Keepers' Diaries, November 2013
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.
01 November 2013
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.
02 November 2013
There was drama this morning when Tassia was head-butted by Sinya and accidentally bumped into Big Girl Wasessa as she was enjoying her morning supplements. She turned sharply to punish him, but instead sent him barging into Rombo, Layoni, Dabassa and Kenia while trying to escape. The air was then filled with elephant screams as the four fled the wrath of Wasessa, forcing the Keepers to intervene and restore order, and punish Wasessa by barring her from the Lucerne. Lesanju led the orphans to the lower grounds where zebras, impala, kudus and a small herd of wild elephants were feeding. Taveta and Rombo charged the impalas, who merely leapt around confusing the two naughty boys, who then engaged one another in a wrestling match which ended in defeat for Rombo. At 4.30 the first raindrops fell, leaving the orphans in a high state of excitement, while Panda, Mbirikani and Mudanda sheltered in their stockade.
03 November 2013
Having browsed the slopes of Mazinga Hill all morning, Lesanju led her unit to the Big Waterhole in the afternoon, where all had a lot of fun wallowing, Rombo proving his skills by loosening the banks and throwing mud behind his ears. Whilst exiting he wallow Layoni accidentally touched Sinya in a sensitive spot, which infuriated her and made her confront Layoni with outspread ears which sent him fleeing, fearing retribution. Thereafter he trailed the herd, all the while keeping a close eye on Sinya!
04 November 2013
On a hot day, the orphans were at the mudbath venue by l0.30 a.m., all having a wonderful wallow. Lesanju was first out followed by Kivuko to the dustbath area while Dabassa and Layoni took to kicking the empty drinking bins when they emerged later. All then moved to the slopes of Mazinga hill to browse until it was time to return in the evening.
05 November 2013
After browsing the slopes of the hill Tassia led the orphans to the waterhole and was first to notice some warthogs enjoying a wallow whom he soon dispatched, their tails held erect like aerials! The day progressed quietly until the Keepers were called to help extract a small elephant calf from the mud of a waterhole, the elephant mother having failed, and who was still standing by helplessly. With the help of the Trust Pickup and the expertise of the Keepers, the calf was pulled free and reunited with its distraught mother, who kept charging the vehicle and impeding the rescue.
06 November 2013
Having enjoyed their morning supplements, the orphans played their usual stockade games, Layoni and Dabassa embroiled in a tough wrestling match which attracted Taveta and Rombo, who teamed up to disrupt the game of Layoni and Dabassa. Meanwhile the girls played charging games against the baboons, who are always in attendance when the Dairy Cubes are out for the elephants. Lesanju then led her unit out to browse, while Kenia and the milk dependent babies headed for their milk at noon and enjoyed a wallow until the older group joined them. Sinya led them back to browse the hill afterwards.
07 November 2013
Dabassa always likes to be first out of his Stockade each morning, and was angry when Kivuko blocked him, butting her hard. Kivuko waited for Dabassa outside and engaged him in a tough retaliatory fight that had to be interrupted by a Keeper. Feeling guilty as the aggressor, Kivuko was careful to avoid the Big Girls, Wasessa and Lesanju in case they had witnessed the incident. Kivuko and Dabassa have never been on good terms. Tassia initiated Panda into a wrestling game which went on for a long time, and which Panda greatly enjoyed. Later Lesanju led the orphans to Mazinga hill where they browsed amidst the rocks until it was time to head to the Big Waterhole for the mudbath and a dustbath after which they browsed around the waterhole, popping back in from time to time to cool off.
08 November 2013
Panda, Mbirikani and Mudanda left the Stockades first, ahead of the boys, who often try to mount them. Lesanju then led the group to the hill to browse, Ndii leading the herd higher up, kicking rocks out of the way to make passage for the others easier. It was a very hot day so Kenia, Kivuko and Taveta came down and sheltered under shade, while Ndii undertook a tour of the hill. She happened upon a nice patch of greens, but when she stretched her trunk, a giant monitor lizard jumped up, which scared her witless and send her rushing down the slope to join the others. All enjoyed the mudbath today.
09 November 2013
Having inspected the Stockades to see whether there were any leftovers worth having, Lesanju led the orphans to the hill. Kivuko enjoys feeding apart from the others, until Lempaute decided to browse the eastern slopes, and led the herd there. Meanwhile, the Voi Keepers undertook two elephant rescues today – the first a young calf found near Crocodile Camp on the Sabaki river which was airlifted to Nairobi from the Sala airstrip. The second rescue was a young calf near Mbololo, spotted by the Trust’s pilot as he overflew the area, standing beside her dead mother, a pride of lions watching her closely nearby, who the Pilot dovebombed and chased off as the Keepers were closing in. The calf was loaded onto the Pickup truck and driven to the Voi Stockade where she was put in a holding pen near Panda, Mbirikani and Mudanda. She has been named “Mbololo”.
