Keepers' Diaries, October 2005

Voi Reintegration Unit

It has been an exciting month for the Voi Orphans, with Emily seeking them out, often on her own, on an almost daily basis, and spending time with them in the mornings and at the mudbath before leaving to join up with Aitong and Sweet Sally and returning with them to the Stockades for their dry season supplement of Copra and Bran. Aitong and Sally have also spent time with the still dependent orphans, but not on such a regular basis as Emily. The supplementation of Copra and Bran has definitely resulted in an improvement in the condition of Emily, and especially Aitong, who has a naturally somewhat gaunt appearance. Sally has held condition well as have all the other orphans during what has been an extremely challenging dry season in Tsavo. Whilst the main Tsavo rains should normally begin round about the middle of October, by the end of the month they were yet to arrive. Only one small drizzle has fallen to date.

01 October 2005

It was a very hot morning. Emily, Aitong and Sweet Sally were feeding high up on Mazinga Hill, and having left the Stockades in the morning, the orphans spread out far and wide, concentrating on feeding, with few baby games. Burra approached a group of waterbuck peacefully, prompting the ewes to ran away, but the ram remained, and Burra and he fed peacefully near to one another. After a wonderful mudbath, Mukwaju remained behind and was joined by a herd of 7 eland, who came to drink, keeping a close eye on Mukwaju. They were soon joined by 6 zebra, all drinking at the far end of the mudbath. Icholta then came to join Mukwaju, and both having wallowed extensively, they left to join the other orphans feeding nearby. Then a large herd of waterbuck and 3 warthogs came to drink and enjoy the mud. At 3.30 p.m. our orphans were joined by 3 wild elephant cows, 2 teenage bulls and a young calf. Laikipia and Salama scrambled, eager to engage a wild teenage boy in a pushing game. Laikipia won and managed to separate his wild friend in order to have him all to himself. Meanwhile, Natumi enjoyed feeding close to a tuskless cow. The wild group left after 20 minutes, leaving Laikipia’s wild playmate behind, who followed them after 5 minutes.

02 October 2005

Within a wide depression near the base of Mazinga Hill, where the orphans were feeding in the morning, Emily left her group who were up the hill, and came alone looking for the babies at 7.49 a.m. She gave a low contact rumble from about a mile away, which made all the orphans immediately cease feeding, focused on the call. When Emily reached them, there was a joyful greeting carried out with great energy and excitement, after which all the elephants enjoyed feeding on the emerging Acacias, stripping off the bark. Emily escorted them to the mudbath, disturbing a wild group which was resting under shade on the way. Upon hearing the orphans approach, the wild elephants moved off, but one wild bull remained behind to join in the mudbath. Natumi, Lolokwe and Nyiro teamed up and enjoyed a pushing game with him, after which he left in the direction his group has gone. At the mudbath, a herd of eland arrived, and finding it occupied, awaited their turn at a distance, despite Solango welcoming them with an extended trunk. After the mudbath Emily left to join Aitong and Sally, who returned with her to the Stockades in the evening where they took their share of Copra.

03 October 2005

Emily, Aitong and Sally were at the Stockades to greet the orphans at 5 a.m. Aitong and Sally left towards the western side of the hill, but Emily remained with the orphans, leading them towards the Eastern side, when Natumi had to relinquish her role as Matriarch in favour of Emily. The orphans joined a herd of 6 zebras near the waterhole at noon. Mweya charged at one and got kicked on the trunk which made her scream in pain and retreat hurriedly to join the others. At 4 p.m. Emily peeled off to return to the Stockade, where she met up with Aitong and Sally and having enjoyed their Copra ration, all three left together.

04 October 2005

Two buffalo bulls blocked the orphans’ path towards the Northern side of Mazinga hill at 9 a.m. Laikipia and Salama charged, backed up by all the other orphans, who trumpeted and dashed around kicking bushes, until the buffalo thought better of it and left. At 11.40 a.m. Ilingwezi and Solango engaged a wild elephant friend in a pushing game, the orphans having encountered a wild group resting under shade near the mudbath. However, a grown up wild daughter came to retrieve the wild youngster. Ilingwezi followed forlornly for a short distance, disappointed at being thwarted.

