Keepers' Diaries, October 2004

Voi Reintegration Unit

The beginning of the month brought deep sadness at the Voi Unit when the most recently rescued orphan named Sagalla suddenly succumbed to pneumonia and died very suddenly on the 5th, literally in the Keepers’ arms as they tried to support her. This was unexpected, since the usual long-acting antibiotic had been administered upon rescue, and she had settled well in the company of Mweiga, and had been taking milk avidly. A starvation victim like “Galana”, whom we successfully retrieved from a state of total collapse, we had every hope for Sagalla’s full recovery, but pneumonia in an elephant is a killer, and this was not to be. With hindsight, she should probably have had a longer antibiotic course, followed by homeopathic lung strengthening pillules, but then if the pneumonia was too advanced by the time she was brought in, there would have been nothing we could do to save her.

01 October 2004

After exiting the Stockade in the morning, Aitong climbed Mazinga Hill, leaving the other orphans taking water outside their Night Stockade. However, when Sweet Sally began to scream because Aitong was absent, she came racing down the hill to comfort Sally, and proceeded on with all the orphans

02 October 2004

It was a wonderful noon mudbath, with Morani and Mpala rolling onto each other trumpeting with joy. This attracted Mweiga, who joined them, but when she lay on Morani with all her weight, he bellowed loudly, bringing the Keepers to the rescue. Mweiga rose immediately, touching Morani’s mouth with her trunk as if to say “sorry baby, I didn’t mean to hurt you!” They both then returned to the mudbath and continued to enjoy it together. At 4 p.m. the orphans joined Naomi’s wild group, where Emily stood with her head touching that of Naomi, their trunks hanging loosely together, as if discussing their charges in the midst of another very dry season. Meanwhile Seraa, Laikipia, Mweya and Salama played with wild age-mates. The orphans remained with the wild group until it was time to return to the Night Stockades.

03 October 2004

Sagalla (the new orphan) fed next to Mweiga, and rumbled whenever Mweiga moved, even slightly. A swelling was observed in Sagalla’s rear leg, so we gave her some pain-killers to bring relief.

04 October 2004

The day was cloudy with a few sunny intervals. Only Mukwaju, Mweya, Lolokwe, Icholta and Sosian actually went into the mudbath, whilst the others just drank water and then continued their quest for food. They lifted their trunks to test the scent of a wild herd up Mazinga Hill, but decided not to join them. Later, the wild group came to drink at the Orphans’ mudbath.

05 October 2004

The day ended very tragically, with the collapse and death of Sagalla. The Keepers were very surprised by this, because she had been feeding well. She died in our arms, as we struggled to support her, mucous coming out of her mouth and trunk which is indicative of pneumonia. Everyone, including the orphans, were visibly shaken by her death, especially Mweiga, who had become like a mother to her.

06 October 2004

There was light rain this morning. Nyiro and Solango enjoyed a game of rolling in the puddles, emerging brilliant red when they later rejoined the others. Edie felt jealous of their red colour and went to search for a puddle, returning l0 minutes later looking just like them, plastered in red earth. Lissa and her family came to the Stockade at 6.30 p.m. but found the orphans already inside. Having taken water, Lissa then did the rounds of all the Stockades to greet the orphans, leaving at 9 p.m.

07 October 2004

Morani found himself left behind whilst trying to extract roots from an Acacia tree. On noticing that he was alone, he screamed loudly, which brought Mweiga, Burra and Seraa back to collect him. They all rejoined the group swinging their heads and tossing their little trunks sideways in celebration.

08 October 2004

Nyiro and Tsavo had a strength testing competition. When Nyiro was obviously losing, he hid his embarrassment by mounting onto Solango instead. Laikipia went to push him off.

09 October 2004

At 7 a.m. Morani and Seraa screamed their disappointment when a dikdik they were chasing went under the wire of the electric fence. After a wonderful mudbath on a hot and sultry day, Aitong took Sweet Sally to join her in a dust bath on an anthill. Sally wanted Aitong all to herself, pushing anyone who came to join them away.

10 October 2004

The day was extremely hot, so the orphans took their mudbath earlier than usual.

11 October 2004

Mweiga screamed, terrified when a squirrel that was being chased off by Morani ran under her legs. The Keepers had to calm her down. During the night Emily pushed down one of the posts supporting the shelter in the Night Stockade. The Keepers removed the post, thinking it posed a danger to the other orphans.

12 October 2004

Natumi held Ndara’s head under the mudbath water, so all the Keepers had to jump in to rescue Ndara. Upon realising she had behaved badly, Natumi went off on her own to feed apart from the others, only rejoining the others a lot later.

13 October 2004

Salama and Ilingwezi fought each other over a rock they both wanted to rub against. In the end Ilingwezi allowed Salama to have first turn, but kept a close watch and as soon as he left, she took her turn.

14 October 2004

The orphans were very excited when there was light rain at 4.20 p.m. They ran around trumpeting and charging in happiness. Later a clap of thunder scared them, forcing them top run to the Keepers for protection. Mweya, Irima and Thoma remained close to the Keepers for the remainder of the day.

15 October 2004

Aitong and Sweet Sally spent a night out, returning to the Stockade at 7 a.m. to find that the other orphans had already left. They caught up with them at 9.10 a.m. Seeing them approaching, Emily ran to welcome them trumpeting in happiness. All three then spent time touching each others mouths before joining the others who were equally as happy to welcome Aitong and Sally back into the fold. Lissa’s group was seen feeding at the foot of Mazinga Hill, and we suspected that Aitong and Sally had spent the night amongst them.