10 November 2013
Lesanju led her unit to browse the West side of the hill, not far from the Stockades, since new arrivals were expected top arrive around 11 a.m. from the Nairobi Nursery. Little Mbololo, after her first night at the Stockades, was very disturbed by the activity around the Stockades preparing for the new arrivals, who pulled in on time. Kihari, Ishaq-B and Naipoki emerged, and were given milk before being introduced to the younger orphans and since they were feeling the heat, led to the Stockade mudbath to cool off. Then Lesanju and the older orphans came in and excitedly surrounded the new arrivals. After the usual greetings, the herd was led to the hill, where the new arrivals sought shade, still feeling the heat. Back at the Stockades in the evening, they needed another mudbath to cool off before going in for the night, passing by Mbololo in her Stockade, who rumbled a greeting.
11 November 2013
Naipoki, Kihari and Ishaq-B, having spent their first night in Tsavo, were led to the milk and hand-outs by Panda, Mbirikani and Mudanda, Mbololo meanwhile bent on trying to get the Keeper who spent the night in her enclosure down from the bunk! However, she took milk from the bottle through the bars of the gate which is a positive sign. Meanwhile the newcomers spent the day with the Panda trio near the Stockades, where they could enjoy the mudbath and cool down during the day. Lesanju’s group browsed around the hill until Rombo led them to the Big Waterhole where all enjoyed the wallow and dustbath as usual.
Ex Orphan Burra, who had not been seen for about 2 years, turned up during the night, and got the attention of the Keepers by trumpeting. We were all thrilled to see him again.
12 November 2013
As though getting the message about the arrival of new babies from Nairobi, Ex Orphan Emily and her unit, who are now living wild, and who have been absent since June, arrived at the Stockades first thing in the morning. With Emily was her calf, Eve, Edie and her calf, Ella, Sweet Sally, Thoma, Irima, Morani, Mweya, Lolokwe, Icholta, Laikipia, Tsavo, Seraa, Ndara and some others who were all eager to meet the newcomers.
A surprise for the Keepers was the presence of Siria who has also been away for about 2 years having upgraded himself from the Keeper Dependent unit. He turned up later with Burra and a wild friend. The compound was filled with excited trumpets and rumbles as the Ex Orphans and the resident group greeted each other, Emily going to meet Mbololo in her Holding Pen, followed by Thoma, Icholta, Seraa and a few other females. Having checked on Mbololo, Emily and her group led Naipoki, Kihari, Ishaq-B, Panda and Mudanda to the Stockade waterhole for a wallow, understanding that they were hot.
Meanwhile the attention of the Keepers was focused on Burra and Siria whom they had not seen for a long time, Siria having grown a great deal, and obviously enjoying his wild life. Having quenched his thirst he walked around to greet his old pals who were busy with Emily’s group and then went to look for his best friend, Mzima, who was busy browsing near the car park. When the two saw each other, they rumbled at the top of their voices and rushed forward to hug each other with their trunks before browsing together near the fence line, side by side.
When Emily led the Ex Orphans off, Siria opted to remain with Mzima and went with the Junior orphans to browse the west of the hill. In the evening, he was tempted to go into the Stockade with Lesanju and her group, but changed his mind at the last minute, and after taken a drink, he headed back out into the bush.
Meanwhile Lissa and her family also visited the Stockades to quench their thirst, and spend about an hour there before browsing the slopes of the Hill.
13 November 2013
Having spent yesterday with Lesanju’s group browsing the hill, Siria remained in the vicinity during the night and came to the Stockades at dawn waiting for the Keeper Dependent orphans to emerge. First to greet him at the compound were Kihari and Mudanda on their way to their milk feed, after which Siria enjoyed some Copra cake waiting for the others to come out. Having taken their milk, the 3 Nairobi babies walked up and down Lesanju’s Stockade until the Gate was opened, when she came to greet them and escort them to the trough for a drink. Meanwhile Mbololo greedily downed her milk, trying to snatch the entire bottle from the Keeper while Kihari and Rombo enjoyed a Pushing Match. The orphans then headed to the Hill to browse, intercepted by Emily’s Ex Orphan group who were coming to the Stockade trough to drink. Trumpets and rumbled filled the air with elephant greetings, before the two groups separated, Siria rejoining the Ex Orphan herd. At noon the Juniors enjoyed a lengthy wallow at the Big Waterhole.
