Keepers' Diaries, September 2006

Voi Reintegration Unit

The long drought that has enveloped N.E. Kenya, and encompassed Tsavo, has continued, and hence the daily priority for the Voi Group has been the search for sufficient food, over and above the supplements that are provided for them in the evenings once they return to the Stockades. Most gratifying is that all of them remain in good condition, and even Mweiga’s physical condition has improved dramatically, so much so that she can now keep pace with the others, and sometimes even leads the group and participates in the thick of the mudbath activities amongst the others, something that hitherto she has always been reluctant to risk for fear of being knocked over. It was a red letter day when she came second in a race to the milk venue, involving Solango, Burra and Morani!

01 September 2006

Following the usual games around the Stockade in the morning, the orphans headed towards the northern side of Mazinga Hill, Mweiga pacing fast to try and keep up with the others as they hurried to the feeding grounds. There they settled in browsing, moving steadily towards the mudwallow where Edie tested the temperature of the water before going in. Icholta enjoyed playing with her friends in the mudbath, but Natumi, who does not like water much, stood by and watched. Sosian and Burra went in a little later before they all left for the afternoon feeding, before being led back to the Stockades, as usual, by Laikipia.

02 September 2006

The orphans fed seriously today, lined up like soldiers, but Mukwaju disrupted the orderly manner by rushing forward and stuffing his mouth full of everything he could find! The others ran towards him, competing for their share. Mweiga, who has been greatly helped by the medication and supplement feeding, looked energetic and happy, and it was she who led the others back to the feeding grounds after the mudbath, swinging her trunk from side to side.

03 September 2006

While the other orphans played around the Stockade this morning, Burra positioned himself strategically, determined to be Leader of the group when they left. He paced fast when the time came, eager not to be overtaken. Whilst moving towards the mudbath at noon, the Keepers noticed a pride of 6 lions resting under a tree, so we changed direction, but the lions ran off. The orphans enjoyed their mudbath today and had a lot of fun.

04 September 2006

This morning Lolokwe went in search of Nyiro, who sleeps in a different Stockade to him. Having located Nyiro, he immediately engaged him in a tough fight, for no reason that was apparent. Perhaps he had dreamt that Nyiro had done him some injustice! The tough delayed their exit, so having noticed that they had been left behind, they hurried to catch up with the others. All was peaceful for the rest of the day, with all the elephants just concentrating on feeding. Laikipia and Burra took turns to lead the group back in the evening.

05 September 2006

A very large herd of buffaloes seemed to be heading towards the orphans’ mudbath at noon, but suddenly changed course before reaching the orphans who were just in front of them. The elephants had a joyful mudbath, and fed well during the afternoon.

06 September 2006

The orphans headed out to the Northern side of the hill to feed, and concentrated on feeding, until it was time for the mudbath, when Laikipia and Salama had a wonderful game, rolling onto each other in the water. In the evening Solango and Burra sneaked in front in a bid to lead the group back, but Laikipia overtook them when they were close to the Stockade, thereby disappointing them!

07 September 2006

There was a lot of activity at the mudbath today, as the orphans ran in and out, splashing and trumpeting happily. Lolokwe knelt down in the water, and Icholta stroked his back with her trunk, congratulating him! Later, there was indecision as to who should occupy a nearby anthill for a rub. Seraa gave up and went off to feed, whilst Mpala went round the back of the anthill and Thoma waited her turn. However, Solango hijacked her place. Laikipia and Salama tossed huge clouds of dust in the air, whilst Burra went down on his knees to dig up some earth using his tusks, and Loisaba stood behind him, anchoring him there, so all the orphans had lovely red soil with which to dust themselves.

08 September 2006

Emily came to the Stockades on her own at 4.40 p.m. and having had a drink waited for the return of the others. She greeted them all warmly, had her share of Copra, and then fed nearby until 7 p.m. when she left.

09 September 2006

Again Emily came alone to the Stockade. She seemed tired, probably having had a busy time searching for the rest of her group. Again she enjoyed greeting the other orphans upon their return, had her Copra ration and then fed around the Stockade until 7 p.m. when she left, heading towards the Eastern side of the main Park.

