Keepers' Diaries, September 2004

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.

01 September 2004

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.

02 September 2004

Mweya coaxed little Morani to the top of a low anthill to soil bathe on the way out this morning. She initiated a game of rolling around the anthill, which Morani emulated, becoming expert at it. Mweya later stood up, shaking her trunk round and round like a loose rope. Morani tried the same, though not with as much proficiency. These two then hurried to rejoin the others who had moved ahead.

03 September 2004

Morani, Thoma, Mpala and Seraa enjoyed a game of mounting onto each other at 3 p.m. The game ended when Seraa fell down, and bellowed, bringing the Keepers to her aid.

04 September 2004

Mweya realised that she was about to fall off the slopes of Mazinga hill, so she knelt down on her forelegs, sliding down the steep slope.

05 September 2004

The orphans day began with drama when Morani and Seraa chased two dikdiks. Their joyful trumpeting attracted Thoma and Solango, who joined in the chase which lasted some 20 minutes.

06 September 2004

Emily took Tsavo, Loisaba and Ndara (her favourites) with her to join a wild bull who was feeding alone about a hundred metres from the group. The bull gave Emily a warm welcome, coiling his trunk around hers, after which he followed her, sniffing her rear. She stood quietly when he rested his head on her back. The bull’s visitors rejoined the main group when they were on their way to the mudbath

07 September 2004

The orphans were very scared to find 2 lions lying next to their watering point at 11 a.m. They all fled, but the lions did likewise as soon as they spotted the men. The orphans returned to take a drink, but would not enter the mudbath.

08 September 2004

Nyiro and Mukwaju engaged in a shoving game, but stopped when Mvita wanted to join in. Thoma was looking dull and unhappy this morning, and the Keepers noticed that she had worms. We gave her colloidal silver and later, de-wormed all the elephants still on milk – namely Morani, Seraa, Mpala, Mweiga, Solango and Irima.

09 September 2004

Thoma was better today. At 11.22 a.m. Morani was playing in mud whilst Thoma, Solango and Seraa stood by, admiring his antics. After the mudbath, Burra and Solango lifted up their trunks to smell an approaching buffalo. The buffalo was well behaved and waited until the orphans had left before approaching.

10 September 2004

In the rush for milk, Irima knocked down Mweiga, who bellowed. Aitong ran to lift her up, using her foreleg and foot. The orphans joined a large group of 18 wild elephants at 8 a.m. Emily, Salama and Edie played together whilst Natumi and Icholta followed a 4 month old wild baby. The orphans separated from the wild group to go the mudbath.

11 September 2004

At 8 a.m. Solango and Mpala had a wonderful game of pushing here and there. They later sat on their buttocks, tossing their trunks skywards in sheer happiness. However, soon afterwards they had a disagreement over a green branch.

12 September 2004

The orphans mud-wallowed wonderfully because it was very hot. Natumi lay in the mud to allow little Morani and Mpala to climb onto her but got up when Nyiro arrived. Later Natumi and Salama enjoyed chasing off an impala and went about 300 metres from the others. Upon realising that the two orphans had gone so far, Emily went to retrieve them, and they all returned, striding majestically and tossing their trunks sideways in happiness.

13 September 2004

Emily left the group to join a group of 5 wild elephants who had a baby of about 2 months old. However, she was pushed away when she tried to approach the baby, which proved a deterrent to the others who did not fraternize with the wild herd.

14 September 2004

The day was cool, so the orphans were unwilling to go into the mudbath. Ilingwezi went to Morani and gently placed her trunk on Morani’s back. Morani, who was standing near the mudbath, drew water into his trunk and splashed it over his body, showering Ilingwezi, who was not amused, and ran off.

15 September 2004

The orphans joined a group of 7 wild elephants who had a five month old calf. Natumi was very interested in the baby, following it, and pulling it to her side. They browsed together until 4 p.m. when the wild group wandered off.

16 September 2004

Morani went to test the temperature of the mudbath with his trunk, and finding it too cold, decided to make his own little mud patch, taking water from the bin and stirring it into the soil with his foot to make mud. He then threw it onto his back.

17 September 2004

It was very hot today, so the orphans had a wonderful mudbath, which was dominated by Emily and her favourites, because Loisaba pushed anyone else who wanted to join in, away. At 2.30 p.m. a wild bull of about 12 years old joined the orphans. Emily took him on in a strength-testing game, after which the bull tried to mount her, but Aitong intervened and pushed him off Emily’s back. Emily accompanied the wild bull when he wandered off at 4.10 p.m., but caught up with the others at 5.30 p.m. on their way to the Stockades.

18 September 2004

the day was very cloudy and dull, so the orphans concentrated on feeding, with fewer other activities.

19 September 2004

A hyaena resting in a bush terrified Solango, Mpala and Thoma at 9.20 a.m. when they approached to feed. The three were rooted to the spot, screaming loudly, which brought Emily, Natumi, Aitong and the Keepers in a rush. The hyaena took off but the incident left poor little Mpala trembling for the rest of the day and he stuck to the Keepers like glue!

20 September 2004

Emily, Ilingwezi, Salama, Lolokwe and Laikipia chased off 2 buffalo they encountered at l0 a.m. The flight of the buffalo took them past the orphans’ waterhole, so the elephants left the chase to take the opportunity of an early bath instead.

21 September 2004

Aitong was very agitated to find that she had to leave Sagalla behind with Mweiga. She remained for a long time, rumbling, but eventually went to join the others later when she understood that Sagalla was not going to be coming out. Mweiga was very attentive to the new baby.

22 September 2004

Sagalla watched Mweiga taking milk from a bottle, and immediately came to the Keepers, grabbing a hand, begging to be given some, realising that they held the key to saving her life. She downed her bottles of milk avidly.

23 September 2004

Sagalla was friendly enough towards the Keepers to be allowed out of the Stockade along with Mweiga, who proved to be a very good tour leader. Sagalla followed her every step.

24 September 2004

At the Stockade drinking hole, Sagalla followed every Keeper she saw carrying anything, hoping it was milk for her. It made everyone to laugh at how quickly she had come to want her bottles of milk

25 September 2004

Mweiga and Sagalla fed close to the Stockades, Sagalla closely monitoring every movement made by Mweiga, rumbling deeply whenever she thought she was too far away.

26 September 2004

The wounds on Sagalla’s skin have started to heal, but a swelling has developed on her hind leg, making her drag that leg. The Vet administered a painkiller, which worked well that day. The other orphans stood lifting up their trunks to smell a group of about 2,000 buffaloes who went across the plain, feeding slowly.

27 September 2004

Every time Sagalla lay down to sleep, Aitong went to lift her up, using her tusks and trunk. Only at l0 p.m. did she allow Sagalla to lie down and sleep without being heaved up!

28 September 2004

The orphans had a wonderful mudwallow. Solango and Mpala rolled around each other trumpeting in happiness until Sosian spoilt the fun by trying to jump on them.

30 September 2004

Sagalla enjoyed a mudbath at the Stockade today, rolling onto Mweiga, who gently touched her mouth to reassure her. They remained in the mud together for a long time before going out to feed again. The other orphans thought about climbing Mazinga hill in order to join Lissa’s group who were feeding at the very top, but because it was so hot, they thought better of it.