Keepers' Diaries, November 2016

Voi Reintegration Unit

The rain was delayed reaching the Voi area of Tsavo and as such many of the Ex Orphans continued to frequent the stockade to share the lucerne supplement with the juniors, as well as the water trough and mudwallow as well. There was just a sprinkling of a few light showers throughout the month until the weather changed around the 23rd when the real rains broke. Lesanju’s group, consisting of Dabassa, Sinya and Kivuko, Mzima, Layoni, Lempaute and occasionally Taveta and Tassia, chose to often interact with the dependent orphans, much to the disappointment of Kenia, who, despite being only 9 years old, still chooses to lead the dependent herd as their mini-matriarch. She especially wants to keep her adopted babies Araba and Mudanda to herself, but Lesanju adores Mudanda, and vice versa, and often spirits her away from Kenia’s group whenever she can, bringing her back to the stockades in the afternoon. Nelion and Tundani are two dependent orphans that are particularly partial to the company of the Ex Orphans, and despite Kenia’s efforts, they will try and propel the others towards them to browse whenever they can. Mbirikani can often be seen leading the other orphans alongside Nelion and these two in fact spend a lot of time together during the day. We were very relieved to have Lesanju and her Ex Orphan group stay close to home in the difficult drought months when the conditions were taking its toll with a number of wild elephants dying as a result.

01 November 2016

The morning was cloudy with light rain touching the ground as the stockade dependant orphans assembled for their delicious milk bottle before proceeding for the special Lucerne pellets, dairy cubes and copra cake. A short while later Lesanju, Taveta, Tassia, Dabassa, Sinya and Kivuko arrived and joined them for the supplement feeding. Lempaute, Mzima and Layoni were missing from Lesanju’s herd. After feeding, Mudanda moved closer to her adopted mother Lesanju. Lesanju’s gentleness and her character are what made Mudanda choose her to browse with today. Once out in the browsing fields Kenia separated her herd from the Ex Orphans who headed further afield to browse. The two herds did not meet up again for the rest of the day.

02 November 2016

It was another happy beginning to the day with the stockade dependant orphans drinking their milk bottle in a rush and heading to the browsing grounds after feeding on the supplement foods. We received a report of a wild elephant calf that was trapped in the Aruba lodge water hole with its mother and family standing around exhausted, after all their efforts to pull her out of the thick mud proved to be futile. A rescue team from both the Voi stockade and the vet unit arrived and were able to successfully rescue the calf and reunite it with its family. Soon after rescuing the calf we received another report of a second calf that was over five years which had been knocked down by a truck while attempting to cross the road. The orphan suffered three broken ribs and was a lot of pain. It was rescued and brought to the stockade for more intensive care and treatment. The calf has been named Ajali.

03 November 2016

When morning came Ajali who had been rescued yesterday was unable to get back to her feet and the keepers put her on a drip and ad minister pain killers and a long acting antibiotic before helping her to her feet. Mbirikani and Ishaq-B went to greet her before having their milk bottle and supplement feed. The Ex Orphan group members of Lesanju’s herd Kivuko, Dabassa, Mzima, Layoni, Lempaute and Sinya were present at the stockades today so Kenia took her group to the browsing fields earlier than normal leaving the seniors feeding on the Lucerne grass pellets. The drought has become worse with another orphan elephant being reported to the team. The calf had been seen round the Sobo rock area yesterday evening. Despite efforts by the vet unit and stockade rescue team they found the calf dead, believed to have been killed by poachers.

04 November 2016

Lesanju was the earliest caller at the stockades this morning. Mudanda is once again seeking parental care from Lesanju, after a long period of separation, and is embracing her as her own matriarchal mother. Naipoki and Kihari took the lead towards the browsing grounds with Kenia keen on blocking her baby Araba from interacting with Lesanju. The orphans headed to the water hole at noon, with Rorogoi, Ndoria, Bada and Mashariki amongst the first group. After the milk feed, the four moved to the water hole with Ndoria plunging into the central part of the water while the other three waited for the rest of the herd to arrive. Lentili secured a golden opportunity to interact with Araba after the mud bath while Kenia was busy watching Lesanju and Mudanda’s interaction. Ndii became a mud bathing star, wooing Mudanda who became a spectator for her wonderful buttock scratching games on the walls of the water hole. Bada wanted to challenge her and jumped into the game, sitting next to Ndii for a wonderful scratching session. The rest of the days browsing activities took place close to the water hole for the rest of the day.

