Keepers' Diaries, November 2012

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Voi Reintegration Unit

Several rainstorms around the area of Mazinga Hill transformed the dry season barren landscape to green again, so November has been a happy month for the Voi Orphans, but for little Panda, rescued from Mgeno Ranch abutting Tsavo in July. This month’s Diary illustrates the fact that Panda is not thriving as she should, trailing the others, choosing to isolate herself and avoiding sharing the noon mudbath, even on hot days. This is a sure sign of the fact that she is not well, possibly suffering some chronic defect, as did Dida and other orphans we have had who have not thrived when they approach adolescence. On the 14th she found herself absorbed into a passing wild herd but who (judging by the footprints) returned her during the night to where they had found her. The Keepers believe the Matriarch decided that Panda was not fit enough to keep up with the herd, and therefore brought her back, sure that she would meet up again with the Keepers and the Orphaned herd who visit the waterhole regularly for their noon mudbath. Reinforcing this assumption, is an event that took place a day or two later (on the 16th,) when the same herd met our Orphans again at the mudbath venue. As Panda walked away, the wild Matriarch followed her with outspread ears and rumbled a message that made Panda do a rapid about-turn and run back to the Orphans and their Keepers. Our orphans obviously know this wild herd well, since the orphan Boys all admire the oldest Bull of the unit, who is a strapping 10 year old with sizeable tusks. Mzima has enjoyed a friendly Pushing Game with him and when the orphans again met up with the same wild herd on the 17th, Dabassa, Rombo, Tassia, Taveta and Layoni all surrounded him, clearly awestruck, as they all were allowed the privilege of actually touching him with their trunks. (Meanwhile the girls were careful to keep a safe distance from him!)

Several rainstorms around the area of Mazinga Hill transformed the dry season barren landscape to green again, so November has been a happy month for the Voi Orphans, but for little Panda, rescued from Mgeno Ranch abutting Tsavo in July. This month’s Diary illustrates the fact that Panda is not thriving as she should, trailing the others, choosing to isolate herself and avoiding sharing the noon mudbath, even on hot days. This is a sure sign of the fact that she is not well, possibly suffering some chronic defect, as did Dida and other orphans we have had who have not thrived when they approach adolescence. On the 14th she found herself absorbed into a passing wild herd but who (judging by the footprints) returned her during the night to where they had found her. The Keepers believe the Matriarch decided that Panda was not fit enough to keep up with the herd, and therefore brought her back, sure that she would meet up again with the Keepers and the Orphaned herd who visit the waterhole regularly for their noon mudbath. Reinforcing this assumption, is an event that took place a day or two later (on the 16th,) when the same herd met our Orphans again at the mudbath venue. As Panda walked away, the wild Matriarch followed her with outspread ears and rumbled a message that made Panda do a rapid about-turn and run back to the Orphans and their Keepers. Our orphans obviously know this wild herd well, since the orphan Boys all admire the oldest Bull of the unit, who is a strapping 10 year old with sizeable tusks. Mzima has enjoyed a friendly Pushing Game with him and when the orphans again met up with the same wild herd on the 17th, Dabassa, Rombo, Tassia, Taveta and Layoni all surrounded him, clearly awestruck, as they all were allowed the privilege of actually touching him with their trunks. (Meanwhile the girls were careful to keep a safe distance from him!)

Panda’s back legs were slightly swollen towards the end of the month, so she has undergone an injectible antibiotic course and a change of milk, since the Replacer fed to the older orphans probably does not suit her, which has been the case with several others in the past. We will be keeping a close eye on her in the months ahead and sincerely hope that a major organ such as her heart or lungs is not failing.

This month happy playful activities around the compound greet each early morning before the elephants head out to browse. Antics at the daily mudbath also dominate the Diary, now at the large natural waterhole below the Headquarters known as the Red Waterhole which has filled with rainwater during the month where the orphans can really enjoy themselves, submerging their bodies entirely.

Wasessa, who is the biggest Elephant of the group (though not the main Matriarch, who is Lesanju) has been throwing her weight around the handout of Copra in the mornings, so much so that whenever Dabassa, Layoni and Rombo spot her homing in, they rapidly run away. Wasessa’s chosen favourite is little Emsaya who has usurped the previous position of Tassia. Tassia and Taveta are good friends and daily sparring partners, as are Mzima and Shimba, while Lempaute and Lesanju are, as ever, inseparable as are Ndii and Kenia. The three latest boys to join the group from the Nursery - Dabassa, Layoni and Rombo – also hang out together, but Dabassa fell foul of Kivuko this month, head butting her whilst she was taking her milk. She was not distracted from the milk, but having finished it, she went after him, catching him by the tail as he ran off, and biting it hard before knocking him to the ground and trying to pin him down. His bellows brought Lesanju to the rescue who separated the warring parties. But, Dabassa was again in trouble when he inadvertently stepped on Kenia’s tail at the mudbath and he sought refuge with Lesanju. However, Kenia bided her time, not forgetting the incident, and the next day settled the score at the mudbath, refusing him access to it – another reminder that “Elephants Never Forget!”

Browsing has been around Mazinga hill and often actually up it to access tasty succulents that grow in amongst the boulders, Panda always remaining at the base overseen by a Keeper. Latterly, she has been allowed to travel apart as she chooses, with a Keeper assigned to keep an eye on her. According to the Keepers all the Big Girls have thrown in the towel, now ignoring her, whereas before she was the “darling” of the unit.

On the l8th the Orphans came across Ndara near the top of Mazinga Hill, who had obviously opted out of traveling too far afield with Emily’s group due to her leg injury, having re-joined them last month. Emily’s group were absent this month until the 30th, when they turned up at the Stockades, and then went in search of the Youngsters, checking the Middle artificial mudbath, and then meeting up with them at the Red Waterhole, where all had a wonderful reunion and a lot of fun bathing together. It was a fitting end to the month.

November 2012 day to day

01 Nov

The orphans browsed the Northern side of Mazinga Hill, which now has some fresh vegetation, following some rain, all keeping a close eye on little Panda, who sometimes likes straying off on her own. The group then split for the first sitting of the milk dependent youngsters such as Kenia, Ndii, Panda, Rombo and Dabassa, followed for the second sitting by Taveta, Kivuko, Emsaya and Layoni. It was a hot day so all enjoyed the mudbath, Shimba and Mzima emerging the day’s star wallowers.

Panda straying off on her own

Layoni scratching after a mudbath

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