Keepers' Diaries, November 2007

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Voi Reintegration Unit

This month, Burra has been assigned “Mweiga-sitting duty” ands this he has carried out extremely proficiently without a break. The November Diary is very interesting because it illustrates clearly that all the orphans keep in touch with one another, and that the composition of the various Matriarchal groupings constantly changes, with comings and goings between Emily’s unit, Natumi’s unit, and the new satellite grouping formed by Edie. Edie, who is close in age to Natumi, has long been aspiring to Matiarchal leadership but that said, her and those with her often join up with Natumi and all the others, and then travel together as one large family again. To begin with Edie’s satellite group comprised Lolokwe, Mukwaju and Mweya, but later on in the month Mukwaju went back into Natumi’s group, and on the 20th Edie had Loisaba and Morani with her, as well as Lolokwe and Mweya. This is interesting, since Loisaba is normally in Emily’s group. Similarly, Ndara, who is also normally with Emily, was spotted in amongst Natumi’s group on the 22nd, but later there was no sign of either Loisaba or Ndara in Natumi’s group, so they must have rejoined that of Emily!

This month, Burra has been assigned “Mweiga-sitting duty” ands this he has carried out extremely proficiently without a break.

The November Diary is very interesting because it illustrates clearly that all the orphans keep in touch with one another, and that the composition of the various Matriarchal groupings constantly changes, with comings and goings between Emily’s unit, Natumi’s unit, and the new satellite grouping formed by Edie. Edie, who is close in age to Natumi, has long been aspiring to Matiarchal leadership but that said, her and those with her often join up with Natumi and all the others, and then travel together as one large family again. To begin with Edie’s satellite group comprised Lolokwe, Mukwaju and Mweya, but later on in the month Mukwaju went back into Natumi’s group, and on the 20th Edie had Loisaba and Morani with her, as well as Lolokwe and Mweya. This is interesting, since Loisaba is normally in Emily’s group. Similarly, Ndara, who is also normally with Emily, was spotted in amongst Natumi’s group on the 22nd, but later there was no sign of either Loisaba or Ndara in Natumi’s group, so they must have rejoined that of Emily!

Lissa and her two younger calves came to the Stockades on the 4th and spent a long time playing around the compound. Her first calf, 8 year old Lara, was absent on this occasion, and had probably been left with either Emily’s unit, or perhaps Eleanor’s herd (since Eleanor was Lissa’s early Matriarch) or another friendly wild unit. So, it is becoming evident that irrespective of the usual Matriarchal alliances, all the orphans remain as a fluid family, albeit not always under the care of the same Matriarch. The orphaned Matriarchs are Emily, whose place was taken by Natumi when Emily became Keeper independent, Natumi and now Edie, both of whom became Keeper independent in the same batch. The orphaned Matriarchs used to be possessive of the orphans under their particular care, and resented being down-graded when Emily decided to join them, but they now seem to have come to an amicable sharing arrangement. Younger orphans can sometimes be with Emily’s group, at other times with Natumi’s group, while Edie has obviously been allowed to “borrow” some and bring them along to keep Burra and Mweiga company. It is not surprising that amongst those “borrowed” from Natumi's group are Mweya and sometimes Morani, both of whom have always been very fond of Mweiga and are obviously eager to spend time with her.

Edie’s group has kept in extremely close touch with Burra and Mweiga this month, but Natumi and her group have also done their time What stands out yet again is the caring and compassion afforded to weakling Mweiga who is now the only elephant enclosed in the Voi Stockades at night, but who is never without the company of one of the others, strangely more often than not one of the orphaned young bulls.

It is interesting to find that the bulls are equally as caring of Mweiga as the females. This month it has been Burra who has been with her 24 hours a day. He remains behind to keep pace with her, when the others hurry ahead having decided to go elsewhere; he peels off with her to return to the stockades in the evening, leaving all the others having fun out in the bush, and he quietly watches her take her ration of milk without attempting to snatch the bottle from her. That it was two older bulls, namely Laikipia and Nyiro who left all the others to come and spend time with Mweiga and Burra is also very enlightening and also touching.

Natumi’s group now also incorporates what used to be known as Thoma’s group, i.e. the last batch of orphans to leave the security of the Night Stockades and be allowed free reign during the hours of darkness. Natumi’s group, which includes the orphans that were called Thoma’s group, are regular visitors at the stockades, sometimes just to take a drink, (although, since it has been raining, there is water in pools everywhere) or perhaps just to come back to what they regard as “home”, since they often turn up when Burra and Mweiga are not there. Perhaps they simply want to also keep in touch with the human family that have won their trust and their love. Whenever the various orphans do meet up either with Burra and Mweiga, or each other, there is always a highly charged and happy reunion. Uaso has come with Natumi’s group just once this month, on the 7th. Of all the Big Boys, he is the most regular visitor.

This month Emily, and the permanent members of her group, i.e. Aitong, Sweet Sally, Tsavo and sometimes Salama, (who also spends time with wild bull friends), have not reappeared this month, obviously preoccupied with their wild friends elsewhere, though obviously in contact with Natumi’s group for Loisaba and Ndara to have swapped over.

Mweiga and Burra enjoyed the company of a wild elephant family on the 8th, amongst whom were 2 small calves. This wild herd had a big wild bull in tow, and a wild boy who tried to entice Mweiga to play with him. Mweiga was not up to this, and instead she and Burra moved off to the waterhole where they were met by Natumi’s group with whom they had the usual fun.

Rain showers have brought up some green vegetation, and filled some of the natural depressions, so it has been a joyful month for the Voi orphans. Mweiga and Burra have been happy on their own without the company of the others on the several days during the month that they have not met up with any of the other orphans. They play together around the Stockade in the mornings; Mweiga swings her trunk from side to side as they leave for the bush - a sign of happiness, and it is plain that they are content in the company of one another even when the others don’t show up or meet them out in the bush. Each day, they are accompanied out by the orphaned zebra, Serena, with whom they are now quite comfortable, although at first Burra enjoyed trying to ambush her in order to dissuade her from coming with them. However, Serena had no difficulty running rings around him and now he has accepted that she, too, is part of his daily “duty”. There is no mention of Rukinga (the orphaned kudu) in this month’s Diary, so he is obviously quite comfortable as a wild kudu now with the friends that he joined recently.

November 2007 day to day

01 Nov

Burra still on Mweiga duty, so he and Mweiga left the Stockades early, and went foraging in the main Park. They enjoyed the noon waterhole, and then made their way to the base of Mazinga Hill, before returning for the night. Natumi’s group did not turn up today.

Mweiga & Burra moving to the bush

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