05 November 2016

The day started on a high note when the stockade dependant orphans came out of the stockades with great energy, drinking a morning milk bottle and settling for the highly nutritious special Lucerne pellets and dairy cubes. They then left for the browsing grounds under the careful leadership of Ishaq-B and Kihari. Nelion and Mbirikani took over in the field, leading them up Msinga Hill for the mornings browsing session. Naipoki sneaked away from the rest, came down the hill and headed towards the water hole, twenty minutes earlier than normal. Mashariki saw her and started to follow her. As soon as she realized that it was too early to be going to the mudbath she took refuge from the scorching sun under a small tree. Naipoki placed herself in the perfect position grabbing her afternoon milk bottle well in advance of the others. She was followed by Bada, Mudanda, Ndoria and Embu who stopped a short distance from Naipoki demanding their milk be availed to them where they were. The rest of the orphans arrived in groups of four enjoying their milk bottle before proceeding to the water hole where they had a lot of fun in mud bathing games.

06 November 2016

The morning was good with Kenia communicating with Panda, Naipoki, Ndii and Kihari about Lesanju’s presence and interaction with their group. Today Lempaute, Mzima and Layoni were missing from Lesanju’s herd which visited the stockade in the morning. After a careful evaluation of their options a decision was made and they all started heading to the browsing grounds, en mass, leaving Lesanju’s herd at the stockade to enjoy their share of supplement foods. The day went on well, but the two herds did not link up again. The stockade dependant orphans moved to the middle water hole at noon for milk, water and a mudbath. Tundani and Nelion remained in the water, engaged in a tough bathing competition, when the rest had already left. Ndii challenged their game by rolling around in the water. Mudanda enjoyed a scratching session against a tree stump until Naipoki came over and tried to take her place. The rest of the days browsing activities took place close to the big water hole.

07 November 2016

It was a wonderful morning with the stockade dependant orphans peacefully drinking their milk bottle with Kihari, Panda and Mashariki passing by and greeting Ajali who is getting stronger with each passing day. Rorogoi was left behind this morning as the others moved towards the water hole. This embarrassed Rorogoi who had to run to catch up with the rest of the group who were on the lower grounds of the Msinga Hill heading to the water hole. In a wonderful noon mud bath, Kenia had a brilliant bathing moment with Ndii and Naipoki. Bada and Ishaq-B show cased their expertise with a buttock rubbing game on the walls of the water hole. Lentili admired Rorogoi’s rolling games in the dustbath, before joining the others who were headed towards the northern side of Msinga Hill for the afternoon browsing session, before returning to the stockades for the night.

08 November 2016

It was a perfect morning and the orphans played lots of games after successfully feeding on milk and supplements. Lesanju, Tassia and Taveta who had separated themselves from the rest of their herd visited the stockade as soon as the orphans had drunk their morning milk bottle. Ndoria invited Taveta for a drink at the stockade water trough and they had a wonderful moment in each other’s company. Bada went to show off some buttock scratching game on a rock boulder. Ishaq-B later got jealous and came in to expel Bada from the scratching position, taking it for herself. Kenia was in a hurry to take her herd away from the three in Lesanju’s herd and lead them to the browsing grounds. In the afternoon, Kivuko, who seems to have isolated herself from the rest, arrived at the water hole without a companion, a few minutes before the arrival of the stockade dependant orphan elephants. Lesanju, Taveta and Tassia arrived ten minutes later. The entire group enjoyed drinking bathing and interacting with one another before they all returned to the fields for the rest of the days browsing activities.

09 November 2016

It was a nice beginning to the day with Lesanju, Tassia, Taveta, Dabassa, Sinya and Kivuko coming and joining the stockade dependant orphans in supplement feeding. Dabassa engaged Panda in a game with Dabasa getting extra excited as he enjoyed a buttock scratching session on the rock boulder close to the stockade water trough. The two herds parted ways when Lesanju’s herd headed towards the Mzima-Mombasa water pipeline in search of browse. Kenia’s herd had a peaceful browsing moment on the northern side of the stockade before visiting the middle water hole in the afternoon where they met up with a friendly wild elephant teenage bull. Tundani moved forward to welcome him into the orphans herd. The orphans then escorted him to drink clean water from the half drum barrels before following him briefly in his browsing activities. Embu wanted to head off with the wild bull but changed her mind, staying with the orphan herd when the bull left for the Voi river circuit.

