Keepers' Diaries, September 2007

Voi Reintegration Unit

All the orphans, save weakling Mweiga, who has always been a fragile elephant, are now free spirits within the Voi Unit, entirely independent of their Keepers, and exploring new feeding grounds along the Voi River circuit and beyond, mingling at will with their wild friends, but keeping in touch as part of a large orphaned “family” just as would a human family under the same circumstances. The fact that our Voi Unit is now independent during the hours of darkness has relieved our work load considerably, for sourcing sufficient browse beyond the boundaries of the Park, has been no mean task during the arid dry seasons. Now, during the hours of darkness, as well as during the day, our Voi orphans, save Mweiga, forage for themselves and go wherever they wish. The younger set, which became known as “Thoma’s Unit”, once Natumi had left the Night Stockades, have now joined up with Natumi’s group and move around as a unit, though not always all together. Natumi was the orphans’ Matriarch once Emily had left the fold with her group and then Thoma took control of the youngsters who were still enclosed. Now that Thoma’s group are also free spirits, they are usually with Natumi’s gang, who also sometimes join up with Emily’s Unit, indicating that the orphans will always stay in touch as a loosely affiliated “family” once they are “wild”.

01 September 2007

At 6 a.m. Mweya escorted Mweiga to the western side of Mazinga Hill on a very windy morning which promised to turn into a very hot day. The other orphans were all still up the hill where, an area they favour at the height of the dry season, since the only green shoots are to be found there. By noon the independent orphans were ready descended to come and drink at the Stockades after which Natumi and Edie led the group to join up with Mweya and Mweiga. They fed together for the remainder of the day.

02 September 2007

Mweiga and Mweya left the Stockade early in the morning without the others, who had spent the night out. Since the day was hot, the two went to the waterhole at l0.40 a.m. where Mukwaju came alone to join them for a wallow. Natumi’s group as well as that of Thoma, who are now together joined them after 20 minutes, and all had a wonderful noon mudbath together. The orphans then drifted slowly feeding towards the hill, making a stop over at the base where they remained for the rest of the day. Mweiga was so happy to be amongst them there. They all returned to the Stockades to see Mweiga and Mweya put in for the night, and after hanging around for a while returned to the hill.

03 September 2007

Both Natumi and Thoma’s groups came down the hill, where they had been feeding the previous night, to join Mweya and Mweiga in the waterhole at noon. Mweiga had arrived earlier and had already enjoyed a wonderful bath so she left the waterhole to the playful youngsters as she went to take her extra supplement of replacer reinforced with coconut, barley and laced with aloe vera and immune boosters to assist with her weak condition. The other orphans spent a long time around the waterhole playing games, and then fed slowly towards the Stockade, Burra in the lead. Having enjoyed their Copra ration they left once Mweiga and Mweya were in for the night.

04 September 2007

The day was fairly cool, so the orphans were not eager to go into the mudbath at first. They circled it testing the temperature of the water with their trunks. Eventually only Mweya took the plunge while Solango and Morani hesitantly sprayed it behind their ears, but decided it was too cold for their liking. They all fed nearby for the afternoon and as usual returned for their share of the Copra hand-out.

05 September 2007

All was well throughout the day with the older orphans linking up with Mweiga and Mweya. Natumi’s gang and that of Thoma are very comfortable together and have established new drinking areas along the Voi river and also along the Mombasa pipeline. They fed well on the lower slopes of Mazinga Hill with the new orphan, “Msinga” appearing less stressed by the presence of the Keepers. As usual they all returned for the share of Copra and then returned to the hill to feed furing the night.

06 September 2007

Thoma and Natumi’s group were seen feeding high up the hill in the early morning, which was cool, so they were in no hurry to come down. They came down in the afternoon to join their colleagues Mweiga and Mweya. On the way back in the evening, there was tough competition between Solango and Burra as to who should lead the column so they took it in turns. Back at the Stockades they enjoyed a spectacular playing session before wandering off to feed during the night.

07 September 2007

Mweiga and Mweya left the stockade early in the morning for the base of Mazinga hill where they fed until noon when they paced slowly towards the waterhole. Upon arrival, Mweya heard a trumpet from the others who were approaching them and she happily charged forward to welcome them. Athough the weather was cold, Mweya dived into the water, as the others stood around watching her wallowing antics. Later, have wandered towards the northern side of Mazinga hill to feed, they turned round and headed back to the stockades in the evening.

08 September 2007

Mweiga and Mweya left the Stockades early as usual and having browsed all morning made their way to the waterhole, where they spent a long time hoping that the others would turn up. However, they were disappointed today, but did meet up with them back at the Stockades in the evening. Today Morani volunteered to go in with Mweiga, releasing Mweya who went off with the others for the night.

09 September 2007

Morani and Mweiga left the Stockades early and fed throughout the morning without contact with the others. In the evening, after they had returned to the Stockade, the others turned up with Emily’s group and the new orphan Msinga, who seems happy with Emily’s bunch. Uaso was with them, and he and Laikipia had a wonderful game teasing each other in a pushing match. All left the Stockade heading for the Eastern side of Mazinga Hill.

10 September 2007

Natumi and Thoma’s two groups joined Morani and Mweiga at the noon mudbath without Emily’s group. There was great happiness with Mweiga swinging her trunk from side to side in a welcoming and playful ceremony. They took a wonderful noon mudbath and then fed on the lower slopes of the western side of Mazinga Hill, returning to the Stockade in the evening, when Burra lagging behind to keep Mweiga company. He spent the night in the Stockade with her.