10 September 2006

It was a cool morning, as the orphans enjoyed chasing two squirrels around who took shelter in the canteen, leaving the orphans frustrated outside, kicking up dust with their feet. Because it was too cool, the orphans refused to actually go into the mudbath today, but Irima enjoyed a rolling game, watched by Mpala and Morani, because this was unusual, Irima not being a very playful fellow!

11 September 2006

Emily arrived to join the orphans in the morning, and accompanied them to the feeding area, passing 4 giraffes on the way, which were ignored by the group. Once at the feeding area the orphans met up with a small wild family comprised of a cow with a teenaged calf and another small baby. Solango and Laikipia were bent on following the small baby, which made the cow turn round and chase them off. As they ran away, they inadvertently knocked down poor Mweiga, but Emily rushed to the rescue and helped her get back up. The orphans then left the wild family and continued feeding, while Emily headed off towards the Pipeline below the Lodge. It was interesting that none of the orphans wanted to follow her, but simply continued feeding as usual.

12 September 2006

Upon reaching the waterhole at noon, the orphans happened upon a herd of zebra who had come for a drink ahead of them. The zebra moved aside to allow the elephants to drink, and they stood by watching the antics in the mudwallow afterwards.

13 September 2006

A wild herd accompanied by a large wild bull arrived to drink all the water for the orphans laid out in the buckets at the waterhole. Hence a second delivery of water had to be made by the Tractor, and by the time the orphans came, the wild unit had moved off.

14 September 2006

Today, when the orphans arrived at the mudbath, Lolokwe went around pouring all the water from the buckets to make his own mudwallow. Meanwhile, Sosian won the prize for best swimmer, remaining in the water for a long time. Laikipia gauged out a hole in the banks, and was joined by Burra. In the evening Emily again came alone to the Stockade to greet the other orphans, take her Copra ration and feed nearby. She left at 8 p.m. Aitong, Sally, Tsavo and Ilingwezi were not with her.

15 September 2006

It was a cool day, so the elephants opted out of going into the mudbath at noon. Loisaba, Ndara and Sosian tested the temperature and hurriedly left to join the others. Burra took up a position at the top of the anthill, hoping to attract the others, but was ignored, so he gave up and joined the group. In the evening Emily again came to the Stockade, and after a drink and her copra, relaxed, resting one back leg against the other. Little Serena, the zebra, came close to watch her, but kept inside the electric wire, because Emily was curious about her presence at the Stockade. Later Emily went up the hill to feed.

16 September 2006

Today Natumi led the orphans to the feeding area, with Mweiga keeping pace at the back of the column. During the mudbath, Laikipia and Burra sat in the water facing one another, intertwining trunks and tusks and pulling in opposite directions. Seraa was impressed, and went in to engage Burra when he had been out-done by Laikipia. These two remained in the water enjoying the same game, and had to run to catch up with the others, who were leaving. Laikipia led the group back in the evening.

17 September 2006

There was a light shower of rain this morning, which made the orphans very joyful, as they eagerly fed on the moist vegetation. Again Lolokwe poured water from the drums to make his own mud, which was enjoyed also by Mweya and Solango, who joined him, watched by Icholta, until Laikipia ushered them all to the big mudbath where they sprayed themselves with water, but refused to go in because it was too cool. Again Emily came alone to the Stockade in the evening to take water and her copra ration. She remained feeding around the Stockade until 9 p.m. The Keepers are wondering whether she has lost the rest of her group.

18 September 2006

Having greeted each other by touching each others mouth with a trunk, the orphans headed towards the northern feeding ground. At the mudbath, Burra excelled, kneeling down and digging his small tusks into the banks, until he found himself left behind all the others. He charged after them, trumpeting.

19 September 2006

This morning, Serena, the little zebra, was very interested watching the elephant orphans before they left for the bush. She remained within the electric wire in order not to be targeted for a chasing game, with the elephants all lined up on the other side, until the got bored, and headed off to the feeding grounds. They fed seriously all day, and were led home by Laikipia in the evening.

20 September 2006

Emily was spotted feeding near the top of Mazinga Hill, and did not come down to join the orphans. Instead she came at 3 p.m. for a drink and then hung around waiting for the orphans to return. When the time drew close, she went to meet them at the Spring Gate, and they charged forward excitedly to greet her, trumpeting and urinating, before rushing to get their copra ration. Emily enjoyed hers as well, and then headed back up the hill at 7.30 p.m.