10 November 2016

The morning was wonderful with the stockade dependent orphans concentrating on their milk and supplement feeding in the stockade before moving to the browsing grounds. The orphans browsed in single file, visiting the middle water hole in groups of four for their milk bottle. It is amazing to see how Kivuko is becoming an outgoing and independent elephant. She came on her own again to join the stockade dependent orphans for a mudbath. When the orphans were in the middle of their mudbath, a wild herd of elephants arrived and they had a small calf among them. Its sisters and brothers were very possessive blocking the orphan elephant’s from accessing the calf the whole time they were together.

11 November 2016

It was a nice beginning to another day with the milk and supplement feeding taking priority ahead of the socializing games; then the orphans enjoyed lying down and rolling around on the red soil piles in the stockade compound. Mashariki and Lentili took the leadership role today with Mbirikani and Nelion taking over in the field leading them to browse half way up the eastern side of Msinga Hill. The weather was cloudy today creating a perfect browsing environment for all of them for the whole of the day. The drought situation is really biting the Tsavo conservation area and another victim of the drought was reported to the team. The calf was orphaned as he kept collapsing and could not keep up with his herd. The calf is approximately 4 months old and was rescued in the Aruba area. He was brought to the Voi stockade and later air lifted to the Nairobi nursery.

12 November 2016

We received another report of an orphan elephant calf almost three years old with a spear wound at the stockade this morning by the Trusts vet unit. The orphan was in the Alia area inside the Salt Lick Wildlife Sanctuary in Taita hills. The orphan elephant calf was also seen by the owner of Lualeni tented camp. The calf appeared desperate for milk, water and company, hence the need for the Trust’s vet unit to rush there and treat and rescue it. The search for the orphan calf went on for a whole day as it had moved on by the time the rescue team arrived at the sanctuary. This same orphan elephant calf was again seen at 7pm by a tour driver doing a nocturnal game drive in the sanctuary. The Voi stockade was again called and a rescue team headed off to try and capture the calf. Sadly due to it being night they were unable to find the calf and after three hours of searching the rescue operation had to be called off.

13 November 2016

The keeper’s were on alert today as they waited for news from the Trusts pilot and air craft that went into the Alia area at first light to locate the lonely and vulnerable calf that has been on its own for at least two days. The rescue team kept their fingers crossed the whole night that the orphan would survive the night and not fall prey to lions. Their prayers were answered at 6.20am when the Trust pilot located the orphan and together with the Ziwani de-snaring team were able to keep a close eye on it as they waited for the stockade rescue team. The rescue operation was planned carefully, keeping in mind every single situation as this orphan elephant was quite big and older than the other orphans that the team have rescued. The rescue team is highly experienced undertaking rescue operations and was able to quickly capture and restrain the calf. The orphans wound was treated before the orphan was loaded into the canter and transported to the Voi stockades where she was welcomed by the resident orphan elephant Nguvu. The new orphan has been called Alia and during the night the stockade dependant orphans kept on approaching her giving her comfort and assurance that she was in safe hands.

14 November 2016

Alia’s chances of survival are good as she did not collapse at all during the night. As the orphans headed out for the day they each stopped by her stockade to greet her and touch her giving her more assurance and comfort before they went about their daily activities. Araba, Mashariki, Suswa and Arruba have a soft spot for Alia and would have liked to stay with her at the stockades but they had to go out and browse in the fields with the rest of the group. The keepers noticed that aside from Alia’s spear wound; she had quite a few scratches around her buttocks from a possible lion attack too. She was initially aggressive towards the keepers but upon seeing that Nguvu was comfortable with them and was happy to get his milk bottles from them, she quickly realized that the keepers were there to help her rather than harm her. She took her milk from a bucket which helped boost her energy as did the lush green grass, Lucerne, Lucerne pellets and diary cubes that were given to her. Nguvu and Alia spent a lot of time communicating with one another from their respective stockades during the course of the day. A normal monitoring patrol revealed that Lempaute, Sinya, Mzima and Layoni have separated from Lesanju’s herd and have moved back to the Ngutuni sanctuary to enjoy feeding on the shooting up grewia branches which have sprouted following the recent rain showers. The rest of Lesanju’s herd all enjoy browsing around the Msinga Hill area.

