Keepers' Diaries, November 2005

Voi Reintegration Unit

The early part of the month was dominated by finding enough browse to fill the orphans’ bellies, mainly up Mazinga Hill. Morani and Burra fell out after a disagreement which appears to have been on the 4th, after which Morani bore a grudge against Burra, who, in fact, is older. Nevertheless this grudge endured until 10th, with Morani trying to pick a fight at every opportunity, and Burra avoiding confrontation, until the 11th when Morani engaged Burra during their milk feed, and the Keepers had to separate them. Thereafter, the quarrel seems to have been settled!

01 November 2005

Having left the Stockades, the orphans walked rapidly up Mazinga Hill and found an area with fresh green vegetation. The orphans fed avidly, breaking off huge bunches of green grass and stuffing it into their mouths, as though never to have the chance again! This was the first, fresh, nutritious grass they had seen for months. They continued feeding until 12 p.m. before going to the mudbath, after which they fed on new shoots on the plains.

02 November 2005

Leaving this morning, the orphans were in a jovial mood, chasing each other and playing games. They fed quietly on the North West side of the hill until noon when Solango and Thoma raced each other to the waterhole, weaving in and around trees and bushes at top speed to be first, until Solango took the lead, running as fast as his legs could carry him. Thoma, Mpala and Morani were close behind, but could not catch him, so he won the race.

03 November 2005

It was another jovial morning for the orphans, with baby games accompanied by trumpeting and tossing of trunks towards each other. Morani, Seraa and Mpala were keen to get going, but the older orphans, i.e. Laikipia and Salama pulled them back, lying down on the soft soil and encouraging the youngsters to climb on them. Icholta and Burra then led the group up the hill. They came down for a wonderful noon mudbath and went to feed on the lower reaches of Mazinga Hill. They played games in an erosion gully, after which they returned to the Stockade in a happy frame of mind.

04 November 2005

Morani and Burra had a tussling match today which ended with Morani retreating when Burra poked his trunk under Morani’s tail. Morani hid behind a bush, and for a while they hunted each other around the bush, until Burra knelt down and dug his tusks into the ground in a challenge. Morani then left and began feeding amongst the others, joined sheepishly by Burra later on.

05 November 2005

Emily joined the orphans whilst they were concentrating on feeding up Mazinga Hill at 2 p.m. The orphans were overjoyed and excited to see her, rumbling and milling about, turning in circles and urinating. Morani stood close to Emily rubbing his head against her hindquarters, whilst Natumi remained calm and dignified, having touched Emily with her trunk as a greeting gesture. Emily left half an hour later when Loisaba, Ndara, Tsavo and Salama went with her, but returned within 10 minutes. Emily came to the Stockade and had her Copra Cake before leaving.

06 November 2005

The orphans left at 6 a.m. and fed on the North side of Mazinga Hill before going to the mudbath, led by Burra and Solango. Back at the Stockade in the evening, they met Emily, and the greeting was highly charged as usual. Having already fed on her Copra rations, Emily left.

07 November 2005

It was a cloudy morning when the orphans went towards the hill to feed on grass moistened by a soft shower during the night. Since it was cold, they never went to the mudbath, but those still on milk, took their milk, and continued feeding until it was time to return in the evening.

08 November 2005

The orphans fed on the N.West side of the hill, where more rain has fallen. They took a wonderful mudbath at noon when Salama and Laikipia engaged one another in a sparring match before joining the others who were resting under shade. They returned to the Eastern side of the hill to feed until it was time to return.

09 November 2005

The orphans were very happy this morning, rushing down into the Park, with showers on and off. They were very excited by the rain, and loved sliding about in the mud and rushing around the wet anthills. Seraa and Solango kicked the water barrels at the mudbath, but the Keepers stopped them.

