Keepers' Diaries, November 2013

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Voi Reintegration Unit

For the first half of the month, Panda, Mbirikani and Mudanda, the three smallest Voi orphans, browsed around the Stockade and behind the Malaika House, since the older elephants under the leadership of Lesanju, ably assisted by Big Girl Wasessa and Sinya were having to walk far afield, and climb up Mazinga Hill in order to find sufficient browse to fill their big stomachs. Ndii had a bad experience there on the 8th, when she reached out her trunk to pluck some tasty greens, and disturbed a large Monitor Lizard, freaking her out! She rapidly rushed down the hill to the Keepers, very disturbed by this unexpected encounter. The Lizard was obviously responding to the first few drops of rain which fell on the 2nd.

For the first half of the month, Panda, Mbirikani and Mudanda, the three smallest Voi orphans, browsed around the Stockade and behind the Malaika House, since the older elephants under the leadership of Lesanju, ably assisted by Big Girl Wasessa and Sinya were having to walk far afield, and climb up Mazinga Hill in order to find sufficient browse to fill their big stomachs. Ndii had a bad experience there on the 8th, when she reached out her trunk to pluck some tasty greens, and disturbed a large Monitor Lizard, freaking her out! She rapidly rushed down the hill to the Keepers, very disturbed by this unexpected encounter. The Lizard was obviously responding to the first few drops of rain which fell on the 2nd.

During one of the hill sorties, the Keepers were thrilled to come across their Ex orphaned lesser kudu female called “Shia” suckling her newborn calf and later another success, hand-reared kudu “Aruba” who now has two wild-born calves! This month the Keepers are rearing a young male eland orphan who remains around the Stockades along with their zebra orphan named “Lualeni” who browses alongside what is known as “the invalids” who feed closer to home.

Whilst Lesanju is the recognized Matriarch of the Voi orphans, Big Girl Wasessa who is bigger in size, is a very respected disciplinarian with a tendency towards greed and selfishness at the morning supplement hand-outs. For instance, when Tassia was head-butted by Sinya and accidentally bumped into Wasessa, so desperate was he to escape the wrath of Wasessa that he barged into Rombo, Layoni, Dabassa and Kenia in quick succession in desperation to escape and whom Wasessa punished instead. For that she was sent for “time out” by the Keepers for her lack of tolerance to what was clearly an accident!
A highlight of the month was being able to extract an elephant calf from the mud of the leaking Mombasa pipeline on the 5th, as the mother elephant stood by, hampering the exercise by constantly charging the vehicle to which the bogged calf had to be attached by a rope. However, the Keepers managed to pull the calf free, and were very happy to see it walking away with its elephant mother, having their hands quite full enough with 16 Keeper Dependent elephants in their care and three Ex Nursery graduates expected in a few days’ time. However, before the arrival of the Nairobi contingent , the Keepers undertook two further rescues on the 9th - the yearling female calf from Crocodile Camp on Galana Ranch, named Bissemballa” who had a poisoned arrow wound on her thigh and subsequently died in the Nursery from the affects of arrow poison. (Later that month 7 elephants were found poached on Galana Ranch, among them probably the mother of Bissemballa). The other rescue on that same day was that of yearling “Mbololo”, who was spotted alone near the Mbololo dry riverbed by the Trust’s aerial surveillance plane, with a poached mother nearby. Due to accommodation constraints in the Nairobi Nursery, it was decided to keep Mbololo at Voi and complete her milk dependent period there. Although initially very wild and stressed, she took milk the next day which was a good sign.

The arrival of the three Ex Nursery orphans – (Kihari, Naipoki and Ishaq-B) on the l0th generated great excitement amongst the Voi orphans. They were greeted first by Panda, Mbirikani and Mudanda and then by the main Keeper Dependent group. Then, as though anticipating the arrival of newcomers, Emily’s Ex Orphan unit turned up on the 12th having been absent since June, Ex Orphan Burra arriving ahead of them the night before, trumpeting his presence to alert the Keepers. Everyone was delighted to welcome Burra, who had not been seen for about 2 years, so it was a celebration to find him well, as were all of Emily’s unit. Meanwhile, the Nairobi orphans were feeling the heat of Tsavo, and were spending a lot of time under shade, or at the mudbath. It was interesting that the first thing Emily did upon arrival after greeting them was to escort them to the Stockade mudbath, aware of their discomfort.

