Keepers' Diaries, November 2003

Voi Reintegration Unit

Nursery Elephants:- On the 26th November, we welcomed another little 6 week old elephant into the Nursery from the same remote corner of Kenya that yielded Sunyei – Ol Donyo Nyiro. This calf was orphaned under similar circumstances, by falling into a well dug in a dry sand lugga and we think he might even perhaps have come from Sunyei’s herd, for upon arrival in the Nursery, these two tiny elephants seemed to know one another. The Ol Donyo Nyiro elephants are remnant true survivors of a tough dry country population, genetically honed for survival where the odds are stacked against them. Great credit goes to his rescuers for not feeding him cows’ milk but keeping him hydrated until the rescue could be arranged. They even chose his name, “Ndomot” which, in the Samburu dialect means, “where two rivers meet”. His arrival brings the Nursery contingent to eight, with every stable occupied, and Olmalo and Taita sharing one of the side Rhino Stockades, (and a Keeper), an arrangement that is working harmoniously, but for when it rains, when Taita tries to nick the blanket off Olmalo, who protests loudly!

01 November 2003

After a wonderful noon mudbath, Emily lowered herself and allowed Sosian and Nyiro to clamber around her, which they enjoyed, trumpeting loudly. The orphans joined a wild group of 6 at 3 p.m. and browsed together until 5.l0 p.m. when our group left, but Natumi remained behind. She caught up with the others later.

02 November 2003

Emily left the orphan group and followed 3 wild bachelor bulls that rumbled nearby. Loisaba and Ndara (Emily’s favourites) became restless, rumbling and screaming repeatedly, but Emily spend one hour away with her boyfriends before returning.

03 November 2003

A tough fight broke about between Sosian and Salama when Salama tried to mount Sosian. Natumi intervened to stop the battle which had been going on for almost l0 minutes. At noon Mweya, Sally and Kinna followed two buffaloe cors who had a small calf of days old. The three orphans ran behind the buffaloes for over a Km, until the buffaloes had had enough, and charged them.

04 November 2003

Edo, joined the orphans at 7 a.m. For an hour he paid particular attention to Aitong, following her and touching her genitals with his trunk. He then left but returned again at the Stockade at 8 p.m. and spent the night nearby. Burra, Mpala, Solango and Yatta had a wonderfully playful time in the mudbath today. Aitong approved and went to each of them rewarding them with a “kiss” by touching their mouths with her trunk.

05 November 2003

There were light rain showers in the morning which made the orphans very happy. They wallowed in rain pools and were playful. Icholta, Irima, Mukwaju, Nasalot and Mulika enjoyed rubbing against an anthill.

06 November 2003

Aitong took Sally to shelter from the scorching sun under a tree, positioning herself behind Sally and trying to squeeze her between her front legs, as would a mother. However, Sally was too big to fit! Seraa, Morani, Laikipia and Mvita charged and cornered a baby warthog of about 5 days old, separating it from its mother. The mother charged them and scared them away.

07 November 2003

It was a scorching hot day. Heading for the noon mudbath all the orphans lined up each resting a trunk on the back of the one in front. Thoma led the line and Mweiga came last. Mweiga’s right eye was running, so the Vet treated it in the evening.

08 November 2003

At 9 a.m. Edo appeared again, slowly and deliberately taking Emily away from the others to spend time with him. She later joined the orphans at the mudbath. Nyiro, Mukwaju, Nasalot and Tsavo had a wonderful game running in and out of the mudbath. Tsavo slipped on the side and screamed, which brought Aitong and Emily to the rescue in a rush. At 3 p.m. Edo turned up at the Stockades, and entertained us by climbing a rock and plucking branches from a very tall tree.

09 November 2003

Mweiga pushed Thoma down when Thoma tried to snatch a branch from her mouth. The Keepers intervened to rescue Thoma. Irima, Mpala, Mulika, Ilingwezi, Laikip and Edie were very scared when 2 lesser kudu bulls broke out of nearby bushes, running towards them. The elephants ran to cluster around their Keepers.

10 November 2003

A low flying Pipeline Helicopter scared the orphans, sending them all running to the Keepers. Mweiga, who is usually the weakest elephant, managed to out-run Thoma and Morani! Edo joined the orphans in the morning, and spend 3 hours browsing with them before leaving to head East of Mazinga Hill.

11 November 2003

Burra and Irima intertwined trunks in the mudbath, trumpeting in happiness.

12 November 2003

Laikipia led a small detachment of orphans to where he wanted to browse, but suddenly found himself alone when the others changed course and went in the opposite direction. He was upset by this, and ran back to them, trying to fight Natumi for leading them elsewhere. Loisaba moved in to separate them. Mweiga, Sosian, Morani and Ilingwezi charged and separated two impala rams who were fighting. The orphans felt very victorious, running and trumpeting excitedly.

13 November 2003

At l0 a.m. all the orphans, except Mulika, joined a group of l0 wild elephants. Mulika was scared of a very huge wild cow that was leading the wild herd. Emily returned to take her into the wild herd and they all spent time together, separating to go to the mudbath at noon. A disagreement broke out between Thoma and Irima, when Irima pushed Thoma into the water. The Keepers gave them a stern warning about fighting.

