Keepers' Diaries, September 2001

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Voi Reintegration Unit



Nursery:- It has been a tranquil and quiet month in the Nairobi Nursery, and for us, very gratifying, since all the Nursery elephants are now thriving and happy, playing together, bonding together and forming strong friendships. We are particularly pleased with the progress of little Thoma, who had a very shaky beginning, plagued by the pain of her multiple puncture wounds, psychologically grief for her lost elephant family, and diarrhoea caused by Salmonella and Ecoli bacteria, all of which necessitated the extreme measure of both injectable and oral antibiotics since the homeopathic remedies could not cope. Thoma was also a difficult feeder, frustrated because the trunk did not feel right against a hung blanket, sending her unfortunate Keeper flying frequently at feeding times. We are happy to say that now she is sleeping well, feeding more quietly, and playing so hopefully most of her troubles are now behind her. She has formed a strong friendship with Mweya, who remains Nasalot's special "baby", but who confidently lords it around all the other elephants, as well as the people!

Sweet Sally's love of finding comfort sucking the Keepers' thumbs over-rides her interaction with the others, and Mulika is now the contented and happy little "mother" of both her and Thoma. Nasalot does not interfere in the special relationship Mulika has with these two newcomers, probably because she finds Mweya handful enough! Sweet Sally and Mweya enjoy ganging up together to chase the warthogs whenever they come across them, always providing the pigs are running away at the onset of the charge. At the mudbath hour, when the public appear in droves as spectators, every now and then a gleam continues to creep into Mweya's eyes, and whilst the chasing usually begins with the pigs as a decoy, she still can't resist veering off to give the human onlookers a thrill as well! But by and large, happily, Mweya is becoming better behaved, but remains a mischievous and spirited little elephant, and very much "a character" and a firm favourite with all who meet her. Sweet Sally is a gentle and sweet little elephant, but inclined to be a loner, whilst Thoma shows signs of turning into a forceful and determined little elephant, with a mind of her very own. Mulika and Nasalot are caring and conscientious little "Mummies" now with a common agenda, overseeing their younger charges.

Tsavo Orphans:- These continue to be separated during the day into three manageable groups - THE BABY GROUP, comprised of the youngest females, namely Yatta, Kinna, and little Maungu, who still needs four hourly milk feeds being younger than a year old, with the smallest bulls, Mukwaju and Nyiro (who has voluntarily decided to inject himself into this group, being very competitive with Mukwaju.) Reading between the lines of The Keepers' Diary it is obvious that the little girls find the little boys something of a "pain" because they are so boisterous, and constantly try to assert their maleness by "mounting" the girls, which is usually not appreciated. Kinna, especially, is very protective of Maungu, and Yatta, who looks upon herself as the tiny Matriarch of this group is not past putting the young boys in their place when they try their tricks on Maungu. Chasing the mongooses and squirrels (and the Milk Tractor) seems to be the main daily preoccupation of the youngsters, who sometimes manage to pluck up courage to charge after small running antelope as well, but are easily startled and then run back to their Keepers for help. Mukwaju and Nyiro spend a lot of time sparring together, bouts that each win in turn. Mukwaju is a reluctant mudwallower, having been orphaned by becoming stuck in the mud of the Satao waterhole, and it is amusing to find the others ganging up to tease him by dousing him with water sprayed from their trunks when he is reluctant to get in! Who says elephants do not have a sense of humour!

On the 25th another orphan was rescued from the same manhole on the Mombasa Pipeline that trapped Maungu. We named her "Ndara" - the name of the massif that overlooks this particular place. There was instant recognition when Maungu met this newcomer of a similar age, so they may even have been members of the same herd before tragedy turned them into orphans. The newcomer has a deep wound on her back, which will need attention, probably caused by the tusk of the desperate mother as she tried and failed to extract her calf from the deep, narrow, manhole. Calmed by Maungu, who remained behind in the Stockade with her, she soon began to accept milk from the Keepers and will shortly be able to join the Baby Group on their daily outings into the bush, having four hourly milk feeds as does Maungu. These two elephants, having found each other again, are likely to be inseparable for life and probably truly are "family".

NATUMI'S GROUP includes the next set in age, with Natumi as the oldest female, wth Ilingwezi, Edie and Icholta as other female members and Salama, Lolokwe and Laikipia as "the boys". Natumi takes charge when separated from Emily's group, since Emily tends to feed a little further afield, her family being not so dependent on the Keepers, since they were never Nursery candidates. Within Natumi's group the boys spend a lot of time in constant competition with one another, with Salama leading the field in this respect. Tsavo, the little boy within Emily's group who is a lot younger, seems to be having some differences with Icholta. He is a pushy little character, also inclined to bully Mweiga who is a fragile little calf. However, Aitong, who is Emily's very conscientious "Nannie" responds to any cry of distress and immediately rushes to the rescue, often also keeping an eye on the boys when they are in a playful frame of mine. Icholta puts Tsavo in his place when needed. Ilingwezi and Edie are confident and independent little elephants, as well as being firm friends.

EMILY'S GROUP consists of Aitong, Loisaba, and Mweiga representing the girls and Tsavo and Imenti, the boys. Emily is, of course, the overall Matriarch of them all, a responsibility she shares trustingly with the Keepers, happy to leave the more dependent youngsters in their care when she decides to feed further afield. However, she keeps in close touch always, and is never absent for the daily mudbath. Imenti is a conscientious "Protector", who also participates in the care of the young, often lying down to make himself smaller so that they can play with "someone of their size" a necessity within elephant etiquette. Imenti and Emily are inseparable. However, we have disturbing reports that Imenti is not partial to some of the Nairobi Keepers, and threatens them on occasions. This is something that has to be addressed.

Our greatest headache has been Ndume, who has consistently been circumventing the boundary fence to encroach into the community area of Voi town. On two occasions he has needed Veterinary treatment as a result of this, and we are now faced with possibly having to move him further away from a tempting boundary for his own safety. Very fortunately, Dika and Edo do not accompany him, but he has taken Imenti and Lewa with him on one occasion, when Lewa likewise suffered retribution in the form of a spear wound on the back. The decision to move Ndume is urgent, and although it will cause us, and him, great heartache, we know him well enough to understand that this is something we must address otherwise he will come to grief.

Dika is an extremely handsome and well behaved Big Boy, now rising 16 years of age, with impressive tusks, gentle eyes and a stately manner. Edo is also a gentle character, who keeps close ties with the youngsters. And Olmeg, once, like Ndume, a worry around one of the Camps near the Eastern boundary, has not been seen for a year or more now, so we have to conclude and only hope that he can be numbered amongst the Trust's successes and not become another disaster.

September 2001 day to day

01 Sep

Yatta's little group, who usually remain closer than the others due to Maungu's 4 hourly milk requirements, enjoyed a wonderful wallow today within the fenced area. After their noon milk ration they chased the squirrels, a game initiated by Kinna. Meanwhile, having left the Stockades in the morning, Natumi's group wandered apart from Emily's, and upon noticing their absence, Aitong came over to satisfy herself that they were all safe. At the mudbath Aitong, Natumi, Icholta and Salama enjoyed chasing a warthog. Laikipia and Salama had a great sparring game before entering the Stockade in the evening. Meanwhile, at 3 p.m. Lewa, Uaso and Edo turned up at the Stockade and we were able to dress the spear wound on Lewa's back. Dika, looking impressively handsome, stately and huge, reported in later at 5 p.m.