Keepers' Diaries, October 2006

Voi Reintegration Unit

The rescue at Thabangunji in Tsavo of little 6 week old “Shimba” whose mother was translocated from the Shimba Hills National Reserve, and subsequently died, is one of the stories from the Voi Orphans this month. He was actually rescued on 1st october by our Voi Keepers, who had been alerted by a KWS Research Officer that an orphaned baby had been spotted near the body of its dead mother by a Road team working in the area. The mother elephant, who had died the previous day only had a small portion of her trunk left, the rest obviously having been severed by a wire snare, and although the trunk had subsequently healed, it obviously inhibited her capability to feed. Weakened by these injuries, as well as having recently given birth, the trauma of translocation from Shimba proved too much for her. The baby bull she left is about 6 weeks old, and has been named “Shimba”.

01 October 2006

Light showers have brought on a little greenery, which the orphans are thoroughly enjoying, stuffing as much as possible into their mouths while out in the bush. The baby elephant “Shimba”, whose mother died having been relocated to Tsavo from the Shimba Hills, was rescued and flown directly to the Nairobi Nursery. The mother had only a very short trunk, most of it having been severed by a snare.

02 October 2006

There was competition as to who would lead the group out today between Laikipia, Solango and Burra. They settled down to feed on the north side of Mazinga Hill, and enjoyed the noon mudbath because it was very hot.

03 October 2006

Whilst playing around the Stockade in the morning, Lolokwe and Nyiro enjoyed a tough test of strength until Burra led the group out. Morani tried to chase Lolokwe away from a scratching rock, but Lolokwe was unimpressed. They enjoyed a wallow on the way to the main mudbath, all emerging bright red.

04 October 2006

The orphans gathered around the Stockade trough for a drink. Mweiga sat on her buttocks, drawing trunk-fulls of water into her mouth until Burra trumpeted that it was time to leave. She joined the others quickly. When the orphans returned in the evening, they were greeted by Emily and Ilingwezi, who had come to see them, and who later fed up Mazinga Hill.

05 October 2006

The orphans played happily around the Stockade, delighted that the rain had brought forth a little greenery. Icholta, Morani and Mpala had a fascinating game of hide and seek until Laikipia led the group out to feed. Mweiga, who was at the back, was lifting her limbs energetically and all fed well out in the feeding area. Thoma and Laikipia led the group back in the evening.

06 October 2006

There was no hurry leaving today, since there is green vegetation around. At the noon mudbath Mweiga, Sosian and Mukwaju remained behind to enjoy it longer. At 4 p.m. the orphans returned to the mudbath where they were joined by Mrs. Sheldrick and the US Friends.

07 October 2006

A tour driver brought a message that an elephant calf was dead near the Irima waterhole about 20 meters from the road. We went to investigate. There was no clear evidence as to why the calf had died, other than it had blood oozing from the mouth and anus, obviously from internal injuries. We suspect it could have been hit by a vehicle.

08 October 2006

The orphans encountered a wild group on the northern side of Mazinga Hill at l0 a.m. and although at first were shy to join them, Mweiga and Laikipia made the first approach. There were 2 large Cows with a calf and 3 teenagers. After this the orphans mixed freely and happily with the wild unit, who accompanied them to the mudbath. There, one of the wild cows obligingly lay down in the mud and Laikipia, Mweiga and some of the others enjoyed lying in between her, which prompted others to join in. Meanwhile Solango secured one of the wild calves for a pushing game, and later Laikipia took on a teenager which Burra tried to hijack. However, he soon found that the teenager was too big for him. When the wild herd decided to leave, Solango was tempted to go off with them but returned later.

09 October 2006

The orphans fed quietly during the morning, and didn’t take a mudbath, because it was cloudy. Later a wild group of 3 large cows, 3 tiny calves and a newly weaned youngster arrived at the Orphans’ mudbath, and had a wonderful time enjoying it.

