Keepers' Diaries, November 2012

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!)

01 November 2012

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.

02 November 2012

Having taken their morning Copra Cake, the orphans headed out to browse, Mzima, Shimba and Layoni going half way up Mazinga Hill, leaving Panda and the others at the bottom. At noon the Youngsters rushed to take their milk, and then all enjoyed the mudbath, Kivuko and Shimba turning up last by which time the others were busy soil dusting. Kivuko and Shimba spent about l0 minutes in the wallow. All then fed their way back to the Stockades in the evening.

03 November 2012

Tassia and Taveta enjoyed a strength testing game this morning while Emsaya and Rombo walked to a nearby tree to scratch their bottoms and Shimba and Mzima played a rolling game. Panda enjoyed soil dusting alone, preferring to be on her own these days. Kenia and Ndii led the babies to their milk venue, Taveta and Tassia having sneaked into the first sitting, when they were supposed to be next! When the Bigger Elephants joined the babies at the mudbath, the little ones went out, not wanting to be shoved around.

04 November 2012

Wasessa, who is the biggest elephant, tends to bully the young boys when taking Copra Cake, so the Youngsters run off when they see her approaching. As usual Panda was left behind with one of the Keepers, because these days she seems to prefer being separate from the others. Mzima, Shimba and Taveta climbed the hill to browse, leaving the others at the base. Panda tried to sneak off, but the Keepers were on the lookout and brought her back. At the noon mudbath the elephants had a lot of fun, Sinya and Lempaute swam in the middle of the pool while the others sprayed water over their bodies, the babies coming closer to enjoy some of the shower. Taveta, Dabassa and Layoni then went in while Emsaya and Layoni enjoyed sliding into the pool down the slippery walls, joined in this activity by Lesanju and Wasessa. Eventually the orphans walked out of the pool in single file, and spent the afternoon browsing until it was time to return in the evening.

05 November 2012

Having enjoyed their milk and Copra, the orphans decided to climb Mazinga Hill, led by Mzima with the older girls at the rear to make sure that there were no stragglers, while Panda remained at the base with the Keepers. The orphans enjoyed a lot of fresh browse up the hill, so much so that the Keepers had to remind them about the mudbath hour. By the time they arrived at the wallow, all sere thirsty, so having taken milk, the babies rushed to the water barrels to quench their thirst before wallowing. Rombo, Emsaya, Dabassa and Kivuko were very active, swimming, submerging and rolling in the water. Later Rombo and Kivuko decided to settle an old score, but the fight was interrupted by Mzima, who was on his way to bathe, wanting the pool to himself. By the time he emerged, the others were quite a long way off.

06 November 2012

On a cool day, the orphans enjoyed playing at the Stockade compound. There were Pushing Games, Strength Testing and Charging games while Wasessa rolled on the ground giving her favourite babies a chance to climb her and rub her tummy. Since it was a cool day, the orphans decided to climb up Mazinga hill again, leaving Panda with the Keepers. At the mudbath, Mzima, Lesanju and Sinya stood on the edge watching Dabassa and Kivuko rolling in the mud while Panda threw some mud over her body. Afterwards, the swimmers enjoyed scratching themselves against a tree.

07 November 2012

In the morning Rombo and Dabassa enjoyed a Strength Test while Taveta chased Ndii around for a mimic mounting game. The orphans spent a long time playing around the compound before moving off to browse around Mazinga Hill. When the orphans headed off for their noon mudbath, Wasessa, Panda and Emsaya were left behind, not noticing the departure of the others. Lesanju trumpeted to alert Wasessa who lifted her trunk and moved it around like an antenna, before heading off hurriedly in the direction of the mudbath. By the time they reached the mudbath the others were already half way through and by the time Panda turned up, they were about to leave. Emsaya took her milk, Wasessa standing beside her to comfort her, because she was anxious being so late. Lesanju came to welcome them.

08 November 2012

During the usual Stockade games Tassia took on Taveta while Ndii challenged Rombo to a Pushing Match and Layoni and Dabassa chased the baboons. Once the orphans reached Mazinga Hill, Tassia and Taveta decided to continue their Strength Testing bout, while the others moved half way up the hill. After some rain, the Big Waterhole had filled, so the orphans were diverted there rather than the artificial Middle One. When they saw that it was full, they all happily went in and even little Panda had a lot of fun. Afterwards they all fed calmly for the rest of the day.

