Keepers' Diaries, October 2017

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Voi Reintegration Unit

It was a rather sombre month at the Voi stockades as we continued to rescue young babies that have succumb to the biting drought that has gripped southern areas of Tsavo. We could not always get there in time to save all of the victims, despite racing to the scene after every report. Elephants are sensitive creatures and consume a large amount of vegetation every day to survive; without this nourishment they quickly succumb to the harsh environment. These sad incidents were punctuated by moments of happiness however, like rays of hope, when mothers were reunited with their calves trapped in thick mud, or when we could reach an orphan in time to save it’s life, or even watching our healthy orphans, the lucky ones, frolic around in water holes knowing they were safe and that we would do everything to keep it that way. Providing daily supplements for our dependent orphans and the four Ex Orphans who chose to stay close to the stockades this month as well, Lempaute, Kivuko, Dabassa and Layoni, has been a must. The lucerne grass and pellets provided in the morning ensure the orphans have a good start to the day, and enough energy to forage on the vegetation found in this dry area. Towards the end of the month the first few showers of the short rains broke through and we hope this is just the start of a sufficient rainy season to come. Apart from caring for the elephant orphans we have an eclectic herd of other animals at the Voi stockades including Ngulia, a feisty zebra and leader of the ‘pack’ and two eland calves called Tawi and Kore. This month there was an addition to their group in the shape of Oltukai, a male buffalo brought to the stockades on the 9th by the DSWT/KWS Amboseli Veterinary Unit. It was very unsettled and traumatized and took awhile to settle into its new surroundings.

It was a rather sombre month at the Voi stockades as we continued to rescue young babies that have succumb to the biting drought that has gripped southern areas of Tsavo. We could not always get there in time to save all of the victims, despite racing to the scene after every report. Elephants are sensitive creatures and consume a large amount of vegetation every day to survive; without this nourishment they quickly succumb to the harsh environment. These sad incidents were punctuated by moments of happiness however, like rays of hope, when mothers were reunited with their calves trapped in thick mud, or when we could reach an orphan in time to save it’s life, or even watching our healthy orphans, the lucky ones, frolic around in water holes knowing they were safe and that we would do everything to keep it that way. Providing daily supplements for our dependent orphans and the four Ex Orphans who chose to stay close to the stockades this month as well, Lempaute, Kivuko, Dabassa and Layoni, has been a must. The lucerne grass and pellets provided in the morning ensure the orphans have a good start to the day, and enough energy to forage on the vegetation found in this dry area. Towards the end of the month the first few showers of the short rains broke through and we hope this is just the start of a sufficient rainy season to come. Apart from caring for the elephant orphans we have an eclectic herd of other animals at the Voi stockades including Ngulia, a feisty zebra and leader of the ‘pack’ and two eland calves called Tawi and Kore. This month there was an addition to their group in the shape of Oltukai, a male buffalo brought to the stockades on the 9th by the DSWT/KWS Amboseli Veterinary Unit. It was very unsettled and traumatized and took awhile to settle into its new surroundings.

The orphans were delighted to play in light rain that fell and wet the earth and the grass, joyfully chomping on the wet and tasty grass which was a relief from the hard bark they have been chewing for nutrients. A welcome part to their day is always the relieving mud baths, a break from the midday sun after their milk bottles. Ndii is certainly the most playful water-baby at this time and is enjoying the new water hole built for the orphans under a baobab tree. We watched one day as she slid down the sides of the mud bath into the water, only to get out and repeat the process over and over again. On two separate occasions the water hole didn’t prove enough for Ndii however, and she plunged herself into the water trough where the others wanted to drink clean water. She splashed about in the clean water with her dirty feet turning it nice and murky, so the others had to wait for it to settle again before choosing to drink water there!

On the 5th the dependent orphans were browsing peacefully with a wild herd and when they separated Ajali, Pasaka and Nguvu, the three older more recent arrivals, and a group that had previously enjoyed browsing on their own, decided to run off with them into the bush. One of our aerial surveillance aircraft was called to assist in finding the orphans and the next day Ajali was spotted with a wild herd including a female that had just given birth, so an extraction at that point proved rather fraught. Finally in the afternoon of the 13th, the keepers came across Ajali and Nguvu with a herd of wild elephants. They were looking thinner so the keepers decided to separate them by bringing their dependent orphan friends to join then and the two rejoined their friends and wandered back to the stockades with them with was a relief so that they could be more closely monitored given how dry it is an how many wild elephants have died this drought year. They were warmly greeted by the orphans with loud trumpeting as their friends touched them all over with their trunks. To date we have not located Pasaka but continue to search for him, and we are sure that whilst he is in the company of a wild herd he will be okay.

We were thrilled to receive a report of Emily’s Ex Orphan herd from a Sanctuary near Mageno Ranch on the 27th, closer to Tsavo West than East, they were thankfully were both food and water remained abundant amidst plenty of wild herds within the same area. We immediately sent a team of Keepers to identify the members, and were delighted to find Emily, Eve, Emma, Edie and her calf Ella, Sweet Sally and her calf Safi, Laikipia, Lolokwe, Mweya and Rombo all safe and looking well despite the current harsh conditions. This was a huge relief as they had not been sighted for many months. Other members of Emily’s herd such as Thoma and her baby Thor, Seraa, Wasessa, Irima, Mzima and Siria were not among the group and we believed they were together with Ndara and her baby Neptune, Lesanju, Sinya and Tassia who had been seen in the same sanctuary almost a week prior

The four independent orphans sticking close to the stockade compound this month, Lempaute, Kivuko, Dabassa and Layoni, visited every single day for lucerne, sometimes to interact with the juniors. The leaders of the dependent herd are still wary of the four and Kenia, Ndii and Kihari are quick to lead the others out in the morning, so ‘their’ babies do not have to socialize. Ranging from 7 to 11 years old, the four older elephants aren’t shy of having fun and enjoyed some lovely games rolling on the red earth in the compound. One day after eating lucerne Layoni and Dabassa went and rolled around in the red soil pile. Their game caught the attention of Ishaq-B, Mudanda, Rorogoi, Mbirikani and Panda who came up and stood in a line watching their older friends. Dabassa got up from the soil and engaged Panda in a strength testing game, scattering the rest of the spectators in the process. One day Kihari was enjoying a game on the soil but was sure that Layoni and Dabassa had mischievous intentions when they approached her, so she got up and moved away.

October 2017 day to day

01 Oct

It was a sad beginning to the day as orphan Chedi collapsed at midnight and needed to be put on drips. Despite being attended to quickly and the keepers doing all they could, Chedi sadly died at about 5am. Kenia’s herd welcomed Lempaute, Dabassa, Layoni and Kivuko in the morning when the four Ex Orphans joined them to feed on lucerne. They remained with them for a while before the stockade dependent herd left for the browsing fields leaving their older friends at the stockades where they remained for about two hours before heading back to the Park. Kihari wanted to join up with Pasaka for some browsing activities but Ajali was not happy about this as Ajali wanted Pasaka for himself. Kihari did not want to get into a fight with Ajali and surrendered Pasaka to him. The orphans visited the baobab water hole where they had a lot of fun playing mud bathing games following their milk and supplement feeding. The afternoon was spent browsing close to the waterhole.

Orphans feeding on lucerne

Bada and IShaq-B browsing

Pasaka enjoying lucerne grass

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