14 November 2013
Today the Juniors browsed the eastern side of the hill, Naipoki, Kihari Ishaq-B, Mudanda and Panda browsing close to Wasessa and Lesanju, who are becoming very caring of the younger orphans. Panda has always been Wasessa’s favourite, and now that she is among Lesanju’s older group, she remains so. Meanwhile Mbirikani and Mudanda feed away from the rest, eager to avoid the Junior boys, Dabassa, Tassia, Taveta and Tomboi who try to mount them. Today Naipoki, Kihari and Ishaq-B decided to climb the hill where they browsed happily, until there was a phone alert about another rescue, this time an orphan spotted by a film unit near Tarhi camp on the Voi river.
The Keepers scrambled the rescue team, and having spotted the lone orphan, captured it within just two minutes. The calf was thin, and in need of a drip, which was inserted into an ear vein back at the Stockade. The calf was named “Tarhi” and was later airlifted to the Nairobi Nursery.
15 November 2013
After a peaceful night and a jubilant reunion in the morning, Kenia led the orphans westwards to browse, which was a new area for the Nairobi orphans who kept close to the Keepers, Lesanju, Wasessa, and Sinya at the back of the column, which had to circumnavigate rocks and the electric fence on the way. Today the mudbath took place back at the Stockades, since the Big Waterhole was too far and the orphans had to shelter under trees beforehand. Afternoon browsing took place around the base of the hill, when Kihari, Naipoki and Ishaq-B remained close to Lesanju and Wasessa, before all returned for the night.
16 November 2013
Naipoki, Ishaq-B and Kihari have now made many friends, and are happy to be here. Kihari has befriended Rombo, with whom she enjoys wrestling while Ishaq-B loves little Mudanda and Naipoki joined Lesanju, Wasessa and Mzima picking flowers up that dropped from the tree near the Canteen. Taveta and Tassia settled an old score to determine who is strongest. Dabassa took to chasing off the baboons, while Mbirikani took to her heels, thinking he might be after her! Ndii went to check on Mbololo, always most interested in newcomers, and Mbololo ran to greet her through the bars. When Lesanju rumbled that it was time to leave, all instantly obeyed that command.
17 November 2013
Kihari and Mudanda were honoured to be allowed to eat the supplements with Wasessa and the older group, previously having taken their share apart from the older elephants, Naipoki moving around to taste the hand-out at each corner while Dabassa did the baboon guard duty. One male baboon chased Mbirikani from her share, but she returned to charge him and send him packing! Mbololo is still in the Holding Pen, not yet calm enough to handle, although she takes her milk readily from a Keeper, but then charges him when it is finished! The Keepers understand after all she has been through in her short life.
Meanwhile head Keeper, Joseph Sauni got a message that some elephants were on nearby community land and fearing that it could be Emily’s Ex Orphan unit, he drove to the area. He was happy to come across the Ex Orphans on the way, who were not the guilty party, Burra and Siria among them. The Juniors spotted some wild elephants heading towards the drinking bins near the Big Waterhole, and hurried to get there ahead of the wild herd, who end up emptying the bins.
18 November 2013
Soon after 8.40 a.m. the Juniors were already browsing the hill, so when it was time for their milk towards noon, the Pickup Truck took their milk ration to them on the hill. Naipoki and her Nairobi friends headed to the Big waterhole at 11.30 a.m. since they feel the heat of Tsavo. At the bins the Nairobi orphans sucked up trunk-fulls of water to spray behind their ears while Mbirikani drank from the waterhole. When the rest of the herd arrived, the Nairobi trio joined Mbirikani at the waterhole, enjoying a wallow until the bigger elephants came in, Wasessa giving the Youngsters a demonstration of how to loosen soil from the banks for dusting. She then allowed the babies to rub themselves against her.
Having browsed during the afternoon, the orphans headed back to the Stockades around 4.30 p.m. where Mbololo had been allowed out of the Holding Pen and was investigating her surroundings. She seemed a little restless, but when the others arrived, she settled down and fed on greens alongside them.
19 November 2013
While the orphans were enjoying their morning supplements, Rombo and Tassia engaged one another in a thrilling wrestling match, while Dabassa tried to mount Mbirikani, but was thwarted b the Keepers. Tassia then chased after Dabassa and tried to mount him, Dabassa had to struggle hard to free himself before running away. Tassia then went to find Taveta and challenge him, ambushing Taveta who was browsing next to Rombo. Lesanju noticed all these boy antics, and helped Taveta free himself, chasing off Tassia who was pursued by Taveta, bent on revenge! Rombo then joined in, and both he and Tassia targeted Taveta. With all the boys satisfied, they followed the main group who were heading out to browse in the main Park led by Lempaute. On their way to the waterhole at noon, they bypassed by a wild herd, who were not overly friendly and all had a wonderful time in the wallow. The return journey began at 3.30, since the orphans had far to go, Kenia leading the way.