21 September 2006

It was a very hot day, so the orphans went to drink water and enjoy their mudbath at l0 a.m. Later a wild group also came to drink, but did not meet up with them. Emily came to drink at the Stockade after the orphans had left, and then went back up the hill until the evening, when she came down to wait for their arrival. Aitong and the rest of Emily’s group were spotted on the Eastern side of the hill. Emily was escorted to them by the Keepers at 6.30 p.m. Aitong, Sally, Tsavo and Ilingwezi all looked very well.

22 September 2006

Today, Morani waited behind the others to play in some soft, loose soil where he was kept company by Icholta, who waited with him. At noon, Mpala did the same, dusting himself before joining the others at the mudbath. After this there was competition as to who should be first for a scratch against the anthill, but all were displaced by Laikipia. In the evening, Mpala challenged Solango to a shoving match, whilst Morani was cornered by Burra and Seraa, when Loisaba came to rescue him. Later Solango challenged Morani for a friendly bout.

23 September 2006

A wild unit came to join the orphans at the mudwallow, and they all lined up to share the water in the bins. The wild group consisted of 3 grown up cows, one teenager and a smaller calf. The wild group became uncomfortable when they noticed the Keepers, and left, so the orphans at the mudbath to themselves, having opted not to follow their wild friends.

24 September 2006

It was another red letter day for Mweiga, who led the group towards Mazinga Hill in the morning. However, at the base of the hill, she bellowed when she heard the others approaching rapidly, obviously fearing that she might be knocked over. The Keepers rushed forward to find her standing aside to allow the others to pass, who had reduced their speed having heard her cry. All fed well for the rest of the day, until it was time for Laikipia to lead the way back home.

25 September 2006

Rukinga, the baby kudu, and Serena, our little zebra enjoyed watching the orphans playing around the Stockade before leaving, taking the precaution of being behind the electric fence. In the evening Serena went to greet the orphans when they returned, when Solango and Seraa thought she might be coming to hijack their milk ration, and gave chase. The little zebra rapidly took refuge by going under the fence.

26 September 2006

The orphans were joined by a wild group led by a cow with huge tusks who were coming from the Orphans’ waterhole. Natumi moved to welcome them, by tossing her trunk forward towards them, but the orphans did not stay long, eager to go and drink themselves. At the mudbath Morani and Mukwaju challenged each other in a sitting position, and afterwards Morani knelt down to touch Thoma’s toes. Loisaba, who is very possessive of Morani, plunged into the water, sending all the others out, except Morani, but Laikipia, Lolokwe, Sosian and Nyiro were having none of it, and returned in a tough encounter.

27 September 2006

Today, when Morani was feeding close to Natumi, Loisaba became very jealous and went to snatch him, resulting in a tough battle. Whilst Loisaba was engaged by Natumi, Edie coaxed Ndara from her, who is another of Loisaba’s favourites. Loisaba later recovered both of her favourite babies and kept them close to her. At the mudbath a warthog was attracted to the fun that Burra and Seraa were having in the mud, and would have liked to join them, standing nearby until they left, when he went in. Sixteen baby ostriches with their parents were feeding near the orphans on the N. side of Mazinga Hill, but fortunately were unnoticed by the elephants, who might have scattered them.

28 September 2006

A herd of Kongoni and Zebra were drinking at the Orphans’ mudbath when the elephants arrived at noon, and a wild bull was not far off, but did not come to join the orphans. Solango, Burra, Morani and Mweiga raced each other to the milk bottles, and although Solango won, Mweiga came a close second! In the evening Emily and Ilingwezi came to the Stockade for a drink of water and Copra cake. They left having fed.

29 September 2006

There was rain during the night, which made the orphans very happy. They ran helter- skelter in sheer joy. They had a wonderful day, playing in the puddles, and feeding on the softened vegetation, and did not waste time going to the mudbath venue.

30 September 2006

Serena and Rukinga fed close to one another. Serena introduced a game of running down from the new Stable complex to the Staff Quarter canteen and back, each running past each other in an amazing way, Serena running down as Rukinga was running back. They are very good companions and a great joy for the Keepers.