10 November 2005

It was a sunny morning, and the orphans went up the hill to feed. Morani seems to have developed a grudge against Burra. He kept on seeking him out for a tussle, and although Burra is older than Morani, he tried to avoid a confrontation. Ndara enjoyed chasing the guinea fowl that were drinking at the waterhole at noon, joined by Mweya, who could not resist the action, until the guinea fowl took to the air. Mweya and Ndara then plunged into the waterhole, showing off. Mvita and Irima enjoyed scratching their genitals against a fallen tree, and then indulged in a soil dusting session, joined by Icholta. Laikipia led the column back to the Stockades in the evening.

11 November 2005

As usual, feeding took place up the hill until it was time for the mudbath. Then Seraa and Solango raced to be first at the bottles of milk. Burra was distracted from his bottles by Morani, who engaged him in a tough fight. The Keepers separated them and fed them far apart from one another. At the mudbath Ndara, Salama and Loisaba enjoyed rolling on a pile of soil, whilst Lolokwe, Seraa and Irima stood at the edge of the water, pushing gently against each other and feeling each other’s faces with their trunks.

12 November 2005

Emily arrived at the Stockade Gates at 6 a.m. and led the babies towards the N. side of Mazinga hill. At l0.30 a.m. she singled out Salama and Loisaba and took them to the waterhole, without the others, where they enjoyed a bath. Afterwards the two were tempted to go with Emily, but returned 20 minutes later to join the others. Emily did not come to the Stockades in the evening.

13 November 2005

Mukwaju led the orphans to the N.W. side of the hill this morning. Edie, Solango and Ilingwezi fed close to Natumi, following her every movement. They went to the mudbath at noon, when Thoma and Burra kept racing each other as they approached their bottles of milk. The two competitors were astounded when Mpala emerged from behind and took the lead. They all then went into high gear, and the Keepers, who were holding the bottles of milk, had to jump aside because the elephants could not stop! After a wonderful mudbath, they fed peacefully together.

14 November 2005

It was a cloudy morning. The orphans had just reached the N.W. side of the hill where the bush was green and lush when 3 waterbucks came running making an alarm sound. The Keepers spotted two leopards who were obviously hunting the waterbucks. Upon seeing the Keepers, the leopards retreated back up the hill, when the orphans charged and kicked the bushes. Since it was cool, the orphans did not take a mudbath today. Burra and Laikipia led the column back in the evening.

15 November 2005

The orphans were highly disturbed by two fighting male kudus who were making a clicking sound with their hooves. It took the Keepers half an hour to round up all the elephants, who had fled in all directions, and calm them down. After a wonderful mudbath, they concentrated on feeding for the rest of the day.

16 November 2005

It rained all night, and was still raining when the orphans left the Stockade in the morning. They fed well on the N. side of the hill, and went to drink, but did not go into the water. They returned in the evening looking well fed.

17 November 2005

Natumi led the orphans out this morning. Mweiga kept pace with them as they went straight to the N.W. side of the hill where the browse is greenest. A small wild herd was feeding close by, but only Tsavo was interested in joining them. He enjoyed a pushing game with a wild age-mate. When the orphans left for the Stockade in the evening, Tsavo decided to go with the wild herd, and spent the night out.

18 November 2005

The Keepers left early before 6 a.m. to check that Tsavo was safe. The orphans went up the hill, but Salama, who is Tsavo’s best friend, had noticed his absence, and kept rumbling and searching for him. The Keepers were very surprised to see Tsavo feeding peacefully in amongst Emily, Aitong and Sweet Sally who were higher up the hill. After the mudbath, Salama continued the search for his friend, and was reluctant to return, but the Keepers coaxed him to return, because it was not safe to leave him unattended.

19 November 2005

Salama was calmer this morning when the orphans left the Stockade and went feeding up the hill as usual. The Keepers spotted Emily, Aitong, Sally and Tsavo far down towards the pipeline road in amongst a group of several wild elephants. Tsavo was enjoying a pushing game with a wild calf his size. Emily, Aitong, Sally and Tsavo then came to drink water at the Stockade at 9 p.m. and hung around for an hour before leaving.