10 October 2006

Lissa, her two wild-born calves, Uaso and Mpenzi joined the orphans out in the bush at 8 a.m. They fed together and enjoyed the mudbath together, where the orphans had a wonderful time with Lissa’s two babies. This is the first time Mpenzi has been seen since she lost her baby to the lions, and we were pleased to see that she seemed happy and composed. The two groups fed well together, with Uaso after Edie for a mounting session!

11 October 2006

The orphans looked relaxed as they fed, because the rains have brought on some green fodder for them. Seraa and Thoma shared a bush, each testing the other’s mouth to check how much food their respective trunks had amassed!

12 October 2006

After the orphans left, little Rukinga, the baby kudu and Serena, the baby zebra played happily, running around together, Rukinga unable to keep up with Serena, who always overtook him. Later they fed close together for the rest of the day.

13 October 2006

The orphans went half way up Mazinga Hill to feed, and Mweiga managed the climb with them. Emily, Ilingwezi and Uaso joined the orphans on their way to the mudbath, where Uaso lay down, and encouraged the orphans to climb over him, which excited them very much. They also had a wonderful dust bath, Thoma competing with Burra to be the most vigorous duster until Solango became jealous and shoved Thoma away so that he could take on Burra. Uaso peeled off near the Pipeline road when the orphans were heading home in the evening.

14 October 2006

Again the orphans went up Mazinga Hill. Mweya accompanied Mweiga more slowly. They fed there for most of the day, and when they came down they charged a giraffe and its baby who were feeding at the base of the hill. This warmed the orphans up, so they enjoyed an active mudbath. In the evening Laikipia and Solango tried to out-pace each other, leading the group. Laikipia, whose strides are bigger, won.

15 October 2006

A Small family of one large cow, a tiny calf and a teenaged bull joined the orphans on the eastern side of Mazinga Hill. The wild cow was very possessive of her baby, not allowing the orphans access, but the teenager entertained the orphans royally by rolling in the soft soil. Morani and Thoma joined him, sometimes resting their heads on his stomach, watched closely by Sosian. Later he challenged the bull to a test of strength. After about an hour, the wild group left, heading towards the Airfield.

16 October 2006

Lissa’s group joined the orphans, coming down from the hill in order to do so. The orphans ran to greet them, immediately engaging Lissa’s calves in a pushing game. Mweiga kept apart, fearful of being knocked down by the boisterous players. Only Uaso followed the orphans to the mudbath where he enjoyed playing with Solango. Later Uaso went to join Lissa’s family, who were high up on the hill, taking Sosian with him, who came back at 8 p.m. to the Stockades alone. He was let into his usual Night Quarters to feed on the Grewia bushes.

17 October 2006

A wild bull broke the electric fence and went to feed inside near the Staff quarters. A section of the fence was brought down and the orphans brought in to allow the bull to move out confidently amongst them. However, before the first section had been fixed and the power back he broke in again and was again removed using the same technique.

18 October 2006

Uaso, who was feeding with Lissa’s group up Mazinga Hill, came down to join the orphans, and went with them to the noon mudbath, Uaso is very well liked by the orphans, has become a frequent visitor, giving them a lot of fun by lying down so they can climb on him. They all want to be close to him when feeding out in the bush. Later he went back to join Lissa’s group, taking Sosian and Mukwaju with him, but Sosian returned to be with Mweiga.

19 October 2006

It was a very enjoyable morning, with all the orphans in an exuberant mood. Uaso arrived early to join them. Uaso fed with them, and accompanied them to the mudbath, where they all had a lot of fun. They hero-worship Uaso, who is the focus of attention for all the young bulls. Uaso left the orphans at about 3 p.m.

20 October 2006

Heavy rain clouds promised a downpour this morning, but it didn’t come. The orphans had a good day, with a lot of games in the mudbath, Mweya and Burra lying on the banks. Lolokwe and Morani lay in the mud, trumpeting and then charging around with attracted Loisaba and Icholta. Icholta could not resist, and joined in the mudbath games, but Loisaba stood by, keeping a close eye on Morani, who is a favorite of hers. Laikipia and Salama returned into the water when all the others had left, and had a wonderful time. Laikipia led the group home in the evening.

