Keepers' Diaries, November 2018

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Voi Reintegration Unit

We could not help but notice how playful Kenia’s dependent herd were this month, much more than usual. This is because of the arrival of the rains, which fell, even if lightly, almost every day towards the end of the month. This helped replenish all the water pans and fill up the dams not only for our elephants but all wildlife in the southern area.

We were happy to see nothing like the kind of cataclysmic drought conditions that befell Kenya at the end of last year’s dry season, as thankfully we had plentiful rain earlier in the year as well. The orphans relished the fresh green shoots that began to sprout everywhere as a result of the wet conditions. They searched for these all day and they must have tasted delicious, and a welcome change from the dry bark which is a staple diet towards the end of the dry seasons.   

All the orphans, including the older ones, were full of joy and rambunctious games, all that is except for Nguvu who doesn’t seem to have time for such immature antics. Araba, who is generally not a fan of pushing or wrestling games was even seen engaging Murit for a wrestling session which Kenia and Mudanda watched, full of amazement at the site of this little girl play. One day Kihari, 4 years his senior, engaged Ndotto in a tough wrestling match. When the game was coming to an end, Kihari pretended to run away from Ndotto, as if conceding defeat and thus allowing Ndotto to be the winner of their game which made him feel so good about himself, puffed up with self-importance. This whole encounter made Ndotto’s day and he charged around trumpeting happily before following his friends out to browse.

Towards the end of the month, nine year old ex-orphan bull Dabassa came to the stockades, and stayed around for close to a week, accompanying the dependent orphans out to browse and escorting them back to the stockades at the end of the day. As soon as he arrived he earmarked the eldest dependent bull Nelion for a pushing game, and walked straight over to him to test Nelion’s strength now. He took it upon himself to discipline some of the unruly bulls too when they became too rough in their games. Nelion and Murit teamed up against Lasayen one day when he was enjoying a fun game of rolling on the ground, and they came over to sit on him. Lasayen yelled out and Dabassa was quick to come to his rescue, charging Nelion and Murit away from Lasayen who was very grateful. Having the presence of some of the older ex-orphan bulls around from time to time, acting as an ‘older brother’ type figure can only be good for the younger bulls in the herd, and it is so wonderful to see how naturally it all takes place. Dabassa relished the company of the exuberant young and enjoyed the attention that his visit brought. 

Ishaq-B continues to try and woo Mbegu’s herd into being her adopted little babies, while Kenia and Ndii still dote on Tahri. Mbegu is still hesitant to relinquish total control over her little herd which accompanied her from Nairobi, but she is tolerant of Ishaq-B’s presence and affection. Ishaq-B is careful not to antagonize Mbegu by trying to be in the front and leading the group, which in turn helps Mbegu trust her more. Mbegu loves to lead, and whenever she sees Lentili about to lead the herd out in the morning, she rushes to the front to take control. She is not ready to give up her mini matriarchal duties just yet! She and the rest of her herd have learnt to be quite guarded around Ndoria as well, and they have already sussed out her reputation for tail biting. This is probably due to the reaction of the other orphans around them, like when Mashariki ran straight past the milk bottles because Ndoria was running up behind her and she thought she was going to bite her! The other orphans are always around to protect the youngsters though, and one day when Miranda’s pushing of Mbegu and Ndotto was forcing them to go and feed in a different area, Ndii intervened, chasing Mudanda away as punishment for her bad behaviour, and peace resumed.

Due to all the rain around, the orphans did not have that many encounters with wild elephants this month, as the wild herds have taken the opportunity to spread further afield due to plentiful water, but those that they did have were very pleasant. One day at mud bath a female elephant with a tusk missing on the same right-hand side as Kihari’s, approached Kihari and greeted her and touched her missing tusk – it was quite an interesting spectacle to behold, as the two girls seemed to communicate over this shared defect, before settling to browse together. Ngilai, Lasayen, and Murit made their way to the middle of the wild herd and browsed next to a small calf too,. They all browsed together for the rest of the day, until the orphans returned to the safety of their stockades for the night.

November 2018 day to day

01 Nov

November 1st and the stockade dependent orphan elephants started the new month all excited. They walked out of the stockades having had their morning milk and the supplement feed, and went towards the browsing grounds. With Lentili taking the lead, the orphan elephants browsed along the slopes of the Msinga Hill towards the baobab tree water hole.

Tahri was looking very comfortable and composed next to her adopted mother Ndii, browsing side by side. Ishaq-B campaigned to adopt Mbegu’s herd, and she spent most of the day browsing with them. Mbegu kept a keen eye on Ishaq-B wanting to interact with her herd, but gave her the benefit of the doubt to interact with them and browse alongside them.

The orphan elephants had their mid-morning milk feed and proceeded to the baobab water hole where they had a lot of fun in mud bathing games. Araba and Tahri lay on the ground, rolling on the dust with Kenia and Ndii keeping guard over them from the other playful orphans.

The rest of the day they browsed close to that water hole.

Mudanda

Tundani

Mashariki

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