Keepers' Diaries, November 2022

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Voi Reintegration Unit

Due to the drought, our Voi orphan herd has grown a lot this year. Mbegu continues to be the most welcoming to the new arrivals, offering them reassurance and guidance. She always makes a point to stay by their side and show them where to go. Mbegu is often assisted by Tagwa, Sagala, Godoma, Tamiyoi, and Juni, who is a relative newcomer herself.

Murit and Lasayen have always been unusually sedate bulls, but that seems to be changing. This month, they were particularly playful — which is interesting timing, considering the dry conditions and the need to focus on browsing! Interestingly, they seem to prefer to play with each other and often eschew the invitations of Ndotto, Ngilai, and Emoli. Perhaps they know the boys have a lot more practice and could easily outmanoeuvre them.

If that’s the case, their intuition is spot-on: Ngilai, Ndotto, and Emoli are our kings of play. One afternoon, Ndotto and Ngilai wrestled in the middle of the mud bath, fighting for the best spot in the water. Ndotto ended up winning and Ngilai left the mud bath in a bit of a sulk. Later that day, Ngilai invited Ndotto to a rematch, clearly eager to vindicate himself after that morning’s defeat.

As usual, Tamiyoi is the ambassador between the Voi orphans and wild herds. She loves meeting wild elephants and never hesitates to introduce herself to visitors. Tamiyoi is particularly enchanted with babies and can often be seen scanning passing herds for tiny calves.

After spending several months back 'home,' Tahri decided to go wild again. We feel confident that she will thrive — after all, she successfully lived wild for over a year — and she knows where to go if she needs support. Tahri's best friend, Embu, doesn't seem too upset by her absence and has been spending time with the other older girls.

We suffered a very sad morning on the 5th. After an absence of more than a week, ex-orphan Mweya and her group reappeared at the Voi stockades. Notably absent was her newborn baby, Mojo. The Keepers were devastated, for Mweya would never be without a calf so young unless the very worst had happened. Although we will never know for certain what unfolded, we can only assume that Mojo fell victim to the drought. This is an extraordinarily difficult period to be an elephant, particularly one so young. Infant calves are fragile at the best of times, but a drought leaves them extremely vulnerable.

Unfortunately, this month was full of tragedies. The drought is at its peak, and it is hitting the southern sector of Tsavo particularly hard. The Keepers were constantly called to assist in field emergencies, be it rescuing orphans or trying to resuscitate adult elephants who had succumbed to starvation. Sadly and despite their very best efforts, many were too far gone to be saved.  

In times like these, we must find comfort in every success. For all the heartbreak we faced, there were also many happy endings to celebrate. Many of the new rescues we are raising at Voi are thriving. Some of our most recent arrivals, Hildana, Kenderi, Akina, Dabida, and Kilulu, have formed a little club. They are always together, be it hanging around the stockades or out in the bush browsing.

With all the new rescues, Pika Pika has been dethroned as the baby of the Voi herd. However, she can rest easy, knowing she has the love and protection of her ‘big sister,’ Arruba.

At ten years old, Rorogoi and Suswa are the eldest girls in the Voi herd. It seems that occasionally, they are nostalgic for their baby days! During one afternoon feed, Suswa adamantly requested a bottle, despite the fact that she has been off milk for years. The Keepers couldn’t help but laugh at her persistence. 

On the 18th, we awoke to the most wonderful surprise: Rain had fallen in the night! Hopefully, this is just the beginning — to truly emerge from the drought, Voi needs many good storms. We were overjoyed to hear birds making a noisy racket in the stockade compound in subsequent mornings, which is a sign that more rain is on the way. 

Our little Kaluku graduates, Lemeki and Thamana, are nearly a year into Voi life. They are both doing so well. Although Mudanda has adopted Thamana as ‘her’ baby, Lemeki still has the younger boy’s heart. Thamana often finds himself at the centre of a sandwich, with Lemeki on one side and Mudanda on the other.

Because it’s rained a bit, the resident lions have moved further afield. Now that it is safer, orphaned buffalos Ivia and Cheza can join the elephant herd out in the bush. Ngilai was very happy to have his old sparring partner, Ivia, back in action.

The month ended with a surprising showdown. Ndotto has been trying to prove beyond any reasonable doubt that he is the most dominant bull in the Voi herd. Then, Lasayen decided to put him in his place. He proved to be a formidable opponent and sent Ndotto running away. We were quite surprised by quiet Lasayen’s prowess!

November 2022 day to day

01 Nov

It was a bright and sunny morning today as the orphans came out of their night stockades. Mbegu was in the lucerne feeding area with the new stockade graduates Hildana, Dabida, Kenderi and Akina. Kilulu was hanging out with Tamiyoi while Juni was with Godoma, Tagwa and Sagala. Mudanda and Thamana decided to go for an early morning mud wallow, rolling and splashing in the stockade mud hole, while Ndotto and Arruba enjoyed a wrestling game.

Tamiyoi and Lemeki led all the dependent orphans out to the bush to browse. Along the way the orphans were joined by a wild elephant family, and they browsed together nicely all through the mid-morning up until the orphans went for their midday milk feed. When they were done, they returned to the stockade compound for more lucerne supplements as this drought continues. Mbegu continues to be the most welcoming and reassuring to the new arrivals, offering them comfort and guidance as she stays by their side and shows them where to go. The orphans then decided to spend the afternoon maneuvering their way along the side of Msinga Hill in search of whatever vegetation they could find, before returning to the stockades for the night.

Ndotto on the stockade terrace

Sagala, Emoli and Mbegu enjoying range cubes

Tamiyoi playing