15 November 2016

The day began well with the orphans coming out of their stockades in a happy mood. They gulped down their milk bottle before settling down to feed on their favorite special Lucerne grass pellets and copra cake where they were joined by Lesanju and Taveta. There were not many baby games at the stockade as Lesanju took the lead of the orphan herd to the browsing fields. Kihari, Kenia, Araba, Ndii, Mbirikani and Panda managed to separate themselves from the rest of the group making Lesanju keep everyone browsing at the base of the hill. Just before noon Lesanju and Taveta left the stockade dependant orphans and headed towards the water pipeline where the other members of her herd were believed to be browsing. Kenia and the rest then linked up with the rest of the orphans and they all headed to the waterhole. After a peaceful milk feeding session there was a lot of fun in the mud bathing games with Nelion and Bada taking on one another for some wonderful buttock scratching games. Ishaq-B started some amazing ‘lying on the wall games’ with Mbirikani copying her. Suswa stayed out of water and enjoyed standing on the sidelines splashing water over herself. Naipoki and Mashariki went for a scratching session against a fallen tree trunk, with Embu doing the same against a different tree.

16 November 2016

The morning was good with the stockade dependant orphans drinking their milk bottle then settling for the supplement feeding before heading to the browsing grounds. They went up Msinga Hill where they comfortably browsed for the better half of the day. Kenia, Araba, Ndii, and Lentili moved down the hill and settled at the base of the hill waiting for the time that they could go to the water hole. It was not long before the rest of the group joined them with Lesanju and Taveta catching up with them as they made their way to the mudbath. Lesanju stopped to greet Lentili and Embu before making her way to Mudanda Other members of Lesanju’s herd including Lempaute, Sinya, Mzima, Dabassa and Layoni seem to have left the Msinga Hill area for greener pastures as some fresh shoots have started to sprout. Kihari went for her scratch against a tree trunk ignoring Lesanju and Taveta’s advances. They orphans had a very brief bathing moment before heading back out to browse for the rest of the day.

17 November 2016

The morning was spent with the stockade dependant orphans concentrating on their usual feeding routine before enjoying some dusting games on the red soil piles at the stockade compound. The rains have not yet really begun. However, today we finally got some rain and had an 8mm down poor which will help some new shoots sprout and bring Tsavo back to life. Nguvu, Ajali and Alia the three new orphan elephants that are in the stockade are doing very well. They all seem to enjoy feeding on the grewia branches brought to them in their stables and are starting to gain some strength and condition. There was some tough bathing competition at the water hole that involved Panda, Naipoki, Mashariki, Ndii and Bada. Bada threw himself into the mudbath, rolling around in the water with his legs in the air and his back completely submerged. His bathing tactic was not the best as Ndoria nearly stepped onto his head forcing him to prematurely stop his game. Kenia and Araba came to watch Ndii who was the star of the mudbath games.

18 November 2016

The stockade dependant orphans gulped down their morning milk bottle before enjoying their supplement feed. They then headed to the browsing grounds under the leadership of Ishaq-B and Lentili. A few minutes before noon, Lesanju and Taveta came and took Mudanda for a private socializing session away from the rest of the stockade dependant orphans. Kenia gave her adopted baby Araba a gentle head thrust to notify her that it was time to be heading to the water hole at 10.30, half an hour earlier than normal, leaving Lesanju, Mudanda and Taveta behind. This was done in an effort to show that they were not happy with the Ex Orphans coming in and taking over. Lesanju later brought Mudanda to join the others at the water hole for the noon milk feed and mudbath. The rest of the day was spent browsing close to the water hole.

19 November 2016

It was a warm beginning of the day with the sun shining brightly as the orphan elephants came out of their stockade for their morning milk bottle. Mashariki and Suswa returned to the stable afterwards to greet Nguvu and Alia in their taming stockades before joining the others who were making their way towards the browsing grounds. Soon after arriving, Panda, Rorogoi and Mbirikani took the lead, steering the rest of the group halfway up Msinga Hill. Halfway through the morning Lesanju, Taveta and Tassia arrived and browsed at the base of the hill. Mudanda noticed their presence and hurriedly went to join them as she has become very attached to Lesanju. At noon the entire group went to the water hole to drink milk and water and enjoy a mudbath before returning to the foot of Msinga hill for the remained of the day.