14 November 2003

Aitong refused to share a bush with Natumi, chasing Natumi off every time she approached. A wild bull of about 12 years old joined the orphans at 2 p.m. Emily played pushing matches with him, after which Laikipia and Salama then spent l hour with him as he went off, returning at 4 p.m.

15 November 2003

The orphans separated themselves into 5 sub-groups at l0.30 a.m. Yatta, Natumi, Edie, Nasalot and Aitong each led a small group. Natumi left her group to join the family of the wild Matriarch, “Catherine”, at 8 a.m. and enjoyed playing with a wild friend of her age. She rejoined the other orphans an hour later.

16 November 2003

The orphans were joined by a wild herd of 2 cows, a bull and 2 calves, who spend 3 hours with them. When they left, they took little Irima with them. The Keepers tried to call Irima back, but the wild elephants were very possessive of him and would not let him return. The Keepers followed the group for about 5 kms until 2 p.m., and then had to give up, leaving Irima with the wild herd.

17 November 2003

Mweya and Mweiga had a disagreement about who should share the shade of a tree with Emily. In the end Mweya gave up and allowed Mweiga the place. Edo joined the orphans after their noon mudbath, but left one hour later, heading towards the Voi river.

18 November 2003

The Keepers heard a baby elephant cry nearby at l0.40 a.m. Two Keepers went to investigate and were very surprised to find Irima with Edo and Ndume. When Irima saw the Keepers, he ran towards them, whilst Edo and Ndume merely turned round and headed back towards the Voi river again. The Keepers took Irima back to join the other orphans, who gave him a very warm welcome home, each one coming up to touch him with their trunk and smelling him carefully.

19 November 2003

Mweiga and Morani spent the whole day browsing very close to Irima as if to guard him from disappearing with a wild group again. At 3 p.m. all the orphans lifted up their trunks and tested the air whilst moving together in one direction. They were highly scared to find that the scent was that of a dead buffalo which had been killed by lions. The orphans ran back to the Keepers and went to feed in the opposite direction.

20 November 2003

When the orphans arrived at the mudbath, they found an old buffalo lying in the middle. They all charged and trumpeted until the buffalo was persuaded to leave. Mweiga slid on the wall of the mudwallow and fell down screaming. The Keepers rushed to help her to her feet again.

21 November 2003

Mweiga, Irima, and Morani left the other orphans to browse together apart until l0.45 a.m., joining the others on the way to the mudbath. In the evening the orphans browsed peacefully next to 2 waterbucks without charging them.

22 November 2003

Mweiga’s eye is better after the medication, and is again bright and clear. Emily, Tsavo, Loisaba, Ilingwezi and Salama attached themselves to a wild bull elephant at 9 a.m. and came with him to the noon mudbath. The wild bull later wandered off on his own.

23 November 2003

Mweiga lagged behind all the others as they made their way to the mudbath. She has been weakened even further by the drought. Aitong and Icholta went back to keep her company. Natumi and Edie chased off 4 zebras who were drinking at the waterhole at noon.

24 November 2003

Solango and Morani fought over a green branch they both wanted to pluck from a tree. Ndara went in to stop them, but took the chance of plucking the branch herself and eating it! A wild group of l bull, 2 cows and a calf joined the orphans at 9 a.m. Tsavo and Ndara played with the wild baby and went off with the wild group at 11 a.m., but Emily went to bring them back.

25 November 2003

It is still dry in Tsavo, and the orphans concentrated on feeding today, with no desire to play.

26 November 2003

Sosian, who looks upon himself as the hero of Mweya’s group, found himself in difficulty when he tried to stop Loisaba from taking Morani at 4.10 p.m. Loisaba pushed him down hard, and the Keepers ran to his rescue. Emily joined a wild group of 2 bachelor bulls at 6.30 a.m. The other orphans became very restless, rumbling to try and bring her back. She silently appeared behind them at 9 a.m. and scared them all when she broke a branch, sending them all running to the Keepers. They were overjoyed when they found that Emily was the one who scared them!

27 November 2003

Mweiga had difficulty getting up when she lay down for an evening rest. She cried loudly, and the Keepers went to help her to her feet at midnight.

28 November 2003

At the noon milk feed, Irima finished his bottles first and then tried to take Sally’s rations, chasing her off. The keepers intervened to allow Sally to enjoy her share. The orphans went to join up with Edo on top of Mazinga hill at 3 p.m. and spent the next 2 hours with him, returning to the Stockades at 5 p.m.

29 November 2003

At l0 a.m. the orphans went up Mazinga Hill to browse today, but Aitong, Irima, and Mulika remained at the foot of the hill to keep Mweiga company, because she is weak and unable to climb the hill.

30 November 2003

There were light showers of rain in the morning, which made the orphans all very happy. They ran here and there trumpeting, and joined a group of 7 wild elephants at 9 a.m. going with this wild group to the mudbath, which they all greatly enjoyed today. The wild elephants left the orphans at 2 p.m.