09 November 2012

Wasessa was troublesome at the Copra Cake hand-out today, pushing and shoving everyone around, so the Keepers had to isolate her from the small calves so that they could get their share. She head butted Shimba so hard that he fell down screaming, so the Keepers drove her out of the herd for a while as a punishment. Browsing took place as usual at Mazinga Hill, and all enjoyed the noon mudbath and the afternoon browsing session, Lesanju and her best friend Lempaute spending time close together.

10 November 2012

There was a light shower during the night, and it was a cool morning. After downing her bottle, Panda went back to her Stockade and enjoyed a dustbath there. The Keepers tried to call her, but she refused to respond and just rumbled an answer. Lesanju and Wasessa came to try and persuade her to come out, but again she refused. The Keepers went to take some tea, and when they returned, she was waiting for them, all the other orphans having left. Tassia and Taveta took time out to continue their Pushing Game, joining the others up the hill later. At the wallow Kivuko and Layoni were very active, but Shimba opted for a Pushing Game with Mzima., which Taveta wanted to join, but was chased off by Mzima who was furious at being interrupted. He ran back to the Big Girls for protection.

11 November 2012

On another cool morning, the orphans enjoyed their morning antics, running around the Stockade in a jovial mood before leaving in a straight line heading for the Hill where they browsed until 11 a.m. and it was time for the wallow. Kenia and Ndii brought the babies for their milk, after which they all headed to the wallow. Mzima got the ball rolling by submerging himself entirely, after which Lesanju, Lempaute and Sinya jumped in and had fun, joined by Taveta. Mzima was first out, after which he enjoyed a dustbath.

12 November 2012

Another cool morning, so the orphans enjoyed their Stockade games, Taveta and Rombo sliding down the muddy banks while Tassia walked to the tractor and water bowzer and tried to find a hole into which to insert his trunk. Failing that, he decided to try and push it over, but when it would not budge, challenged his friend Tassia to a Pushing Match. When the Keepers signaled that it was time to move on, the orphans ran to the hill, trumpeting. At the mudbath Kivuko sat down, rubbing her bottom along the bottom and then attempted a handstand putting her head down and trying to stand on her front legs! Dabassa seized the opportunity to try and mount her, knocking her down, which infuriated her, so she head butted him several times making him scream and run from the pool. Bent on revenge she went after him, until Lempaute, who doesn’t like any disruption, ran to separate the two naughty kids.

13 November 2012

During the usual Stockade games Tassia managed to get Taveta down by pulling his front legs with his trunk, and then attempted to mount him. This made Taveta bellow for help which brought Mzima into the fray who pushed Tassia down from behind, which made him scream, giving Taveta time to get up. As Mzima was still on guard, Taveta picked up a stick and pretended to play with it until Mzima went off, and then he again challenged Tassia. The battle went on until the Keepers signaled that it was time to leave. At the mudbath Taveta mounted Ndii, but she rolled on her side which dislodged him, making him fall headfirst into the water! Meanwhile Rombo and Ndii dug a big hole in the bank, dislodging earth with which Panda dusted herself. After an hour of fun, the orphans browsed their way back to the Stockades.

14 November 2012

It was another cool morning, so the orphans had fun. Lesanju and Lempaute had a Pushing Game while Wasessa played with her favourite, Emsaya. Tassia led the orphans to the north side of the hill, but Panda headed to the Western side, but was brought back to join the others. At noon the orphans headed to the Big Waterhole, where the babies took their milk, and the others quenched their thirst from the water barrels before plunging into the waterhole. As the orphans enjoyed the wallow, the Keepers decided to take their lunch under the shade of a nearby tree, when they noticed a wild herd also coming to the waterhole, so they waited a while. When the wild herd left, they moved in, only to find that Panda had gone off with the wild elephants. The Keepers tried to call her back, but to no avail, so one Keeper remained behind while the others took the orphans back to the Stockades. Panda spent the night out with her wild friends.

15 November 2012

In the morning the Keepers returned to the wallow where they had lost Panda, and after scouring the bush for about an hour, they came across her browsing on her own, safe and sound. Around her were the footprints of the wild friends who had brought her back there. The Keepers walked her back to the Stockades where she took her milk, and then they went to join the other orphans. Having had some heavy rainstorms, the Park was lush and green, with pools of water everywhere which is Paradise for our orphans. Panda has become an issue, because she has changed a lot, not wanting to be with either the other orphans, or the Keepers. Perhaps the wild elephants realized that she is unstable, and brought her back where she would be found. The Keepers have decided to have one of their number with her, and allow her to do whatever she likes. Even the bigger elephants have given up looking after her! Wasessa, Lesanju, Lempaute, Sinya, Kenia and Ndii have thrown in the towel insofar as Panda is concerned!