05 October 2005

Emily, Aitong and Sweet Sally came to the Stockade in the morning as the orphans were about to leave. Sally and Salama entwined trunks, whirling around in circles in an amazing manner. Then Sally decided to accompany the baby orphaned group, whilst Emily and Aitong went in the opposite direction. Upon realising that she had been separated from them, Sally took a few steps backwards, picked up some dust, and threw it onto her back as she screamed loudly, swinging her right foot back and forth, in a gesture of indecision about where to go next. Upon hearing her cry, Aitong rushed back to collect her, and this made Sally extremely happy, flapping her ears and swinging her head.

06 October 2005

The orphans were in a jovial mood, playing around the Stockade in the morning, when Emily appeared alone to fetch them. Meanwhile a giraffe came to drink at the Stockade waterhole, spreading its legs in order to do so, something that was watched by all the orphans in amazement. Emily then escorted them to the feeding grounds and also to the mudbath, but left later, returning to the Stockade with Aitong and Sally at 6.30 p.m. where they spent a while stripping bark from the Grewia branches at the Stockade.

07 October 2005

It was a warm morning. The orphans went to feed at the foot of Mazinga Hill, Sosian keeping very close to Mweiga, and touching her constantly with his trunk. Mweiga showed appreciation for this loving gesture by placing her trunk into Sosian’s mouth in an elephant kiss. Today, the orphans left early for their mudbath, where they found a herd of waterbucks drinking. After the mudbath, a herd of wild elephants passed by in a hurry, with interaction with our group.

08 October 2005

Icholta and Morani were fascinated by a baboon sitting on a nearby rock at the base of the hill. They moved slowly towards it to get a closer look, but the baboon lost its nerve when Morani reached the rock and extended his trunk towards it. Later Morani and Seraa enjoyed a pushing game on the slopes of the hill, but soon realised that this was not a wise place to play. At the noon mudbath, as the orphan were splashing water over themselves, a herd of 10 wild elephants came to join them. Icholta, Ilingwezi and Salama went to welcome them after which Salama managed to separate a wild calf. However this did not last long because a teenage daughter intervened to recover the youngster, leaving Salama feeling embarrassed at having been outwitted. Emily, Aitong and Sally came to the Stockades at 4.20 p.m. but having taken their ration of Copra, and a drink, they immediately left.

09 October 2005

The orphans went to the Northern side of the hill, but came down to meet up with Emily at 8.50 a.m. who was looking for them. She escorted them to the mudbath, when Salama and Sosian were first in. Meanwhile Burra and Solango indulged in a pushing game, won by Burra, who celebrated his victory by showing off in the mud. Solango became jealous and joined him, but left when Burra mounted onto him. Meanwhile, Mweya loosened some earth away from the main dustbath in order to have one all to herself. Later, as they rested under shade, the babies were joined by DIKA, (our 18 year old ex Nursery orphan, now living wild). At first the orphans were a bit scared, but Dika stretched out his trunk to reassure them all, touching them gently, one by one. However, the interaction was brief, because Dika was on his way to somewhere else, heading in a northerly direction. Mukwaju and Morani were tempted to accompany him, but returned later, thinking better of it.

10 October 2005

Burra and Solango enjoyed a game of hide and seek at the Stockades in the morning. After a wonderful noon mudbath, Mweya found that she could not reach the underside of her belly with her trunk in order to scratch it, so she picked up a dry stick from the ground and holding it between her forelegs, moved it back and forth with her trunk to alleviate the itch. She then dropped the stick to lie down and play some mischievous games; pressing her trunk onto the bank and squeezing it there with a foreleg. Meanwhile, having finished their milk, Thoma and Seraa raced each other to the mudbath, ears and trunks flopping around loosely in a demonstration of joy. They then mudwalled extensively and happily.

11 October 2005

It was a nice cool morning as the orphans went down into the main Park to feed. Edie and Laikipia battled it out for possession of an acacia branch, which was won by Laikipia although it was big enough for both! At the mudbath Edie moved around scratching her bottom against the bank and splashing water onto the other orphans which prompted them to move out, leaving Edie to occupy the entire mudath on her own, which made her very satisfied. She threw her trunk victoriously up into the air! Emily, Aitong and Sally came to the Stockade as the orphans arrived for the night, here they were greeted with great enthusiasm. They left at 6.20 p.m.