11 September 2007

The older orphans never turned up today to join Burra and Mweiga. The older group was seen feeding down at the Voi river, returning to the Stockade at 6.30 p.m. for their Copra ration, after which they left again.

12 September 2007

Mweiga and Burra were out again at dawn, and enjoyed a brief soil dusting session at the Stockade compound before leaving. Today the others were absent throughout the day, turning up at 7 p.m. Uaso was with them

13 September 2007

Again Natumi and Thoma’s units did not meet up with Mweiga, but were seen feeding high up on the Northern side of Mazinga Hill. They eventually came down for their Copra hand-out, minus Uaso

14 September 2007

Again, Burra and Mweiga spent a day without the others, who returned briefly in the evening, but soon left again, having taken their Copra ration and had a drink at the Stockade trough.

15 September 2007

Lissa and her three calves came to drink at the Stockade waterhole. They have recruited a middle aged young cow into their unit. They spent some time at the Stockade, Lissa allowing her babies to play with the water. There was no sign of the others today.

16 September 2007

Today, only Loisaba and Mvita turned up for a drink at the Stockade, two members of Emily’s group. However they didn’t tarry long, so we assume that the rest of their group was nearby. They moved off towards the Eastern side of Mazinga Hill. Lissa and her small group again came for a drink at the Stockade at 6 p.m. and also headed towards the eastern side of the hill.

17 September 2007

Burra and Mweiga again were disappointed not to have met up with their colleagues. However they were all there at the Stockade when they returned in the evening, including Emily’s group, so the orphaned family was briefly intact for a while prior to Mweiga having to go into her Night quarters.

18 September 2007

All the orphans were still feeding high up on the hill when Mweiga and Burra left the Stockade in the morning. Aitong with all the others came down to drink at the Stockade at l0.40 a.m., leaving Emily, Salama, Edie, Solango, Loisaba and Ndara up the hill. Having taken water Aitong led her gang back to join the others up the hill and in the evening at 5 p.m. the entire orphaned herd all came down again for a drink. They then left for the eastern side of the hill again.

19 September 2007

Mweiga and Burra spent the day feeding together without making contact with any of the others today. Only Mukwaju and Lolokwe came to the Stockade to drink water during the day and soon left. All the others never turned up.

20 September 2007

Today Edie, Mukwaju, Mpala, Mweya and Lolokwe arrived at 9.10 a.m. for a drink at the Stockade and then left to join Mweiga and Burra out in the field. Later Natumi and all the others except Laikipia, Salama and Emily’s group emerged from the northern end of Mazinga Hill and joined the others in the field, all coming back together to the Stockade in the evening and leaving having taken their supplements.

21 September 2007

Thoma and Natumi’s group came to the Stockade to drink at 4.45 p.m. and hung around until Burra and Mweiga arrived. Later they left heading towards the Voi River circuit taking Burra with them and leaving Mweya back to keep Mweiga company. Msinga was still with Emily’s group.

22 September 2007

Mweiga and Mweya enjoyed a quiet day, feeding close together, without any contact with the others. The others never turned up either at the waterhole or at the Stockade today.

23 September 2007

Natumi’s and Thoma’s group came to drink at the Stockades at 4 p.m., but soon left again, so did not meet up with Mweiga and Mweya who were again alone throughout the day.

24 September 2007

Mweiga and Mweya left the Stockade early in the morning and headed for the foot of the hill where Mweiga took a rest, scratching herself against a rock. Mweya waited calmly with her. Natumi and Thoma’s group came to drink at the Stockades at 5.15 p.m. but left soon afterwards.

26 September 2007

Natumi’s group, along with that of Thoma, joined Mweiga and Mweya out in the feeding grounds, where Mukwaju and Mpala took time to enjoy a soil dusting session. They all later moved on to join the others who were feeding towards the northern side of the hill. All enjoyed the mudbath together, before resuming to feed and returning with Mweiga and Mweya to the Stockade in the evening. Once the two were safely ensconced, the others left.

27 September 2007

Mweiga and Mweya spent the day alone, without making contact with any of the others, who did not turn up either at the mudbath or at the stockades for the entire day.

28 September 2007

Thoma and Natumi’s two groups were seen feeding together high up on the hill in the morning. Meanwhile a newly rescued month old baby who had fallen through a manhole on the Mombasa pipeline arrived, arrived at the stockade. She had been named “Dida” and whilst awaiting the arrival of the rescue plane, wandered calmly around the Stockade, eventually falling asleep. When she was being loaded onto the truck in order to be taken to the airfield, she screamed and immediately Natumi and Edie quickly led all the orphans down the hill to investigate what was happening. However, they missed seeing the baby, who had already left by the time they arrived, so after a drink of water, they climbed the hill again.

29 September 2007

Natumi and Thoma’s groups were absent throughout the day, seen feeding on the northern end of Mazinga hill. Today the took water at the pipeline break pressure tank overflow near the Voi Safari Lodge.

30 September 2007

Thoma and Natumi’s group were feeding on the top of the hill this morning, but Solango, Edie, Sosian and Mvita came down to take water at the Stockade at 8.30 a.m. They then went off to join Mweiga and Mweya at the mudbath after which the six orphans fed calmly until they joined up with the rest of Natumi and Thoma’s group back at the Stockades in the evening. Once Mweya and Mweiga were in for the night, the four joined their group and left with them.