Keepers' Diaries, October 2015

Voi Reintegration Unit

Although there has been a threat of rain around Voi, to date only a few light showers have brought some relief, sadly insufficient to promote much re-growth or fill the dried waterholes. The three waterholes around Msinga Hill which are frequented by our orphans (and wild herds) have been kept topped up by our water bowser which has become known to the wild herds, who can often be seen patiently awaiting its arrival in order to enjoy the fresh water placed in drums for the orphans, and partake of the mudbath that is topped up by any surplus. The wild elephants have often intermingled with the orphans this month – wild babies always being a great draw for the orphans. Wasessa, Lesanju and Lempaute continue to monitor such interactions closely, anxious to try and avoid losing a member of their group to the wild herds. Our Voi dependent orphans are thriving and their individual tales are recounted through the pages of the Keepers daily entries.

01 October 2015

It was a wonderful morning filled with a lot of baby games in the stockade compound after drinking a bottle of milk and feeding on the routine supplements. The journey towards the browsing grounds then begun under the careful leadership of Lesanju and Sinya. The browsing day went on around the northern side of the stockade, in a slow browsing motion arriving at the middle water pool later that afternoon. The sun was bright and the orphans had a wonderful time bathing in a bid to try and cool their warm bodies. Ndoria enjoyed some fun games, rolling in the water like a long time swimming expert, a game that attracted Mudanda’s attention to come and watch as well. Mudanda decided to challenge Ndoria in the game, lying down and performing some beautiful rolls and swimming strokes. She was not lucky to attract any spectators though, as everyone was exiting from the water at that time including Ndoria. Nelion went back to cheer her up and stayed with her until she finished her games, and then they both went together to join their friends for the final browsing session of the day.

02 October 2015

The morning was good with the orphan herd leaving the stockade in good time after the supplement feeding was over. It was a wonderful browsing time of the day as the orphans browsed in single file throughout the better half of the morning. The juniors started out at the water hole as usual under a leadership of Kihari and Ishaq B. Their older friends joined them there and they all had a beautiful time bathing. Soon after they left, a wild elephant herd approached to drink from the middle water hole with their tiny calf, which jumped into the water and played games that attracted the orphans back to play with the young one. Taveta, Kenia and Ndii assembled out of the water but close enough to the wild calf, admiring its most amazing rolling games. Soon another wild herd of elephants arrived and Wasessa moved in front in an attempt to block them from interacting with the orphan herd. However the commotion of the two wild herds in search of ample drinking space scared the orphans away, who moved out of there to continue browsing for the rest of the day.

03 October 2015

It was a fantastic day with the orphans happily playing some ‘hide and seek’ games in the stockade compound after milk and supplement feeding that morning. After leaving the stockade, they browsed very calmly and slowly so as to utilize this very crucial part of their day in obtaining enough green vegetation. They arrived slowly at the middle water pool later that afternoon. The day was fairly warm and all the orphans plunged into the thick mud to enjoy that beautiful bathing and socializing session. The loud trumpets coupled with running in and out of the water drove Sinya into the water as well to enjoy the happy bathing games. Sinya technically carried out her bathing on the banks of the mud hole but it was just amazing that she participated at all in the bath, a rare scenario that attracted the attention of both the keepers and the orphan elephant family. Mzima moved in to give Sinya a bathing challenge, as Dabasa went on the walls on the opposite side to challenge her as well. Wasessa concentrated on guarding little Bada to have a peaceful bath, away from her playful friends. The bathing party took a little longer than usual, with all coming out completely exhausted and taking a rest under an acacia tree before moving on with browsing for the rest of the day.

04 October 2015

Another beautiful morning has come with the elephants coming out of their respective stockades, running to empty a morning milk bottle before joining their senior colleagues in Lesanju’s herd for some supplement feeding in the stockade. There were only brief games in the stockade before they marched off for browsing in the bush. The orphans then proceeded to take a bath in the middle water pool where they had a lot of fun in the mud bathing games. Soon after they had left the water hole, Layoni noticed a herd of water bucks and a herd of wild elephants coming to drink. Layoni bravely moved in chasing away the water bucks to pave way for the approaching elephants to drink. He nearly scared off the wild elephants when they saw the water bucks running not sure as to what frightened them, but they came in to drink briefly before moving off towards the Voi River. The orphans interacted with them in greeting before remaining behind to browse. Layoni went back in the same middle water pool to kindly flag in the water bucks, giving them equal opportunity to enjoy a drink of water. The rest of the day browsing went on close to the water hole.

