety of all the orphans it was decided that it was best that Tawi be relocated to a different area of the Park. Tawi has spent long periods away in the wild over the past years, and so it was decided that he be moved to an area between Aruba and Sobo, where many elands can be found, a distance of about 56km away. To the amazement of the Keepers only two days later, on one of their routine patrols, they couldn’t believe their eyes when they stumbled across Tawi, browsing close to home with a group of seven wild zebra as if nothing were amiss! Tawi spent that day away from the stockades but returned into the compound at midnight that day. The Keepers concluded that when he went walkabout for a couple of months earlier in the year he must have wandered very far as elands are prone to do, so was familiar with those far reaching places, and so also knew the way home!  These animals we raise never cease to amaze us with their extraordinary ways. After his return he has calmed down and is no longer rambunctious and hostile towards the other orphans, so he has been allowed to come and go as he pleases. His favourite spot to sleep is outside of our Joseph Sauni’s office, the Head Keeper of the Voi Reintegration unit.  

We noticed that the older elephant bulls Tundani and Nelion seem to have been spending more time away from Kenia’s independent herd, and lately have been seen browsing on their own and coming to visit the dependent herd on their own or together with Mashariki too. They are incredibly playful and it is probably that their boisterous behaviour has led to Kenia banishing them for a while! Kenia, Ndii, Araba, Ndoria and Ishaq-B continue to do as they please and are becoming increasingly independent too, spending time with wild elephant herds and choosing to visit when they like. Sometimes in the morning they arrive at the stockades to share in Lucerne pellets with the youngsters, or sometimes at night once all the dependent orphans are in their night stockades, they come by for a drink from the water trough, and a check in with their younger friends, before wandering off again to continue browsing throughout the night high on the Msinga Hill.

Their absence has strengthened the bond between Arruba and little Pika Pika as Arruba is always looking out for her. Another blossoming friendship is between Arruba and Ndotto. Ndotto is growing into such a handsome young bull and seems to have had a growth spurt in last few months. He is always playing, but especially likes to play with Arruba and we see them sparring or wrestling on an almost daily basis. Ndotto likes playing with Rorogoi too, when Arruba is not available or busy looking after Pika Pika, and Ngilai is often spotted playing with his close friend Emoli. Mudanda can still be a bit badly behaved with a tendency to be a disciplinarian towards some of the other youngsters, but she has to watch out for Arruba when she picks on Pika Pika because she will always come to the little baby’s rescue, chasing Mudanda away. Due to Mudanda’s brittle character the other orphans don’t often like playing games with her, and we watched one day as Godoma tried to slink away when Mudanda engaged her in a pushing game, as she was afraid of getting hurt by Mudanda’s long tusks and penchant for quite heated games!  

May 2020 day to day

01 May

After the morning milk feed, the stockade-dependent orphan elephants hung around the compound for some socializing games. Ngilai enjoyed a sparring game with his favourite friend Murit, while Pika Pika stuck close to her adopted mother Arruba. Mudanda enjoyed a scratching session against a tree near the fence line where she was joined by Suswa.   

Sagala and Emoli took the lead as the orphans headed out to the Park with Ndotto bringing up the rear as he had been engaged in a strength-testing game with Rorogoi.  The orphans, together with the two orphan buffalos Cheza and Ivia, spent the morning browsing on the lower flat lands. At noon Emoli led the group to the milk feeding area and then to the water hole where they had a drink of water from the water trough. Emoli was the only one to wallow today as it was quite chilly. Godoma and Sagala took the lead of the orphan herd back to the safety of the stockades for the night.  

Arruba enjoying a private browsing session

Pika Pika browsing

Emoli bowsing with the others