Keepers' Diaries, September 2004

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Voi Reintegration Unit

Emily’s group has coped very well with another tough dry season with several encounters with wild groups; on the 6th when Emily took her favourites, namely Tsavo, Loisaba and Ndara to fraternize with a wild bull. On the l0th the orphans joined a group of 18 wild elephants, when Natumi and Icholta took a great interest in a 4 month old baby, and on the 13th Emily joined 5 wild elephants who had a 2 month old calf, but was rebuffed when she wanted to touch the calf, something that deterred contact for the others. On the 15th the orphans joined a group of 7 wild elephants who had a 5 month old baby and once again Natumi showed great interest in the calf, following it and pulling it to her side, apparently allowed to do so by the mother who did not view her as a likely abductor! On the 17th Emily enjoyed playing with a 12 year old bull, with whom she was very friendly, but when he tried to mount her, Aitong intervened to interrupt his amorous intentions.

Emily’s group has coped very well with another tough dry season with several encounters with wild groups; on the 6th when Emily took her favourites, namely Tsavo, Loisaba and Ndara to fraternize with a wild bull. On the l0th the orphans joined a group of 18 wild elephants, when Natumi and Icholta took a great interest in a 4 month old baby, and on the 13th Emily joined 5 wild elephants who had a 2 month old calf, but was rebuffed when she wanted to touch the calf, something that deterred contact for the others. On the 15th the orphans joined a group of 7 wild elephants who had a 5 month old baby and once again Natumi showed great interest in the calf, following it and pulling it to her side, apparently allowed to do so by the mother who did not view her as a likely abductor! On the 17th Emily enjoyed playing with a 12 year old bull, with whom she was very friendly, but when he tried to mount her, Aitong intervened to interrupt his amorous intentions.

No sign of our Big Boys this month, but Lissa, her two babies, accompanied by Uaso and Mpenzi paid a visit to the Stockades on the 29th, and welcomed the orphans, who were on their way back to the Stockades, very warmly. Again, Natumi was especially charmed by their presence, remaining outside with the visitors until dark and greeted very warmly by the others when she finally did return to the Stockade for the night.

The arrival of a new orphan on the 20th, who was found very weak and emaciated on Taita Ranch, and who was given the name “Sagalla” was an exciting event for the orphans. Aitong, Icholta and Nyiro vied to receive her, but Aitong took charge, shoving the others away when the baby became frightened, then pulling the calf gently between her forelegs, as would a mother. Much to Aitong’s displeasure, this baby remained in the Stockade with Mweiga as a companion for the next two days, and, amazingly, having watched Mweiga take her bottle of milk, came to take a Keeper’s hand, begging for her share. Thereafter she fed very well, even chasing after any Keeper seen carrying a utensil, in the hopes that it was milk, something that amused, and astonished the Keepers. After only 2 days, she was sufficiently tame to be allowed out with Mweiga, but was too weak to walk far from the Stockades and very tragically on the 5th October, she died unexpectedly, (obviously of the dreaded pneumonia which always poses the gravest threat to babies in poor shape who suffer from a weakened immune system).

As usual, the intelligence of elephants is again illustrated in this diary – when Emily breaks down Acacia branches from tall trees for the smaller elephants to feed upon, when Morani finds the mudbath too cold to bathe in, so decides to make his own little mud patch, using water taken from the drinking bins to stir in the soil with a foot and Mweya kneeling down using her hind legs as breaks in order to negotiate a very steep slope safely coming down Mazinga Hill. Caring and compassion are graphically illustrated by the affection and attention given to the newcomer, Sagalla - by Emily going to retrieve Natumi and Salama having distanced themselves from the group chasing an impala and by Aitong helping Mweiga up after she was inadvertently knocked down by Irima in a rush for the noon milk bottles.

Morani obviously remains a great favourite, mischievously discouraging the attentions of Ilingwezi by spraying her with cold water from the mudbath. Mweya takes him to an anthill and initiates an interesting revolving game which he successfully emulates. She then tries to teach him how to swing his trunk round and round like a rubber hose, which he apparently did not manage so proficiently!

Encounters with other species include obvious awe as all the orphans stood watching a herd of 2,000 buffalo slowly graze their way across the plain. The usual chases of dik and buffalo are recorded, and also the one when Natumi and Salama enjoyed charging an impala, and had to be returned by Emily - all walking “majestically”, swinging their trunks from side to side – the body language for joy and happiness. Two lions resting near the mudbath caused an upset, as did a hyaena hiding in the bush that Solango, Mpala and Thoma approached to feed on, which left them frozen with fright, yelling, and also left Mpala trembling all day, and glued to his Keepers!

September 2004 day to day

01 Sep

The orphans moved out slowly today, taking advantage of whatever greens they could find. Emily was a great help, breaking down Acacia branches for the smaller elephants to utilize, whilst the Keepers climbed the trees, to shake down the Acacia pods, which all animals enjoy. A cantankerous buffalo caused a problem as we made our way to the mudbath, blocking our path. All the elephants retreated whilst Emily, Loisaba, Natumi, Laikipia, Salama, Icholta and Aitong guarded the others. Eventually the buffalo moved away.

Emily watches out for the buffalo

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