20 November 2005

The day began with competition games, with Nyiro, Mukwaju, Mpala and Seraa the main participants. Salama and Loisaba, who had missed Tsavo most, were now consoled and fed happily. After a wonderful mudbath, they all returned up the hill to feed. Laikipia led the column back in the evening.

21 November 2005

The orphans had a happy time, playing and pushing each other this morning as they made their way out into the Park. Emily, Aitong, Sweet Sally and Tsavo were spotted near the Pipeline road in front of Voi Safari Lodge. Tsavo looked very happy pressed close to Emily, as of old, whilst Sally was close to Aitong. They went to drink in a natural pool, and had a wonderful mudbath afterwards.

22 November 2005

Icholta led the orphans out today, whilst the others occupied themselves playing games. Burra escorted Mweiga today, following slowly behind all the others, but stopping to play occasionally. Emily’s group could not be seen in their favourite spot, but were probably amongst a large herd of wild elephants.

23 November 2005

It was a cloudy morning, and Laikipia led the orphans to the N.W. side of Mazinga Hill. Sosian was Mweiga’s escort today at the rear of the column. It was a hot day, so the orphans had an early, and wonderful mudbath. Emily’s group were spotted in the far distance, but did not join the others.

24 November 2005

It was a lovely morning, and the orphans left the Stockade joyfully, running to their feeding grounds, where the vegetation is still green. They ignored a wild herd which was feeding nearby. Our group split into two, with Mweya taking Morani, Seraa, Solango, Ndara, Irima, Mweiga and Sosian, and Natumi taking the others, where they fed about 100 metres distant. They enjoyed another wonderful mudbath, and in the evening Laikipia led them back home. Emily’s group was spotted at the far side of Mazinga Hill.

25 November 2005

The orphans enjoyed the new green grass at the Western side of Mazinga hill, but were alarmed by a wallowing sound which turned out to be 2 buffaloes enjoying a bath. The orphans saw them off, and took over their waterhole which they all enjoyed immensely.

26 November 2005

Another lovely morning, which the orphans enjoyed as they fed, before beginning to play/push. Solango challenged Burra whilst Salama selected Lolokwe. Edie and Laikipia coiled trunks as though saying “Thank God we have some food now!” Today’s mudwallow was at the Baobab waterhole.

27 November 2005

The orphans ran into a huge herd of buffaloes on the N. side of Mazinga Hill. With ears out the orphans charged towards them, but the buffaloes were not deterred, so the orphans had to retreat sheepishly.

28 November 2005

It was a cloudy, drizzly morning, as the orphans went out, splashing through puddles. Natumi, who has never been fond of cold water, kept her distance from the splashing of the others. It was another hot day, and an early mudbath, after which the orphans split into two groups, Mweiga leading Edie, Ilingwezi, Morani, and Sosian whilst Laikipia took the other 17 orphans. Mweiga’s group was soon joined by a herd of zebras, and Laikipia’s by some impala, who were chased off by Mweya and Irima. Emily, Tsavo, Aitong and Sally were feeding not far away, but were too preoccupied to join our group.

29 November 2005

It was a cool day, so the orphans were reluctant to go into the mudbath until Mweya, who never misses a chance to make everyone aware of her presence, plunged into the pool with a loud trumpet. Lolokwe placed his tusks on either side of Sosian’s buttocks and shoved him in, after which Sosian and Mweya put on a striking display. Later Mweya picked up a stick and scratched Thoma’s back, trying to persuade her (unsuccessfully) to come in as well. Meanwhile Laikipia emptied the drinking water in drums and lay down so that Icholta could rub against him.

30 November 2005

Another cool day, which enabled the orphans to feed happily without taking a mudbath, although Laikipia and Lolokwe made themselves a small wet patch by emptying a drinking drum.