Keepers' Diaries, September 2003

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Voi Reintegration Unit

Nursery Elephants:- September has been a happy, playful and peaceful time for all six Nursery elephants. All have now successfully cut their first molars without problems, which is unusual because the eruption of the first molars is usually accompanied by fevers and stomach upsets. Even little Sunyei has managed to cut her first teeth without difficulty. Being a very sensitive little elephant, Olmalo usually likes to remain close to Napasha, who prefers to feed apart from the others. She obviously thinks he should not be all alone. Selengai and Sunyei, the two smallest calves, enjoy playing together and have formed a strong bond of friendship that will undoubtedly last a lifetime, whilst Wendi keeps a motherly eye on them all, happy to allow Olmalo and Napasha more independence. Tomboi is the most exuberant and mischievous little elephant, the elephant equivalent of “David Beckham” when it comes to games of football which the orphans enjoy playing with their Keepers. He kicks the ball with any of his four feet very accurately! Every day the Nursery elephants enjoy a running race with their Keepers, lining up at one end of a clearing in the forest, and when everyone is in place, tearing off at speed with ears out like saucers and trunks waggling! This usually ends in little Sunyei bringing up the rear with Tomboi as the winner.

Nursery Elephants:- September has been a happy, playful and peaceful time for all six Nursery elephants. All have now successfully cut their first molars without problems, which is unusual because the eruption of the first molars is usually accompanied by fevers and stomach upsets. Even little Sunyei has managed to cut her first teeth without difficulty. Being a very sensitive little elephant, Olmalo usually likes to remain close to Napasha, who prefers to feed apart from the others. She obviously thinks he should not be all alone. Selengai and Sunyei, the two smallest calves, enjoy playing together and have formed a strong bond of friendship that will undoubtedly last a lifetime, whilst Wendi keeps a motherly eye on them all, happy to allow Olmalo and Napasha more independence. Tomboi is the most exuberant and mischievous little elephant, the elephant equivalent of “David Beckham” when it comes to games of football which the orphans enjoy playing with their Keepers. He kicks the ball with any of his four feet very accurately! Every day the Nursery elephants enjoy a running race with their Keepers, lining up at one end of a clearing in the forest, and when everyone is in place, tearing off at speed with ears out like saucers and trunks waggling! This usually ends in little Sunyei bringing up the rear with Tomboi as the winner.

Napasha is something of a glutton, bellowing with disappointment whenever the last bottle has gone down, which is usually long before the others have finished! Selengai comes a close second in terms of appetite, whilst Olmalo, Sunyei and Wendi like to savour their milk and take their time, seemingly enjoying the frustration of Napasha and Selengai whilst doing so! Every day fun is had by chasing the warthogs, many of whom now have tiny piglets, and often the noon mudbath is disrupted by the appearance of one of our two, now independent, rhinos, Magnum or Makosa.

In short, it has been a quality month in the Nursery, both for us and for our 6 infant elephants, because it has been so trouble-free – no ailments, all gaining weight and looking in peak condition, with fat little cheeks, and rounded bodies. Friday is Coconut Oil day, when they are anointed with Coconut oil as part of good skin care and when they literally gleam and look their best for all the visitors who come in droves every day between 11 a.m. and 12 noon to see them. Sunyei, being the smallest, enchants everyone, whilst the story of Wendi’s dramatic beginning touches peoples’ hearts. Tomboi is popular because of his spirit and mischievous character, whilst Olmalo is loved for her gentle nature. Napasha is a loner, self sufficient and independent whilst Selengai is friends with everyone and anyone, but mostly hooked on her bottle!

Tsavo Orphans:- It has been an exceptionally dry, dry season, but all the orphans have coped admirably, even the latest transferees from Nairobi.. Only Mweiga has lost condition, but then she has always been a fragile elephant, although her condition has definitely improved rather than deteriorated. From the Diary, Morani still stands out as a hot favourite, with Aitong and Natumi competing for possession of him, and Edie and Loisaba doing likewise. However, Aitong is his preferred “mother” and Burra is still his best friend amongst the younger set. Aitong and Sweet Sally are still very close, Sally allowed the privilege of suckling Aitong’s ears. Burra enjoys playing with the bigger boys, namely Nyiro, Salama, Lolokwe and Mukwaju, as does Sosian, who had one day feeling unwell during the month, probably having eaten too much!

Lissa and her two babies, plus Uaso and Mpenzi have regularly met up with our orphans throughout the month, spending time with them on the lst, 4th, 21st and 25th. Although Lissa travels extensively with Catherine’s wild herd, she still remain an integral part of the Orphan Family, and obviously looks upon the orphans as another branch of her family.

Wild contact has been frequent, initially on the 3rd when the orphans met up with 3 bulls, then on the 6th when they joined a group of 8 wild elephants and Sosian, Laikipia and Mweya played with wild age-mates. On the 9th the orphans joined a herd of l0 wild elephants, when Icholta and Tsavo took great interest in a wild calf. On 11th Emily took her three favourite babies, namely Loisaba, Tsavo and Ndara to spend time amongst a wild herd, and on the 13th Catherine’s wild group joined our orphans. On the 14th Aitong took Morani into a wild herd of 6 and on the l8th Emily made herself unpopular when she pushed a wild Matriarch’s her member down. On 22nd the orphans fraternized with 8 wild elephants, and again on the 24th when they joined a herd of 12 and Ndara and Sosian enjoyed playing with wild age-mates. On the 26th Emily again took Loisaba, Tsavo and Ndara to join 6 wild elephants and spend time with them, and the month ends with Aitong becoming unpopular by trying to abduct a wild calf from a group of 12!

Encounters with other species include an abortive attempt to chase off a buffalo herd numbering 2,000, which was a bit too ambitious, a running “battle” with a lone buffalo bull at the base of Mazinga Hill, Sweet Sally managing to chase of an ostrich, but losing face by becoming scared when she realised she was alone in this task. Seraa, Tsavo, Mulika and Ilingwezi ganged up to chase off some warthogs, whilst Alama and Laikipia broke up a waterbuck fight. Lissa’s wild calf, Lara, joined Ndara in charging a tortoise, but the orphans enjoyed browsing peacefully amongst a herd of seven zebras!

Mukwaju, Yatta and Mvita have a low profile in this month’s Diary, but this only means that they have avoided serious squabbles and have been preoccupied with more important matters during the month. We anticipate the onset of the main Tsavo rains in mid – late October, which will herald the arrival of the festive elephant season when food and water are both plentiful. This is a time of great joy in Tsavo, but also a time when KWS must remain most vigilant to counter the poaching threat; something that is very real ever since CITES sanctioned the selling of the Southern African ivory stockpiles.

September 2003 day to day

01 Sep

Today Kinna and Salama played together in the noon mudbath, mounting on each other. Lissa’s group joined the orphans at 2 p.m. Her elder daughter Lara helped Ndara charge a nearby tortoise.
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