05 October 2015

As usual the elephants moved to the browsing grounds after finishing all the feeding and playing activities at the stockade compound in the morning. They engaged in serious browsing business with no games at all during that morning session. Lentili enjoyed the lead of walking them towards the water pool and a subsequent plunge into the water hole for a bath as they were waiting for the arrival of their senior friends. Bada moved out of the waterhole and engaged in a game of tossing huge chunks of soil in the air, catching the eye of his friends in the main water pool and drawing them all to exit the bath prematurely to dust themselves as well and enjoy tossing soil. They then took off from there to continue feeding.

06 October 2015

On a beautiful sunny morning the orphans left the stockades for the browsing grounds where they scattered by still kept in touch with one another for the better half of the day. The orphans later teamed up with the juniors to move towards the water hole to get their afternoon milk bottle and were followed closely by their senior friends in Lesanju’s herd. After a wonderful noon mud bath in the main water pool, Tundani proved he was indeed the days swimming star, with Kenia slowly growing jealous and forcefully evicting Tundani out of the water. Kenia took over the whole water pool, but did not have any spectators to cheer her on, calling for an early exit from the pool to join her friends in browsing. The rest of the browsing day went on perfectly well with Lentili enjoying the lead of taking them back to the stockade that evening.

07 October 2015

Lesanju and Lempaute led the orphans out to browse today. They enjoyed a very brief moment of scratching on the outcrop of rocks at the foot of the Msinga Hill before moving and settling down for browsing. Rombo enjoyed splashing on the edge of the water before Lempaute came in and took up the same water splashing game. Dabassa came in and took the opportunity to lie down and take a bath in the wet and muddy area outside of the main water pool where he was joined by Mzima, Lentilli and Nelion. Soon after the orphans had left the wild herds moved it. The orphans sensed this and returned to the waterhole but just missed their wild counterparts.

08 October 2015

There were light rain showers in the morning as the orphans left the stockades. They all enjoyed browsing on the moist vegetation. After three hours of undisturbed feeding, Kivuko surprised Lentili when she knelt down on her front legs to eat a bush that was very low to the ground. Lentili watched Kivuko in great amazement. Lentili was tempted to use the same stance to get the fresh shoots. At noon the milk dependent orphans enjoyed their midday feed as the other orphans who have been weaned rushed to cool down in the mudbath. Today with the dust settled from the much needed drizzle the orphans enjoyed a cooler day than normal.

09 October 2015

It was raining lightly again as the orphans left their stockades and they played happily on the wet ground, making their way to where they would browse for the morning. They browsed in single file and close to one another, almost touching. They went far onto the eastern side of Msinga hill and seemed to savor the pounding rain on their bodies. The rain shower was over after two hours or so and then the orphans turned around slowly and made their way back in the direction of the middle waterhole in for the young ones to feed again. Upon arriving there only Panda, Ishaq b, Taveta and Naipoki attempted to take that cold bath; the others decided they would rather not because of the cold water. Nevertheless the four only took a partial bath, moving out quickly to rejoin their friends.

10 October 2015

The orphans had a nice and wonderful browsing moment for the better half of the day before moving to the water pool at noon. Nelion, Tundani and Ishaq b took the advantage of being the first to arrive at the water hole for their milk to plunge into the middle of the water, enjoying a bath before their seniors arrived. The three had already enjoyed enough of their bath by the time the others arrived and went out of water for some alternative dusting games

11 October 2015

During the mud bath today it was a nice moment for Ndii and Kihari when they both went into the water, lying down and challenging one another in a swimming competition in the water. It was amazing as all the others came in and patiently waited for the two to fulfill their activity to produce their best swimming results, before they collectively joined them for that bathing session. They all had a lot of fun in the mud bathing games before moving out in one compact herd engaging in the final browsing session of the day.

12 October 2015

Nelion had a wonderful time today; he left his friends drinking water in the half drum barrels to go and lie flat in the middle of the water hole like a king. The other orphans watched him go to the mud bath and some of his activities before they decide to plunge into the water as well; Nelion stayed calm and did not when his wonderful bathing game was interrupted.

13 October 2015

The orphans were enjoying their usual day of browsing when the keepers received a report of an orphan baby eland that was rescued by some Somali herd’s men in Kore, and was recovered by Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) rangers who were posted nearby and called the Voi stockade to come and collect the eland from their camp. It was quite a long drive from Voi through several ranches to Kore to rescue this small orphan baby eland that was desperate for milk and loving company. The baby eland, whose mother was assumed to have been a victim of poaching, was brought in to the Voi stockade to have a second chance at life after the loss of its mother. The orphan’s condition was okay but it had several bruises that were attended to and treated after its rescue. The keepers attempted to feed it and the baby immediately responded very well to milk and the handling of the keepers.