With Emily’s Ex Orphan Unit was her calf, Eve, Edie and her wild-born calf “Ella”, Sweet Sally, Thoma, Mweya, Icholta, Seraa, and Ndara (the poisoned arrow wound on her foot that rendered her an invalid at the Stockades for many months, now fully healed) along with Bulls Irima, Laikipia, Tsavo, Lolokwe and a surprise a little while later, none other than Siria who came with a wild friend had not been seen for a very long time, and who was the last to upgrade himself from human dependency to a wild life. He immediately went in search of his best friend, Mzima, who was browsing near the fence line, and when the two were reunited, there was an immensely joyous elephant greeting.

When Emily’s Ex Orphan unit departed, Siria remained with his friend Mzima and spent the day browsing with Lesanju’s Keeper Dependent orphans and when they returned in the evening, he was tempted to go back into the Stockade with them, but changed his mind at the last moment, and instead spent the night outside. Come morning, however, he was there to accompany them out to browse, but later met up with Emily’s unit on the Hill, when Siria peeled off and rejoined them.

That day Ex Orphan Lissa came to the Stockades with her four calves, also having been absent for many moons.

The Voi Keepers were called upon to undertake another elephant orphan rescue on the 14th, this time of the calf subsequently named “Tarhi” who was spotted alone on the Voi river by a film Unit. The female calf was flown to the Nairobi Nursery that day.

By the 16th the Nairobi orphans, Naipoki, Kihari and Ishaq-B were much more settled, and had learnt the routine of their new home, even given the privilege of sharing the morning supplements unheeded with Wasessa! But, it was Ndii who paid them most attention, and who was also most interested in little Mbololo, who was now allowed to join the Junior group. With new green browse following rain, food was more plentiful, and the Big Waterhole replenished with rainwater, so a lot of fun was had there each day, particularly when there were warthog occupants to expel!

The Ex Orphans met up again with the Juniors on the 20th when Dabassa challenged Edie’s calf, Ella, to a Pushing Match, which was interrupted by Thoma, one of little Ella’s Ex Orphan Nannies. Emily enjoyed a sparring match with Mzima for a while, until Tassia took over her position. On that day the Ex Orphans hung around the Stockades long after the Juniors had left for the field. The next day only a Splinter Group of Ex Orphans turned up first, namely Thoma, Seraa, Ndara, Mweya escorted by Lolokwe, now a Big Boy but they were soon followed by Edie and Ella. Kivuko engaged Ella in a Pushing Game.

A few days later (23rd) the Ex Orphans arrived in a rush, eager not to miss the morning hand-out. Seraa, Thoma and Icholta were most interested in the Juniors, interacting with them a great deal, which did not suit Lesanju, who is often suspicious of their motives, especially as Icholta was paying a lot of attention to little Mudanda, and Thoma to Panda and then Kihari. Meanwhile Sweet Sally was with Naipoki and Seraa with Mbirikani. Edie played with Dabassa, watched by her daughter, Ella.

The last rescue the Keepers were involved in this month was that of Little MacKinnon, from Rukinga Ranch near MacKinnon Road, who was flown to the Nairobi Nursery.

November 2013 day to day

01 Nov

After the orphans had enjoyed their morning supplements, Panda and her friends remaining away from the Bigger Orphans to avoid being pushed around, Lesanju led the unit out to browse. There they split into two groups, Kenia taking all the milk dependent Youngsters with her to browse close to where they noon milk feed would occur, while Lesanju accompanied by Wasessa, Sinya, Mzima and Lempaute browsed the slopes of Mazinga Hill. Panda, Mbirikani and Mudanda cooled themselves at the Stockade wallow having taken their ration of milk and having taken theirs, the Junior orphans joined the older ones at the foot of Mazinga hill. Shia (a lesser kudu female reared by the Voi Keepers) was suckling her calf there when the elephants arrived, but they paid no attention to her, probably remembering that she used to be one of them. Another Kudu female reared by the Keepers named “Aruba” was sited with her second calf, the firstborn being very shy of the Keepers.

Panda and co having a nice dust bath

Orphans at the foot of the hill

Aruba and her new baby

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