Keepers' Diaries, October 2022

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Voi Reintegration Unit

The month began with a fully-charged mud bath. Even Ndotto, who doesn’t love wallowing these days, made an exception. In fact, he was the chief guest, lying right in the middle of the water. Aruba was delighted with this plot twist, knowing how rare it is for Ndotto to partake in the mud bath, and dove in next to him, her ears flapping in excitement.

Two of our newest additions, Dabida and Hildana, have started joining the rest of the Voi orphans. On their first day out, Mbegu kept close to them — but she had an assistant! Ndotto sidled over and made it clear that he also wanted to look after the little ones. Mbegu kept glancing at the older bull, sending him a signal that he could stay with them, but he must do so peacefully and not start any funny business. 

Now that Mudanda has adopted Thamana, Lemeki has been forced to branch out and make new friends. She still seems to prefer the company of the Keepers above all else, but she is starting to be more social with the other elephants. Predictably, it is Ndotto who is helping her come out of her shell. He often woos her into gentle sparring matches, making sure to not to be too rough with the young girl.

With the ongoing drought, this has been an unprecedented year of orphan rescues. Older orphans rescued from the southern reaches of the Tsavo Conservation Area go directly to Voi, and as a result, our herd has expanded significantly. In fact, we have had to expand our capacity at all our orphan units to accommodate all the newcomers! We will never turn an orphan away, no matter how many need to be rescued.

This month we welcomed several new arrivals: Baraka, Ashanti, Busari, Kilulu, Epiya, and Pusa. Most are drought victims, although Ashanti, who was rescued on the 17th, had a wire snare nearly severing her trunk. Sadly, many rescues came to us too late to save, but we do our very best to bring these poor elephants back from the brink.

Tamiyoi has appointed herself head of the Voi welcoming committee. When a new rescue arrives, she makes a point to approach their stockade and extend a warm, welcoming trunk touch. Sagala, Tagwa, and Godoma also love to look after the new babies.

In one humorous encounter, the orphans’ enthusiasm for nannying created a lot of confusion and chaos. Rorogoi and Pika Pika both chased after Dabida, each desperate to have the honour of looking after him. They managed to sandwich the young boy between them, but it was very confusing who was in charge and they left the compound in a state of bewilderment. Mbegu saw the situation devolving and came over to assume control, allowing for a more peaceful interaction between Dabida and the two girls. 

The heartbreaking realities of the drought also hit close to home. On the 18th, ex-orphan Mweya arrived at the stockades with her firstborn, Mwitu; her best friend’s daughter, Eden, and a tiny baby boy. They had made an extraordinary journey home at the height of the drought. Tragically, our joy was short-lived: Mweya and her family spent the rest of the month around Voi, only to leave for more than a week. When they returned, Mojo was not with her. Given the unforgiving drought, we can surmise that the fragile infant calf succumbed to the harsh conditions. This story will be covered in greater detail in the November diaries. 

With Mweya’s return came one silver lining: On the 23rd, she strode into the compound with her old friend Nguvu by her side! Nguvu went wild some time back, although he periodically comes to drink water at the baobab water hole. Nguvu looked remarkably well considering the drought conditions, with his striking tusks that are unusually long for an elephant of his age. 

When all the dependent orphans returned later that afternoon, Nguvu and Tahri were missing. Tahri had evidently decided to link up with the wild elephant herd that Nguvu has been hanging out with. At seven years old, she is a good age to go wild, especially with the ‘streetwise’ boy Nguvu by her side. Of course, we will continue to keep an eye out for her.

October was marked by an unexpected character shift in our laid-back boy Lasayen! He has never been the most playful elephant — that honour goes to Ngilai and Emoli — but something is changing. This month, he was suddenly seeking out sparring matches and instigating games left and right. One memorable afternoon, he took on Murit, Ngilai, and even Godoma, all in a row!

October 2022 day to day

01 Oct

After feeding on the supplement food was mostly over, Sagala decided to roll on the ground. She looked like she was having a great time – happy and content with having finished her breakfast and feeling full. She also seemed to be trying to lure some of her other friends to play with her, but they just ignored her and carried on collecting up the last of the lucerne pellets. Rorogoi went over to the rock which is the most favourite for the orphans to scratch against, close to the biggest stockade, and enjoyed scratching the whole of her body there, while Mudanda scratched against one of the terrace walls, before inviting Arruba for a sparring game right there.

The orphan elephants then took off to the browsing grounds and settled halfway up the western side of Msinga Hill. They browsed in single-file before coming down the hill at midday so the milk-dependent orphans could have their next milk feed. Lasayen, Pika Pika and Godoma were in the first group. Once all the orphans had their milk they went down to the water trough beside the baobab for a fresh drink of water, but chose not to wallow today as it was quite cloudy.

Sagala enjoying a morning dust bath

Rorogoi posing on the famous scratching rock

Godoma and Pika Pika at the mud bath