14 October 2015

The keepers had been keeping an eye on Kenia as they noticed she was becoming dull and not very active. She was losing some body weight and the situation was seen to be gradually worsening so we quickly called Angela for guidance and some medication to treat her with. The suggested medication was quickly couriered down and a plan for treatment made.

15 October 2015

The orphans went browsing high on Msinga Hill which is situated behind their stockades. They were under the stewardship of Lempaute and Wasessa today. Two big girls who have not made the move to independence and spending time with the wild herds, but prefer to be act as joint Matriachs to the dependent group, Lesanju and Sinya too. They later came to the stockade at noon to quench their thirst and interact with the school children that were visiting from a local Primary school. Mbirikani enjoyed some amazing bathing games in the stockade water hole to the great amazement of the visiting children. After this fun experience for the children the orphans left and went back to browsing in the same browsing grounds for the rest of the day.

16 October 2015

It was a beautiful beginning to the day with the orphans enjoying some milk and morning supplement feeds before heading to the southern side of the stockades for the days browsing. The orphans returned back to the stockade in the afternoon, where they interacted with some more school children that were visiting on a school trip with the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust community outreach officer in the Trust’s community bus. Naipoki entertained the school children by scratching her buttocks on the rock close to the stockade water trough. She increased the intensity and pace of her game as soon as she had some cheers from the school children. The orphans later resumed their browsing deep into the Park for the rest of the afternoon returning home in the late evening ready to their stockades greens and a good sleep.

17 October 2015

Tundani was lagging today, taking his time browsing of fresh shoots. He was so intent on what he was doing that he failed to see that he was being left behind. When he finally realized he was alone her cried out which brought Wasessa, Lesanju and Sinya running back to rescue him and bring him back in to the main herd. They were not sure if anything bad had happened to him so they ran fast to where he was, concerned they gave him the once over. Anxious not to be alone again Tundani kept a close watch on the others for the rest of the day.

18 October 2015

It was a fairly cold morning with the orphans having only some brief games in the stockade compound before moving out to the browsing grounds to feed. They then proceeded to the water hole for a drink later that afternoon. Here they assembled around the water hole and drank only from the edge before moving off again. Mudanda was not entirely satisfied and later returned to bathe. She was watched over by her favorite Wasessa as she submerged herself in the wallow.

19 October 2015

The orphans left the Stockades in an orderly manner in the early morning browsing gradually as they headed to the waterhole for the noon mudbath where they enjoyed a lot of fun. A short while later the keepers received a report of an orphan elephant who was now alone, since its mother mother died whilst undergoing treatment for a severely infected poisoned arrow injury. The baby refused to leave the mother’ so it was not difficult to capture, especially as it was also weak, the mother having been ill for sometime. The keepers drove to the location in Tsavo East National Park to collect the baby, who was estimated to be around three years of age. The decision was made to take the female newcomer, who was named “Araba” to the Voi stockade to be hand-reared with the other resident orphans. Having met the other orphans at the Stockades, she settled rapidly and began taking milk.

20 October 2015

On a bright and sunny morning the orphans arrived at the browsing grounds for a busy feeding day. After a while they noticed a wild herd of elephants browsing in as thicket and decided to join them, but as they approached, the wild herd took fright and began to run off, but halted after a few meters having realized that it was only the orphan elephants who wanted to join them. The two groups interacted until the wild herd moved northwards when the orphans made their way took to the water hole to quench their thirst and enjoy cooling themselves in the mud bath. Mzima went with the wild herd for a short distance, but returned an hour or two later to rejoin his friends, who by that time were busy browsing.

21 October 2015

The day began with the orphans enjoying their usual games within the stockade compound before walking out to browse. The day turned hot and amazingly Sinya decided to go into the mudbath as well and even lay down in the water in preparation for mud bathing games. Bada noticed this and watched Sinya and the others with great interest. Afterwards the orphans browsed close by for the rest of the day until Naipoki and Panda led the way back to the stockade in the evening.

22 October 2015

Having taken their milk, Panda’s group went to greet the new arrival “Araba” before joining their peers who were feeding on copra cake. Tundani and Nelion had a soft sort for Araba and remained with her for longer, even foregoing their supplement food that morning. Later the two joined their friends who by that time had started leaving the stockades for the bush. Araba obviously missed them but was happy again when they turned up again that evening for the night. Being still milk dependent, she needs to stay inside for longer than the Nairobi Nursery babies in order to become familiar with the Keepers and her her new family rather than be tempted to escape.