12 October 2005

It was a cloudy morning, and the orphans left in a tight group to feed towards the mudbath. At the mudbath Natumi placed her head on Icholta’s back, then the two changed positions, and repeated the process. Mweya did not want to go into the mudbath, but splashed water over herself. Noticing that she was being watched keenly by Natumi and Icholta, she lay down between them, rolling in the slippery mud, but got up hurriedly when Edie approached to mount onto her!

13 October 2005

The mudbath was dominated by Mweya and Morani, both of whom scratched their buttocks against the banks. Mweya then leaned against the wall, with her legs still in the water, closing her eyes. Upon noticing that Mweya was receiving a lot of attention from the others, Edie plunged in, lay on her back with her legs in the air to divert attention from Mweya, who then rolled her head round and round, re-focusing all the others. Edie then became jealous, and she gave Mweya a sharp prod with her tusks. Both then fed happily together.

14 October 2005

It was a dull, overcast morning. There had been light rain showers the previous night, which pleased the orphans, since there were small puddles and softened grasses. Whilst feeding near the mudbath, they spotted 3 buffaloes drinking from their bins, so Laikipia led the chase to drive them off. The orphans were jubilant having accomplished this and went around trumpeting and kicking the bushes triumphantly.

15 October 2005

It was a calm morning. The orphans were very happy to be escorted out by Emily, Aitong and Sally. At 9.40 a.m. Emily’s group peeled off towards the Voi river. Loisaba and Tsavo were tempted to go along too, but returned l0 minutes later. When the orphans were feeding on the Northern slopes of the hill, they were joined by a wild group of 7 elephants with a calf. Natumi, Mukwaju and Morani were first to interact with the wild group, Morani standing close to a large wild Matriarch. One wild boy took a great interest in Mukwaju, following him around, sniffing his genitals. The wild group left the orphans when it was time to leave for the mudath.

16 October 2005

The orphans went in single-file today. Mvita playfully tried to block their path, but then thought better of it. Burra then took the lead. In the afternoon some visitors came across a cow elephant standing over a small calf, who was in a state of collapse. Each time the baby fell, the cow would try and lift it, until she obviously game up hope, and began to cover the recumbent calf with leaves and twigs in an act of “burial”. The Trust’s Mobile Veterinary Unit and the Keepers were alerted and came to rescue the ailing calf. The mother was very calm, standing by disconsolately as they lifted the calf into the truck, before wandering off. It was doubtful whether the calf was still alive by the time we arrived at the Stockade. The breathing was very shallow and he was in a coma. However, a little rehydration fluid and milk given at intervals throughout the following night revived him, and Emma Ayton remained with the calf all night. Meanwhile a wild teenage bull came to join the orphans at 4.50 p.m. and accompanied them back to the Stockade. The Keepers believed that he was a wild friend who knew the orphans well, because he was not afraid, and hung around the Stockade for some 20 minutes after the orphans had gone in for the night. Emily, Aitong and Sally were also in attendance, obviously aware of the presence of the new rescued baby, so they hung around for a long time, longing to reach it.

17 October 2005

The next morning, he was still very weak and confused, but able to stand. We called him “Ndololo”, since he was rescued near the Voi River, and one of his eyes was obviously blind. The other looked a little better, but was inflamed and sunken. That night there was an altercation between Loisaba and Salama which ended up by Loisaba biting Salama’s tail so hard that he screamed loudly. This brought the Keepers out to ascertain the cause of the trouble which was probably an argument over a piece of browse. Loisaba is notorious for biting the tail of any orphan that offends her!

18 October 2005

Whilst feeding at the base of the hill, Mpala enjoyed a scratch against a rocky outcrop, blocking Seraa from having a turn. In the end she forcibly removed him so that she could have a turn. In the afternoon the orphans enjoyed pushing games. Edie engaged Laikipia whilst Burra challenged Solango. At 5 p.m. Emily, Aitong and Sally came to the Stockade and having taken their Copra, and a drink, they left.

19 October 2005

The orphans had already left the Stockades in the morning when Emily, Aitong and Sally turned up. Whilst leaving the mudbath, Ilingwezi returned when she noticed a group of warthogs approaching, but was overtaken by Mpala, who rushed past to see them off. Later a wild group came to drink at the mudbath, but missed contact with the orphans, who had already left. Emily, Aitong and Sally returned to the Stockade at 4 p.m. and having taken their share of Copra, immediately again left.