16 October 2004

At 6.20 a.m. Solango and Salama joined forced to dig up soil using their trunks after which they lay down to roll happily in the loose earth, trumpeting with joy. Lolokwe “gate-crashed” this function but found himself punished when both Salama and Solango pinned him down by lying on his body. He bellowed for help and the two released Lolokwe from his temporary detention when Aitong came to lift them off, using her trunk and tusks.

17 October 2004

Mweiga lay down in the mudbath and allowed Seraa, Morani and Burra to climb on her. The three smaller orphans enjoyed this greatly, running in and out of the water to climb over her.

18 October 2004

The orphans were overjoyed when a lot of rain fell in the morning. They fed on Mazinga Hill up until 10 a.m., then upon coming down, teamed up in groups of friends to tussle with one another. Salama took Lolokwe, Nyiro took Tsavo and Natumi took Icholta whilst Edie took Ilingwezi. The orphans found water to drink in large pools, and plenty of mud with which to plaster themselves, so they had no need of going to the mudbath today.

19 October 2004

Lolokwe accidentally pushed down Ndara as they were coming down Mazinga hill today. Ndara took deep offence and took it out on Nyiro. Salama intervened to separate them punishing Ndara by mounting onto her back.

20 October 2004

Mweiga, Seraa, Morani and Burra were very happy when they managed to chase off two Lesser Kudus who came to drink at their waterhole at 11 a.m. The Kudus returned later to drink. Emily again pushed down the post supporting the shelter in the Stockade, this time tearing off the iron sheets. The Keepers kept vigil outside the Stockade to prevent further damage.

21 October 2004

Salama and Laikipia enjoyed a shoving game, which ended when they realised they had been left far behind by the others. Emily, backed up by Tsavo and Loisaba, chased off two buffalo bulls who were feeding towards the orphans.

22 October 2004

Tsavo and Nyiro were playing a game of hide and seek around a huge boulder at the foot of Mazinga Hill at 9.13 a.m. this morning. Mweya joined them, but the game all three were enjoying, ended when Mweya collided head on with Nyiro whilst trying to hide from Tsavo!

23 October 2004

There were rain showers in the morning, which made the orphans very happy. Laikipia, Solango, Nyiro, Mweya, Ilingwezi and Mukwaju enjoyed skating on the slippery ground, whilst Salama propped himself against a termite mound to take a snooze. Irima and Thoma went feeding in the opposite direction to the others, but retreated back to the others when a hare emerged from a bush they were feeding on.

24 October 2004

Morani sat on Burra’s head whilst supporting himself with his forelegs. Upon realising that Solango intended to do the same, Burra rose hurriedly and punished Morani by pushing him down. Mweiga, Burra, Solango and Morani lined up like soldiers to initiate an onslaught on some baboons who were drinking at their mudbath. They felt very pleased having succeeded in chasing off the baboons, returning to the others swinging their heads and trunks and trumpeting in happiness.

25 October 2004

At 11.15 a.m. the orphans came upon a lioness eating a buffalo calf under an Acacia tree. The lioness slowly loped off when Emily and the group charged towards her, but the orphans thought better of it when they lost sight of the lioness. Later they joined a wild group of l0 who had a small calf. Emily, Natumi, Edie and Ilingwezi played pushing games with wild age-mates, whilst Aitong, Sally and Thoma followed the little calf closely. For the third time, Emily pushed down the supporting post of the Night Stockade shelter, so the Keepers decided to move her to a different Stockade, which upset Tsavo and Loisaba greatly.

26 October 2004

Nyiro, Lolokwe, Solango, Mweya, Tsavo, Ilingwezi and Mpala joined forces to chase off a group of impala who were feeding close by, in a chase of about l00 metres.

27 October 2004

Two Elands came to rest under a tree close to where the orphans were taking their noon siesta. The orphans tolerated them until they started to move away, when Mweya and Solango gave chase, happy to see them running away.

28 October 2004

Mrs. Sheldrick came today and decided that Emily and Aitong should be left outside their respective Night Stockades. Sally, who is extremely fond of Aitong, became very restless when she realised that Aitong was not inside, so the Keepers returned Aitong to the Stockade, leaving Emily out on her own. Emily left the area of the Stockade at l0 p.m., returning at 5 a.m. where she was greeted joyfully by Tsavo, Ndara, and Loisaba who gave loud trumpets of joy. Later, Morani and Burra enjoyed a long pushing game, which ended when they realised they had been left far behind the others.

29 October 2004

Today, Emily, Aitong and Sweet Sally were left to spend the night outside the Stockade. Sally was very obviously happy and proud to have been allowed out, pacing behind Emily and Aitong swinging her trunk from side to side. She and Aitong stood with their heads very close together as they took their Copra ration. The three who spent the night out returned to join the others at 5.30 a.m.

30 October 2004

Emily, Aitong, and Sweet Sally as well as Loisaba were selected to spend the night outside the Night Stockade, but Loisaba refused to follow the other three when they wandered off at 7 p.m., so the Keepers returned her to the Stockade at 10 p.m. Emily and Aitong returned at 2 a.m. and dug out a plastic pipe, breaking it up, which caused a lot of spillage from the tank up the hill. The Keepers sealed the pipe as best they could with a rubber band and some polythene.

31 October 2004

Natumi surprised the Keepers this morning by refusing to come out of the Night Stockade to join Emily who was standing at the gate waiting for her group to emerge. Natumi only came out when Emily actually went inside to physically fetch her.