Keepers' Diaries, May 2022

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Voi Reintegration Unit

May began with an unexpected addition to our Voi herd. On the afternoon of the 1st, we received a call that an orphaned elephant had been found near Lake Jipe. The Keepers rushed to the scene and brought her to the nearby Voi stockades, where she received urgent care. Because she was on the older side and in very precarious condition, the decision was made to keep her at Voi and bypass the Nursery stage altogether. Juni, as we named her, spent much of the month recovering in the stockades and regaining her strength.

Our Voi herd is full of showboats, but not all the orphans love the spotlight. Godoma, for instance, is more of a spectator than an exhibitionist. Tahri, who is really enjoying her time back at Voi after more than a year away, also prefers to observe the action from the sidelines. Lasayen and Murit usually fall into this category, too, but one morning they surprised us by starting their own dramatic wrestling game. Later, Murit had a calming effect on Emoli, who is usually the star of the show. Both bulls could be seen deep in conversation, holding each other by the trunk.

Most of the dusting dramatics happen in the early morning. One evening, however, Rorogoi decided to break the mould and have an evening dust bath under the shade of an acacia tree shade. She made it look so appealing that Thamana decided to join her. 

Mudanda is a changed elephant now that she has adopted Lemeki and Thamana as her little charges. Ndotto doesn’t even invite her for sparring games now, as he realises she is busy with her new maternal responsibilities. Mudanda’s transformation is really because of Ndotto: She used to be a rather prickly character, but he took the time to bring her out of her shell and teach her how to interact with other elephants. 

Suswa would love to have Thamana and Lemeki to herself, but she knows she has to settle for co-parenting with Mudanda. Indeed, all the orphans are on the lookout for moments when Mudanda is otherwise engaged, so they can have time with the youngsters. One afternoon, Ndotto noticed that Mudanda was busy scratching on the baobab tree, so he took the opportunity to engage Lemeki in a sparring match. Mudanda then saw Thamana playing with Rorogoi, so she ran over and pushed Rorogoi out of the way. Just as she settled down with Thamana, she realised that Lemeki and Ndotto were embroiled in a game, so she had to dash over and intervene. It took a lot of orchestration and running around, but she finally got control of both her adopted babies!

Only Pika Pika remains a bit leery of Lemeki and Thamana. Before they arrived, she was the youngest member of the Voi herd and enjoyed all the privileges that came with that standing. Sometimes during the milk feed, Pika Pika runs directly behind her adopted big sister Arruba, shadowing her every step to ensure that she has no chance to interact with Lemeki and Thamana. She needn't worry; Arruba is devoted to little Pika Pika and her loyalty never wavers.

This month, we received lots of interesting wild visitors at the baobab mud wallow and occasionally even at the stockade water trough. Of course, the girls are always delighted when these visitors have little babies in tow and eagerly try to introduce themselves. Oftentimes, protective nannies or older siblings put a stop to these interactions before the girls get too much quality time. 

On 10th May, we were treated to a visit from Nguvu, an ex-orphan who we rescued back in 2016. He arrived outside the stockades after the dependent orphans had gone to bed, in the company of several wild elephants. He rumbled greetings at his old Voi friends before departing with his new family. It had been more than a year since Nguvu’s last visit, so we were delighted to see him looking so well.

Cheza and Ivia the orphaned buffalos and Diria the orphaned zebra remain closer to Voi, given the presence of lions in the area. One morning, Mbegu enjoyed a wrestling match with Ivia, but Ngilai promptly interrupted their game. He is one of Ivia’s oldest friends and felt that if anyone was playing with the buffalo, it should be him. Mbegu has always been a good role model, so she walked off to avoid any confrontation, leaving Ivia and Ngilai to enjoy their game.

Tagwa, Tamiyoi, and Sagala continue to lead the orphans out most mornings. They are very decisive and choose a path, which everyone follows in good faith. However, Tamiyoi is not so decisive about other things: One afternoon, she stood at the edge of the mud bath, debating whether she wanted to swim or not. Tagwa solved the dilemma by pushing her into the water from behind, thus forcing her to swim with the others.

Embu, meanwhile, never needs any coaxing to get into the mud bath. One afternoon, it was cold and cloudy, so the orphans were reluctant to swim. Only Embu bucked the trend. She plunged into the mud bath for a solo swim, while her friends splashed themselves from the water’s edge. 

Ngilai continues to have a very obvious crush on Tagwa, but we fear his love isn’t always reciprocated. He constantly singles her out and tries to orchestrate one-on-one time with her. One morning, he tried to climb on Tagwa’s back, but she speedily moved away from him. Ngilai closed his eyes and bit his trunk in frustration, deep in thought about how to win his girl’s heart.

By month’s end, Juni was feeling much better. She has fully accepted her milk bottle and is comfortable in the presence of the Keepers. The orphans have been wonderfully welcoming, making a point to stop by her stockade and visit her as she continues to convalesce.

May 2022 day to day

01 May

The orphans were outside of their night stockades bonding, playing and feeding on the lucerne pellets after their morning milk feed. Pika Pika and Arruba stayed behind picking up every last lucerne pellet they could find, as the rest of their friends started to leave the compound to begin their day in the bush. 

While out browsing the orphans meet up with a herd of buffaloes and they browsed alongside one another for some time. Pika Pika, Arruba, Ngilai, Tagwa and Tamiyoi enjoyed a dust bath and all rolled around on the ground in a small erosion gulley. Ngilai and Pika Pika later struck up a sparring game while still inside the gulley, until Ngilai withdrew from the sparring game to go and climb on Tagwa instead. Suswa spent a lot of time with little Thamana playing and hugging her little favourite boy.

While the orphans browsed along the foot of Msinga Hill, Mbegu stopped to scratch against a rock just as Lasayen and Murit started their own wrestling games. It was quite a surprise to see these usually subdued bulls enjoying a pushing game. Rorogoi and Suswa lay in an erosion gulley, relaxing. Thamana stood next to a rock with Mudanda and Suswa came over to scratch on the rock next to them; both Mudanda and Suswa like to spend time bonding with Thamana and looking after him.

Just as the orphans were getting ready for their noon milk feed, Tagwa and Emoli started a sparring match.

Down beside the baobab tree after the milk feed, Suswa was blowing water in the trough with her trunk and playing while posing with her left foot up on the trough. Lemeki rolled in the loose soil as her friends slowly started to make their way back out to the bush to browse.

Later in the day we received a call that an orphan elephant had been spotted alone in the Mkwajuni area near Lake Jipe, and needed to be rescued. We rushed to the area to rescue the orphan elephant and brought her to the Voi stockades where she is recovering.

Tagwa and Tamiyoi


Murit and Lasayen