Keepers' Diaries, October 2007

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Voi Reintegration Unit

It has been an eventful month at the Voi Reintegration Centre where Mweiga (the weak elephant) returns to the Night Stockades on a daily basis, being too fragile to be on her own during the hours of darkness. The compassion and caring nature of elephants is vividly illustrated in this month’s Diary in that one member of Natumi’s now wild unit of orphans is assigned “Mweiga Sitting Duty” so that Mweiga is NEVER without the company of another elephant. This month this important duty has been shared between two young bulls from Natumi’s rehabilitated group, Burra and Morani. Burra was on duty at the beginning of the month until the 6th when Morani took over for a couple of days, leaving Burra to rejoin Natumi’s group. However, he was back on the 8th to relieve Morani but Morani returned to this assignment on the 11th and did a long stretch that ended on the 30th when Burra returned to take over again! It is very interesting for us that it is Morani and Burra who have alternated for Mweiga-Sitting this month, because previously her closest friends had been Mweya and Sosian. Perhaps Natumi, as the Matriarch that took over in the wake of Emily, and who now in charge of those orphans not with Emily, is the one who assigns this duty!

It has been an eventful month at the Voi Reintegration Centre where Mweiga (the weak elephant) returns to the Night Stockades on a daily basis, being too fragile to be on her own during the hours of darkness. The compassion and caring nature of elephants is vividly illustrated in this month’s Diary in that one member of Natumi’s now wild unit of orphans is assigned “Mweiga Sitting Duty” so that Mweiga is NEVER without the company of another elephant. This month this important duty has been shared between two young bulls from Natumi’s rehabilitated group, Burra and Morani. Burra was on duty at the beginning of the month until the 6th when Morani took over for a couple of days, leaving Burra to rejoin Natumi’s group. However, he was back on the 8th to relieve Morani but Morani returned to this assignment on the 11th and did a long stretch that ended on the 30th when Burra returned to take over again! It is very interesting for us that it is Morani and Burra who have alternated for Mweiga-Sitting this month, because previously her closest friends had been Mweya and Sosian. Perhaps Natumi, as the Matriarch that took over in the wake of Emily, and who now in charge of those orphans not with Emily, is the one who assigns this duty!

Natumi’s group joins up with Mweiga, and whoever happens to be with her, on an almost daily basis, either out in the bush to browse alongside them, or else either at the mudbath or back at the Stockades in the evening. However, there have been a few days in the month when Mweiga and her escort have been on their own without the company of any of the others, and instead enjoyed the company of a wild herd who joined them at their noon mudbath on the 13th and 14th, and spent time feeding with them thereafter. Natumi’s group was joined by a wild bull on the 9th who shared the mudbath with the orphans, including Mweiga and Burra who was her escort on that day and on the 16th some of her group peeled off to join Mweiga and Burra, namely Edie, Irima, Mpala and Mukwaju, leaving the rest browsing up Mazinga Hill. Similarly towards the end of the month it was Mweya and Edie who peeled off from the others and returned to their Stockade Home base where they played around for a time before leaving again.

Emily has reappeared again several times this month along with the orphans under her Matriarch-ship, namely Aitong, Sweet Sally, Salama, Loisaba, Nyiro and Tsavo, but without Msinga who has obviously joined another group. However, having spent time with our orphans, this wild orphan knows where to come for help should she need it. Natumi’s group, comprised of the rest of the orphans previously under Emily’s Matriarchship, meet up with Emily’s group on occasions often at the Stockades in the evening or out in the bush. When at the Stockades, both groups leave as one having seen Mweiga and her escort safely ensconced for the night. Likewise, 21 year old ex orphan Lissa and her three calves, plus Mpenzi, her Nannie (who lost her first calf to a pride of lions below the Voi Safari Lodge at the beginning of the year), have also visited the Stockades and spent time with the other orphans this month. They too sometimes arrive with either Emily’s group or that of Natumi.

20 year old Big Boy Uaso turned up at the Stockades on the 24th, welcomed with joyous enthusiasm as usual, something that always takes place whenever ex orphans meet up with one another, even after only a brief separation. He intercepted Mweiga and Morani on their way out to the bush on the 26th, and was extremely alarmed when he spotted the orphaned zebra mare (Serena) in amongst them, taking to his heels! Then, finding that the other two were un-perturbed and quite relaxed, sheepishly he returned to join them, keeping a close eye on the zebra who he viewed as an unlikely member of the group! Obviously Uaso, during his perambulations out in the bush, must encounter wild zebras on a daily basis, he obviously found it very unusual to find one walking with his two elephant friends!

And for Serena the zebra, it has been a milestone month for her, and a joyous one for her Keepers, for on the 27th she fraternized with a wild herd of zebra for the first time and since then has been eager to make contact again, though a little shy. This will of course change as she fully matures. Up until now she and Rukinga the orphaned kudu have trailed Mweiga and her escort on a daily basis, not always welcomed by the other orphans, but Mweiga and her escort have become accustomed to their presence. It is only very recently that Serena has begun to pay attention to her wild kin.

Likewise it has also been a milestone month for Rukinga the orphaned kudu who was raised alongside Serena, and who on the 7th joined a small group of wild kudus and having tried to mount one of the female sub-adults, eventually went off with them. He reappeared briefly in amongst the wild group on the 12th, and again at the end of the month, so we are proud that he is now happily living a wild life along with his wild peers who frequent the vicinity of the Stockades. Our Elephant Keepers can be proud for having saved his life and returned him where he rightly belongs. They have also been responsible for rearing several buffalo orphans who, once stabilized, have been handed into the care of neighbouring ranchers in order to be able to to run with their domestic cattle.

The Keepers acquired yet another baby buffalo orphan on the 22nd, but this time a very unusual one, for it had been “adopted” by a lioness below the Voi Safari Lodge, its buffalo mother having fallen victim to lions. Astonishingly, in a similar event as to that which took in Samburu National Reserve a few years back, when a lioness made international headlines by adopting a newborn oryx, this Voi lioness chose to do the same though with a newborn buffalo, mothering it, protecting it and even trying to carry it as she would her own cub when the Keepers arrived to rescue it. This dramatic incident was first witnessed by visiting tourists, who motivated by compassion for the bemused baby buffalo, called in our Keepers to rescue the calf. This they managed to do, but it had suffered head injuries when the lioness tried to carry it away. Obviously, the mothering instinct occasionally masks the innate killer instinct of female Big Cats whose normal role in Nature is that of natural selection – to dispatch the sick, the weak and the maimed ensuring that only good genes perpetuate a species. Were such incidents not able to be verified photographically through modern technology, no doubt Science would remain exceedingly skeptical about the authenticity of lay-folk spoken word. Unhappily, this particular buffalo calf later died, the trauma it had suffered and the head wound being more than it could withstand.

October 2007 day to day

01 Oct

Burra was the one that was detailed to “Mweiga” sit today. He and Mweiga left the Night Stockades early and soon met up with Natumi’s group, welcomed with a joyous reunion. Emily’s group was absent today. Later in the evening Mweya, Ilingwezi and Edie accompanied Mweiga and Burra to the Night Stockades, and left once the two had settled in.

Burra & Mweiga

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