23 October 2015

Araba is responding better to the keepers today, taking her cue from the other orphans and taking her milk from a hand-held bottle rather than the bucket. Once out in the field the orphans browsed calmly, Mzima, Kivuko and Mbirikani trying unsuccessfully to coax everyone up Msinga Hill to browse but the others had already decided to move towards the water hole instead. Later all browsed close to the middle water pool.

24 October 2015

After enjoying the supplements, Kenia and Ndii were allowed by Sinya and Lempaute to lead led the orphans out to browse where the orphans spread out to browse. Ndoria lagged behind the others when they went to the water hole that afternoon, but came running after them to ensure that she got her share of milk. After the mudbath the orphans browsed peacefully until it was time to head back home in single file.

25 October 2015

On a cloudy and cool morning the orphans climbed Msinga Hill to browse and remained there for the better part of the day whilst the milk dependent orphans came down and returned to the stockade for their milk, leaving their senior friends up the hill but returning to join them later. At the end of the day all the orphans came down together to head for the safety of the stockades for the night.

26 October 2015

The orphans headed out to browse after taking their morning supplement. A report of a wild elephant calf stuck in mud along the Mombasa/Mzima pipeline was then received but by the time the rescue team arrived, there were no wild elephants nearby and it appeared that the calf had been there all night, its family having given up hope of retrieving it. Having extracted the male calf, he was driven to the Voi Stockades in the back of the Trust pickup. He was given water while we awaited the arrival of the Nairobi Nursery DSWT team to airlift him back to the Nursery. After the plane carrying the Nairobi team of Keepers landed at Voi, the calf was fed a bottle of formula milk and prepared for the flight back. It was not long before he settled down in the Nursery despite all the trauma he had been through, thanks to the input of “Mbegu” who was in the next door stable. H was given the name “Kwama”, the Swahili word meaning ‘to be stuck’.

27 October 2015

The orphans came out of their respective stables in a happy mood to drink their morning milk bottle and settle for some supplement feeding before embarking on the usual stockade compound games ahead of leaving to browse. A short while later we unfortunately received another report of yet another trapped wild elephant calf in the same water pipe line hole the second in two consecutive days. This calf had also lost its family and had to be airlifted to the Nairobi Nursery. The situation at that particular mudhole was proving a real threat which was relayed to the KWS authorities so that plans could be made to re-shape the mudhole using the KWS Grader fueled by the Trust. The female calf was named ‘Kawaida’ which means ‘the same’ in Kiswahili since she was rescued from the same mud hole as Kwama the very next day.

28 October 2015

During the morning browsing session, Mudanda disciplined Ndoria who was being pushy after finishing her milk. This is something that has been noted over the past month, and usually takes place only around milk feeding time. However, after taking milk the two then enjoyed a perfectly peaceful mudbath together, indicative that the problem only arises when there is food involved.

29 October 2015

The orphans welcomed a light rain shower today. Later in the afternoon Ndii was jealous of Dabassa who was dominating the mud bathing games. She tried to expel him from the mudbath but Dabassa stayed put throughout. Later all the orphans came out of the water to browse nearby nearby for the rest of the day.

30 October 2015

The orphans browsed their way to the middle water hole under the leadership of Kihari and Ishaq b. There was drama when Lesanju took little Mudanda to play in the mud hole, completely blocking Wasessa from reaching her. Wasessa instead concentrated on guarding Bada from being taken as well. She never thwarts Lesanju who is recognized as the main Matriarch of the group. It was, however, obviously a great relief to Wasessa when Lesanju exited the water leaving Mudanda behind who continued playing so Wasessa took the opportunity to move in and embrace both babies as her own. After all were fully satisfied with their bathing activities, they browsed nearby.

31 October 2015

Previous rain showers had generated little green shoots which the orphans greatly enjoyed. They fed in single file, arriving at the middle water hole at noon to quench their thirst and enjoy some mud bathing games. Later that afternoon, we received a report of an orphan elephant calf at Satao camp in Tsavo East. The calf who was very thin and in a state of near collapse had apparently been trying to join the wild elephant herds who came to drink, but without success. A rescue team from the Voi stockades drove to the location and the calf which was about 3 years of age was easily captured being so weak. We named the calf “Mtoni” and once he met the other orphans, (especially Araba who was still in the stockades), he was became much calmer. He was given an intravenous drip and was monitored throughout the night. ( It is good to mention too that Kenia, who has been unwell, has already started to improve after receiving her course of injections, and is beginning to put on weight again).