21 October 2006

The orphans had a good feed this morning. Their stomachs were protruding, being full. They enjoyed the mudbath at the closest waterhole, because food is more plentiful, and then took a luxurious break, resting.

22 October 2006

It was a hot day, and the orphans fed in the same area as yesterday. During a chasing game between Mukwaju and Salama, Lolokwe was inadvertently pushed into a thorn tree which made him bellow. However, he didn’t seek revenge, because the two players fled!

23 October 2006

A report came from Nairobi at noon that there was a lonely elephant calf on the Galana River close to the Chepeu Camp. Upon reaching the spot, we spotted the calf on the North bank of the river. It looked in good condition, and was too big for us to capture, (about 6 – 8 years old with quite big tusks). We surmise that it could be one that was translocated from Shimba, who had become separated from its family, and was feeling lost, because it had been hanging around close to the Camp for some days. Meanwhile, the orphans enjoyed their mudath, with Mweiga, Mukwaju, Thoma and Solango teaming up to play in the water. Edie lay in the water, attracting Icholta and Laikipia who were spectators to Edie’s antics.

24 October 2006

The orphans fed calmly, but went to the waterhole with plenty of exuberance. Ndara challenged Mpala to a test of strength, while Irima scratched the underside of his belly on the bank. Salama picked up a dry stick and used it to scratch part of his neck that he could not reach with his trunk. He then tried to scratch the inside of his ear, but the stick was not sufficiently flexible, so he dropped it and used his trunk. Nyiro pushed Sosian out of the water, which angered Icholta who set about him, sending him running off as Icholta chased after him tossing huge chunks of soil into the air. Sosian then enjoyed a soil dusting session with Irima. They all returned to the Stockade happy and content, Laikipia as usual in the lead.

25 October 2006

The orphans enjoyed joyful games around the compound in the morning, Solango and Laikipia taking up positions to scratch against the rocks. Laikipia and Mukwaju then lay in the soft soil at the same time engaged in a pushing game. Solango tested his strength with Icholta while Mweiga’s joy was evident as she also lay in the soft soil, rolling around. Later they fed up the hill again, Laikipia at the highest point, and Mweiga also climbing high, but at a slower pace. Meanwhile Emily and Ilingwezi came to drink at the Stockade at 2 p.m. and then left, heading for the Voi River.

26 October 2006

The orphans again fed up the hill, coming down to drink at the waterhole before returning up the hill to feed. They find lush vegetation in between the rocks.

27 October 2006

Mukwaju, who is the best climber, again propelled the others up the hill, with Mweiga, for a second time, managed to climb high up. They came down to the waterhole at noon, and then fed on the lower slopes for the rest of the day.

28 October 2006

The orphans again went up the hill, until Uaso arrived at the base to join them. Mpala and Thoma came down to greet him. Up the hill Lolokwe used his head to push a huge boulder, but was unable to move it. Burra enjoyed drinking rainwater that had collected in the rocks, while the others came down to drink, before returning half way up to continue feeding for the rest of the day.

29 October 2006

The orphans again went up the hill to feed, but had to be careful because the rocks were slippery.

30 October 2006

The orphans again went up the hill to feed. The hill has had more rain than elsewhere, so browse is more plentiful there.

31 October 2006

Again, the orphans went up the hill to feed where they decided to try some games. Lolokwe teamed up with Thoma while Seraa, Solango and Burra played separately. Mweiga was also up the hill with them, but kept a considerable distance from the exuberant youngsters. They came down for the mudbath and then fed on the lower slopes for the rest of the day. Other Notes:- the lonely Galana River youngster has not been seen again. It could have migrated to another place, joined up with others or fallen prey to predators. The Camp Staff promised to inform us should they spot it again.