20 October 2005

The morning began with hide and seek baby games after which the orphans began their feeding. The mudbath was happy, Icholta, Laikipia and Morani taking centre stage, whilst Solango rubbed his buttocks against Irima’s back as she lay in the water.

21 October 2005

The orphans spent the day feeding high up on Mazinga Hill, where there is still some long grass. There was no playing here, because it was too dangerous. Emily, aitong and Sally were not seen today.

22 October 2005

Emily came to drink at the Stockade at 9 a.m. and then went to join the orphans who were feeding at the foot of Mazinga Hill on the Eastern side. She accompanied them to the mudbath and then wandered off on her own, but reappeared for her Copra Cake in the evening, remaining at the Stockade until 7 p.m. On the way back to the Night Stockades, Burra ran forward to try and overtake Solango, but Solango put on a burst of speed and thwarted him. Burra then tried to bite Solango’s tail, because he was annoyed.

23 October 2005

The orphans remained at the bottom of the hill today until it was time for the mudbath, which they greatly enjoyed. Edie, Solango and Mweya were lying and rolling on each other, tossing their trunks skywards in sheer happiness. Mukwaju and Lolokwe enjoyed a pushing game, until Mukwaju wanted to mount Lolokwe, so he ran off. Edie enjoyed a dustback, as did Lolokwe, until Natumi came to climb on him, which made him soon get up.

24 October 2005

It was a cloudy morning. The orphans went feeding up the hill again, coming down at l0.20 a.m. for a drink and their mudbath, where they were joined by a wild herd comprised of 3 large cows and 3 calves, who spent a long time with the orphans. Laikipia managed to secure a wild friend with whom to play, and left with the wild group when they headed towards the Voi river. He returned after about half an hour.

25 October 2005

Again, the orphans went up the hill to feed, until mudbath, when Icholta led the babies to their milk bottles. She stood behind them, reached out her trunk, and touched the Keeper’s face, as though to ask “Where is my share”! Afterwards they all enjoyed a wonderful mudbath when Nyiro played with Lolokwe as Edie intertwined her trunk with that of Lolokwe. The remainder of the day was spent near the waterhole, until it was time to return.

26 October 2005

Emily, Aitong and Sally came to the Stockade in the morning and were greeted jubilantly by the other orphans, with baby screaming and trumpeting. The orphans left Emily’s group at the Stockade, and went into the main Park to feed. Emily’s group left the Stockade half an hour later, but did not join the other orphans today. Solango enjoyed a ride on Mpala’s back, until Mpala dislodged him by going into a trench.

27 October 2005

There were light rain showers in the morning, which made the orphans very happy. They enjoyed playing in the wet earth and puddles and remained in a tight group for warmth until the evening.

28 October 2005

The orphans enjoyed the calm weather after yesterday’s rain. At the mudbath, they only drank water. In the evening Emily, Aitong and Sally came to drink at the Stockade at 6 p.m. and take their Copra. They left towards the Eastern side of the hill.

29 October 2005

In the morning the orphans went up the hill. Just before mudbath, the Keepers received a call to help rescue a baby elephant at Mukuki Ranch near Mwatate Sisal Estate. This baby, named “Zurura” had fallen into a ruby quarry and was rescued by the residents of the Ranch and taken to Mwatate Police Station. The calf was airlifted to Nairobi that afternoon.

30 October 2005

The orphans fed up the hill again, until mudbath. When they heard the milk tractor approaching, all but Sosian who remained behind with Mweiga, standing with her while she took her milk, and then escorting her to the mudbath. At 4 p.m. they took a break from feeding, to play, rolling and lying in the damp earth, until it was time to return to the Stockades.

31 October 2005

The day began with baby chasing games, as the orphans went down the hill. Out in the main Park, they scattered and did some serious feeding. Mweya and Burra led the group to the mudbath, where they wallowed extensively, Edie spreading her legs on the slippery bank and extending her trunk to touch the others in the water. Emily came looking for the babies on the Eastern side of Mazinga Hill at 3 p.m. when Salama went forward to greet her and came with her to join the others. Emily spent the rest of the day with them, and escorted them back to the Stockade, where she took her Copra before leaving.