16 November 2012

Tassia led the group out to feed today where they met up with the same wild herd that hijacked Panda, and at the same place so the Keepers watched the interaction from a distance in order not to disrupt matters. All the orphans ran to greet the wild elephants and a wild bull of about l0 years enjoyed playing with Mzima. Although a lot bigger than Mzima, the two played peacefully and joyfully. The Keepers believe the wild elephants had come to check on Panda and see whether she had been found because when Panda saw them, she began to move away followed by the wild Matriarch who rumbled to Panda. Panda then immediately turned round and ran to the other orphans, which amazed the Keepers. When the wild elephants moved off, the Keepers went to fetch Panda and steer her back to the orphaned group.

17 November 2012

Once again the orphans mingled with the same wild herd that took Panda, and whom they met yesterday. This time the orphans and the wild herd browsed happily together, all the orphan boys surrounding the Big Boy of the wild family, Dabassa, Layoni, Rombo, Tassia and Taveta each examining him by touching his huge trunk, large tusks and other parts of his body. They admired him a lot, but the girls kept a safe distance. All this time Panda was browsing alone at the foot of Mazinga Hill while the others were further afield. When the wild Matriarch rumbled to her group they began to slowly walk away, Rombo and Layoni joining them for a while, but then returning. Since it began to rain, there was no need for the orphans to visit the mudbath, because they enjoyed wallowing everywhere and drinking from rain puddles.

18 November 2012

After the usual morning games, Kenia led the orphans up Mazinga Hill to feed where they split into two groups, Wasessa and her favourite, Emsaya, along with the boys going Eastwards while Lesanju led the others to the Western side of the hill and little Panda remained behind, with a Keeper watching over her. The orphans climbed to the top of the hill, where Lesanju’s group met up with Ndara, who gave a loud rumble that was heard by Wasessa’s group who began moving towards her. They were welcomed very warmly upon arrival, and all browsed happily together until the Keepers called the orphans to proceed to the milk and mudbath venue, Ndara remaining behind. All had a wonderful time at the mudbath, swimming, playing and submerging in the water, after which they had a soil dusting session before the afternoon’s feeding.

19 November 2012

After the milk and Copra handout, the games began, Tassia and Taveta embarking on their usual Pushing Game which was joined by Shimba who came from behind. Taveta and Tassia then teamed up to push Shimba, who tried hard to contain the two boys, but found himself overpowered and on the ground. His friend, Mzima, who was watching from a distance rushed to help his friend, taking on Tassia, which enabled Shimba to get up. Meanwhile Emsaya and Kivuko were playing a charging game targeting the baboons who came to eat the leftovers of the Copra cake while Layoni charged the orphaned zebra (named Lualeni) as well as the monkeys and resident hornbills.

20 November 2012

Today the games were Hide and Seek, with happy trumpets filling the air, before assembling behind Lesanju and heading out to browse in single file. Later Kenia, Ndii and Dabassa enjoyed an early wallow in a small depression out in the bush, the others pacing towards the Big Waterhole, where they all enjoyed a lengthy swim, Lesanju and Rombo sharing a fallen log against which to scratch their bodies.

21 November 2012

This morning, after the breakfast handout, Lempaute who enjoys playing with the smaller orphans, enjoyed a game with Kenia while Shimba and Tassia had a Pushing Match. Panda enjoyed a dustbath on her own, but was joined by Sinya who demonstrated how to lie down and roll in the dust. Panda did the same. After an hour of Stockade games, Sinya, Mzima and Shimba led the column out to browse, Panda following behind. As the orphans were browsing, two fighting impala males scared them, forcing them to all take off in different directions. It took the Keepers an hour to round them all up, and calm them down. Just before noon, all headed to the mudbath, Kenia, Ndii, Rombo and Panda at the first milk sitting, joined later by the other milk dependent young before all enjoyed the waterhole where there is room for them all. Eventually Lesanju trumpeted the time to move on and continue browsing during the afternoon.

22 November 2012

The Orphan eagerly greeted dawn, anxious to be out of their Night Stockade. After the handout of Copra, the games began, Wasessa lying down in some soft soil to allow Emsaya to clamber all over her. Dabassa came and also wanted to climb over Wasessa, but Emsaya was having none of it and head butted him, sending him away screaming. Wasessa rose to look around nervously, but realizing that it was only Dabassa, she lay down again so that Emsaya could continue to enjoy her game. Lesanju led the orphans westwards today to dig up some tubers growing along the route they normally take. After the mudbath, the orphans fed close to the waterhole for the rest of the day.