20 November 2016

Lesanju came to the stockade this morning in time to join the stockade dependant orphans in their supplement feeding. Lesanju was then followed closely by Taveta and Tassia who had Kivuko with them. They all made their way to the browsing grounds with Kenia taking the necessary precautions to keep her adopted baby Araba away from the Lesanju and the other Ex Orphans. The four Ex Orphans soon left the babies and made their way to the far northern side of the stockade. Tundani was left behind as the orphans made their way to the mudbath as he was enjoying browsing on the shooting greens. He slowly followed them and seemed in no rush to catch up. Naipoki went and took up position under a tree where she enjoyed a scratching session on her back. Ajali, Nguvu and Alia the orphan elephants in the stockades are all doing well and are gaining condition thanks to the grewia branches and supplement foods that they get given each day.

21 November 2016

It was a lovely start to the day as the orphans enjoyed drinking their morning milk bottle before feeding on the supplements left out for them by the keepers. Mbirikani and Nelion captured the attention of all others when they took the leading role of the orphans to an area of Msinga Hill where there is greener browse. Kivuko was seen wandering alone searching for the stockade dependant orphans. She was followed a while later by Tassia and then Taveta. The stockade dependant orphans didn’t notice their presence as they were busy browsing. The babies came to the mudbath at 12.30, an hour late for their afternoon milk bottle. They didn’t link up with the three Ex Orphans who had already left the area. Panda was seen later in the afternoon communicating with Mudanda and Ndii for a while. Tundani and Bada finished the day with a tough strength testing game. Rorogoi and Mashariki enjoyed the lead of the others back to the stockade in the evening.

22 November 2016

Another morning has come with the orphan elephants enjoying some hide and seeks games at the stockade compound before making their way to the browsing ground where they settled down to browse in single file. Lesanju, Kivuko, Taveta and Tassia came to join them for the morning’s browsing session. The four had a new catch today as they picked up both Rorogoi and Mudanda, separating the two from Kenia’s herd. The four sandwiched the two babies between them giving them all the love and that they could. They caught up with the rest of the group at the waterhole in the afternoon. The four Ex Orphans then left for the Voi river with the stockade dependant orphans making their way back to the big water hole for a mudbath before resuming their browsing activities for the rest of the day. Ngulia the orphan zebra has a mismatched herd which includes Jamuhuri the buffalo and Tawi and Kore the elands. They explore outside the stockade compound for brose with Tawi sometimes playing with Ngulia showing off his long horns as they play.

23 November 2016

The morning was good with light rain falling on the orphans as they assembled to feed on their milk and special Lucerne pellets, dairy cubes and copra cake. The keepers are concerned about Embu as they have noticed that she has lost weight, despite feeding well. This loss of weight was very sudden and she has lost some condition. Embu has been rather quiet and sad of late and the keepers think she may be plagued by memories of the lion attack she suffered a few months back or have an infection from the wounds caused by the lions claws and teeth. Advice came from Nairobi as the best form of treatment to be used with Embu and today she received the prescribed injection that will be given to her daily until the 5th of December 2016.

24 November 2016

Another morning has come with the heavy dark clouds completely covering the sun and a chill in the air as the orphan elephants marched out of their respective stockades for their milk and supplement feeding before being led to the fields by Mbirikani and Naipoki. Soon after arriving at the base of Msinga Hill, the stockade dependant orphans noticed Lesanju, Taveta and Tassia browsing half way the hill. Nelion, Tundani and Mbirikani propelled the others to join the seniors for a feeding session. On arrival, Lesanju took her adopted baby, the love of her heart, Mudanda for some special alone time while Taveta did the same with Ndoria. Ndoria felt so excited to be with Taveta as she doesn’t have many friends in the stockade dependant orphan group due to her tail biting behavior. They all visited the water hole at noon, to drink milk and water but didn’t take a bath due to the cold weather condition that was prevailing at that moment in time.