20 November 2013
The Ex Orphans joined the Juniors as they were taking their morning supplements, all scooping up as much as they possibly could while they could. Dabassa then engaged Emily’s calf, Eve, in a wresting game which attracted Rombo and Taveta. When Thoma saw the boys taking on Eve, she came to the rescue. Meanwhile Mzima and Emily were playing a Pushing Game, Emily not using all her strength understanding that Mzima is still young. He continued pushing even after Emily broke away, so Tassia came in and took over from her. Meanwhile Naipoki, Kihari and Ishaq-B were picking up all the left-over crumbs while Lesanju led the rest of the group away from the Ex Orphans, whom she thinks might hijack some of her herd. While Laikipia and several of the other Ex Orphans picked up the flowers from the Canteen tree, Kivuko engaged Edie’s calf in a Pushing Bout.
After Lesanju led her group away, the Ex Orphans remained at the compound for another hour. At the noon mudbath Tassia and Taveta enjoyed wrestling in the pool, and Mbirikani waited until all had left the water, before going in.
21 November 2013
Ex Orphans Thoma, Seraa, Ndara, Mweya and Lolokwe came first as a Splinter Group to the Stockade in the morning. They shared the hand-out with the Youngsters peacefully. Next to arrive was Edie and her calf, Ella. Kivuko engaged Ella again in a Pushing Game which went on until Edie and the others left, obviously heading back to where they had left Emily.
Meanwhile the Juniors browsed up the hill, enjoyed their usual mudbath, and were led back in the evening by Kihari.
22 November 2013
It was a quiet day for the Juniors, Layoni demonstrating his rock scratching ability at the Stockade before leaving. At the waterhole Kivuko chased a couple of warthog visitors around the pool. Later they all browsed around the waterhole, and before heading back home, had another brief wallow to cool themselves down.
23 November 2013
As the Juniors were enjoying the morning supplements and Stockade games, Emily’s Ex Orphans arrived in a rush, Seraa, Thoma, Mweya and Icholta paid more attention to the Juniors. Icholta had a soft spot for Mudanda and later engaged Tassia and Mzima in a head butting encounter, while Thoma focused on Panda. Meanwhile Lesanju was anxious about the Ex Orphans fraternizing with members of “her” family and went to intervene. Thoma then embraced Kihari while Sweet Sally went for Naipoki and Seraa for Mbirikani. Edie played with Dabassa while little Ella looked on. Eventually, Lesanju managed to round up her herd, and left for the browsing area, where all went according to plan for the remainder of the day.
24 November 2013
Today Wasessa decided to replace Mudanda in her affections for the new Mbololo, who went out with the herd for the first time today. There was a tussle between the two babies, but Mudanda had to give way, because Wasessa was focused on Mbololo.
25 November 2013
It was a cool morning today, so the orphans made the most of browsing up the hill until it was time for the milk and a mudbath. None of the orphans wallowed due to the weather.
Another elephant rescue today, this time of a baby from a village near MacKinnon road who was airlifted to the Nairobi Nursery. He was named MacKinnon.
26 November 2013
As the orphans browsed half way up the hill today, Kenia and Ndii paid a lot of attention to little Mbololo. At the noon mudbath Wasessa was very attentive to Mbololo ensuring that none of the others had her all to themselves.
27 November 2013
Today, it was the turn of Tassia to pay Mbololo a great deal of attention, which was unusual for a boy, so the Keepers kept a close eye on him to ensure that he did not try to mount the baby.
28 November 2013
Sinya and the rest of the older orphans in Lesanju’s group arrived after the smaller elephants were already in the noon wallow. Mzima was last to arrive, having been occupied browsing up the Hill. There was a lot of activity in the wallow, Wasessa, Sinya and Lesanju digging away the banks to enlarge it so that it could accommodate them all comfortably while Ndii entertained Kivuko, Dabassa and Rombo, climbing the banks and rolling down as her three friends watched.
Layoni, who had annoyed Sinya a day or two ago, was scared when he found himself close to her. Thinking that she might exact revenge, he ran to Wasessa for protection.
29 November 2013
The orphans browsed around the Big Waterhole today. Kihari, Ishaq-B and Naipoki happened to be close to the road when the Pickup brought the orphans’ midday milk, so they had their bottles first and then rushed to the waterhole to cool off, Kihari kicking and splashing the water, copies by Naipoki and Ishaq-B who did the same. By the time the older elephants arrived, the three Nairobi babies were already taking a dustbath.
30 November 2013
At four the orphans arrived at the Big Waterhole, four warthogs were enjoying time there and were chased out. One of the group then returned and almost got caught unawares by Tassia, who pretended to be heading for soil dusting, but did a quick about turn and was within inches of the target!! The big jinked sideways and ran off, with Kenia and Ndii tempted to follow but instead Taveta left the wallow to check that the warthogs had really left, after which he returned and continued to enjoy himself in the pool.