23 November 2012

While Taveta and Tassia , Rombo and Dabassa played their usual Pushing Games, Lesanju patrolled the fenceline to see whether she could access some tasty vegetation growing inside, but having found no gap, she concentrated on the fallen flowers from the tree growing near the Staff Canteen, stuffing them into her mouth. Wasessa noticed this, and she and Emsaya joined Lesanju, also enjoying the flowers. All then headed out to the hill to browse, and at noon had their usual fun at the Waterhole. In the evening the Keepers noticed a large poisonous snake slithering into Kenia’s Stockade, which they hastily dispatched in view of the danger it presented.

24 November 2012

Kivuko and Dabassa are very competitive for their milk. This morning Dabassa, who is the greediest milk dependent orphan, head butted Kivuko as she was taking her share. Kivuko finished her milk, and then went after Dabassa to settle the score. She caught up with him, and shoved him so hard that he fell to the ground screaming. She then tried to pin him down, but he managed to scramble to his feet and run off rapidly! Kivuko didn’t give up, catching him by the tail, which she put in her mouth and bit. Dabassa bellowed loudly which attracted the Big Girls bringing Lesanju at the double to separate the two naughty youngsters. After this the Keepers called the orphans to order, it being time to browse. They fed calmly until noon when it was time for the Waterhole. Again Dabassa found himself in trouble when he inadvertently stepped on Kenia’s tail. Kenia went after him, but he wisely headed for Lesanju’s protection, knowing that if Kenia caught up with him he would be in trouble! The rest of the day passed calmly.

25 November 2012

The orphans fed quietly all morning until it was time for the mudbath. There Kenia recalled what Dabassa did yesterday, and slowly went up to head but him, sending him away screaming. However, this time she did not go after him, but prevented him from entering the wallow, so he busied himself with a dustbath instead while Kenia, Ndii, Layoni and Rombo had a wonderful time. Meanwhile Panda found a small drying hole at the edge of the main wallow, and enjoyed throwing damp soil over her back and Shimba sat on a log and rubbed his bottom, Until Lesanju decided that it was time to leave.

26 November 2012

Today’s Pushing Games involving Tassia and Taveta also involved Kenia against Sinya, who is much bigger than Kenia who put on a good performance over the bigger girl. Lesanju led her unit out to browse on a very hot day, which prompted to orphans to head off to the Big Waterhole early to cool themselves down. This evening a baby female zebra was brought from Amboseli. It took milk, but it was very weak and sadly died during the night. It would have made a good companion for the resident orphaned zebra called “Lualeni”.

27 November 2012

It was another fun and playful morning for the orphans, filled with happy trumpeting. Lesanju and Lempaute engaged one another while Kenia took on her friend, Ndii and Layoni challenged Shimba. Meanwhile Wasessa and her favourite, Emsaya, enjoyed a dusting session while Mzima scratched his body on the rock near the stockade water trough and Panda played with a stick. The orphans then climbed up Mazinga Hill where there is plenty of food and shade trees for a hot day. They had a lengthy wallow today which lasted a full hour until the Keepers called them to feed instead. The browsed near the waterhole, returning periodically for a quick splash before returning to the Stockades in the evening.

28 November 2012

It was a cooler cloudy day, which the Orphans welcomed. Ndii led the column out to browse. Shimba saw Panda lagging behind, and waited to keep her company. At the mudbath Rombo and Layoni checked the temperature of the water before taking the plunge, followed by the others, except Panda who remained on the edge enjoying the splashes. She does not like going in when the pool is crowded.

29 November 2012

After the Stockade games, Lesanju and Lempaute led the Orphans out to browse, where they encountered a large wild herd who had a tiny newborn calf in their midst, whom Wasessa tried to access, but met a lot of resistance from its Nannies. However, the orphans browsed together with the wild herd until it was time to head to the mudbath. Panda has a swelling on her hind legs, but it does not seem to impair her movements. She kept pace with the others today, returning with them to the Stockades in the evening.

30 November 2012

At 9 a.m. Emily’s and Edie’s Ex Orphan group came to the Stockades to drink, but did not stay long, heading out to search for the Youngsters. They first went to the Middle Waterhole, where they did not find them, but detected their presence when the Youngsters accessed the Big Waterhole. The Ex Orphans hurried there and plunged in without hesitation, which at first scared the Youngsters who began to exit the waterhole, until they realized that it was Emily’s Unit, when they returned to join them. Icholta enjoyed playing with Taveta while Edie engaged Mzima in a wrestling match, after which Mzima took on Mpala and Seraa. Mzima remained with the Ex Orphans for a long time before joining his colleagues as they made their way back in the evening. It was a very Happy Ending to the month.