25 November 2016

The earliest callers at the stockade this morning were Lesanju, Taveta and Tassia. After the stockade dependant orphans downloaded their milk bottle, Lesanju went straight to Mudanda and embraced her as her own newly born baby. The orphans then enjoyed some brief games where Mbirikani had fun playing on the red soil at the stockade compound before following the rest who were heading to the browsing grounds. Lesanju, Taveta and Tassia were left behind as Kenia, Ndii, Panda and Kihari teamed up in leading their herd for a browsing session on the peak of Msinga Hill. Mudanda remained at the back of the group, hoping that Lesanju would join them, but she didn’t. Kenia’s herd came down at noon for their noon milk bottle and spent the rest of the day browsing close to the middle water hole.

26 November 2016

The morning was good with the orphans running out of their stockade in groups of five, emptying their milk bottle before heading to the browsing grounds. The orphans explored onto the far northern side of the stockade before turning and slowly browsing their way to the middle water hole. This afternoon, Kore and Tawi the elands engaged each other in a test of strength. Their long horns were sharp and they had an amazing wrestling match. Jamuhuri, the orphan buffalo, stood close to them watching their wonderful game in great amazement. The day went on peacefully until 4.30pm when a few minutes before the orphans left the park to return home to their stockades, Lesanju paid an impromptu visit. She took Mudanda who stood next to Lesanju which made Ndii run towards the two of them to try and get Mudanda back. Lesanju took charge protecting Mudanda while Ndii and others protested and left for the stockade. Lesanju brought Mudanda to the stockade behind them, and after an hour left to return to the park.

27 November 2016

It was a wonderful beginning of the day with the stockade dependant orphans enjoying their milk and supplement foods before heading towards the browsing grounds for the day. Arruba and Suswa enjoyed the lead this morning with Embu taking over along the way. Ndii, Mudanda and Arruba separated themselves from the rest of the herd, to browse half way up Msinga Hill, linking up with the others on the way to the water hole for the noon milk feed. None of the orphans went into the water as the weather was cloudy and cold. Lesanju, Taveta and Tassia came to the stockade at 9am, they enjoyed some Lucerne grass and remained at the stockades for a hour before leaving for the browsing grounds. They did not join up with the stockade dependant today.

28 November 2016

It was another beautiful morning as the orphans headed into the park this morning. Lesanju, Taveta and Tassia missed the stockade dependant orphans as they arrived at the stockades a short while after the orphans had left. Alia needed to be helped to her feet this morning by the keepers. Her spear wound was cleaned later in the day by the keepers who were watched closely by Nguvu, who clung to a keepers white gloved hand. Once her wound was cleaned Alia was able to get to her feet unaided and much faster than anyone expected. One of the trust pilots on patrol in the Satao camp area noticed a collapsed wild elephant mother with her nearly nine month old baby desperately waiting for its mother to get back to her feet, another unfortunate drought victim. The Nairobi team was informed by the Voi keepers about a possible rescue and they left immediately, arriving with the DSWT Tsavo Mobile Vet Unit. The calf was rescued and air lifted back to Nairobi; we named him Kuishi.

29 November 2016

It was a perfect beginning to the day with the stockade dependant orphans leaving the stockade after their morning milk and the supplement feeding was over. Lesanju, Taveta and Tassia arrived half an hour later settling down to feed on Lucerne grass before heading to the park. Today was a sad day as orphan Alia, who went down for a sleep and was unable to get back up even with assistance from the keepers. The vet suspected that she might have gotten a serious joint infection from the spear wound that received in the attack that killed her mother. Alia was given all the required treatment and support together with drips but sadly died at 4.05pm. We had a heavy rain storm for the first time today which was desperately needed and received 60mm of rain in less than two hours.

30 November 2016

The morning was good with yet another blessing of heavy rain this morning with light rain showers for the rest of this day with another 50mm of water being received. The stockade dependant orphans browsed on the northern sides of Msinga hill, under the leadership of Mbirikani, Arruba, Suswa and Bada. Kenia, Araba, Ishaq-b, Ndii and Rorogoi, browsed halfway up the hill, arriving for their noon milk bottle before anyone else and downing it before the others arrival. Then they all went to browse on the peak of the hill, enjoying the wonderful fresh green shoots. They came down hill in the evening and headed to the safety of the stockades where they arrived at 5:20pm having enjoyed the days browsing activities.