Keepers' Diaries, September 2009

Voi Reintegration Unit

Tassia and Taveta, the two Nursery elephants transferred to the Voi Rehabilitation Unit on the 13th August, 2009, have both settled in extremely well, and are very happy in their new home, especially as they are enjoying the undivided attention of both Lesanju (the main Matriarch) and Wasessa (her Deputy) both of whom seem to be happily sharing the responsibility of leadership. Tassia, especially, is the chosen main favourite of Wasessa. He is seldom far from her side, or she from his, and he is allowed the privilege of being able to suckle her ears endlessly, something which she obviously not only allows, but also enjoys, since she stands quietly with closed eyes as he does so.

01 September 2009

The orphans left their Night Stockade in a happy mood, filing behind Lesanju, and all swinging their trunks from side to side until they reached the Northern side of Mazinga Hill. At the noon mudbath, Shimba, who rarely goes into the water, jumped in and enjoyed a wonderful wallow with Lempaute, until Siria spoilt the game by sitting on Lempaute. Mzima, the usual star of the mudbath, decided to play on the banks until the others decided to emerge, and then he jumped in to enjoy himself without competition from the others. Later Siria joined Mzima in a dustbath before taking on Lesanju to test his strength. All then fed peacefully for the remainder of the day.

02 September 2009

It was a cool day, so the orphans browsed their way along the Southern half of the hill, winding their way to the noon mudbath. Wasessa was first in today, as the others contemplated the temperature of the water. Mzima then ventured in, but shot out again, because the water was cold! Once out, he took on Shimba in a Pushing Game, before all decided that it was time to feed again, browsing their way gradually back towards their Night Stockades.

03 September 2009

Our three little ex kudu orphans, namely Mkuki, Njia and Aruba came to drink at the Stockade trough in the late evening. They joined Makonge, the orphaned eland calf, to browse on some acacia branches, and moved off at 7 p.m.

04 September 2009

The orphans assembled outside the Stockade for their morning milk. Thereafter Tassia and Taveta enjoyed a rolling game in some loose soil, which drew the attention of all the others, Lesanju keeping a close eye on events. Wasessa stuck very close to Tassia whilst the group browsed at the base of Mazinga hill. They returned for their noon milk feed and a mudbath before returning to the hill to feed. Sinya led the group back in the evening.

05 September 2009

Wasessa has formed a strong bond with Tassia, standing close beside him as he takes water at the Stockade trough in the morning. Lesanju seems to have lessened her grip on Tassia, allowing Wasessa access to him without a problem. Shimba, who is an independent character went half way up Mazinga Hill on his own today, keeping an eye on the others who remained at the base. It was a cool day, so the orphans concentrated on feeding, with a break for the usual milk and mudbath. They fed close to the waterhole for the rest of the day until Lempaute led the way back to the Stockades in the evening.

06 September 2009

Two wild elephants and their calves came to drink at the Stockade water trough in the late evening. The orphans were already in their Night Stockade, but Lesanju urged Tassia and Taveta to the railings to rumble at the visitors. The two calves with the wild elephants, both of whom were about 3 years old, were very weak. One actually got into the Stockade trough, and managed to get out, but with difficulty. The group remained at the Stockade for a long time, drinking water and resting, before moving off towards the western side of Mazinga hill.

07 September 2009

The orphans browsed their way to the Northern side of Mazinga Hill. Wasessa and Lesanju separated the smaller orphans to take them under shade as the day turned very hot. For the entire day, the younger orphans, Tassia and Taveta, stuck to either Lesanju or Wasessa, sometimes uncertain as to which Matriarch to attach themselves to!

08 September 2009

Two female elephants and three calves were knocked down by a train near Maungu during the night. Unfortunately, un-ele-friendly community members descended on the bodies, hacking them to pieces, and carrying off meat to feast on.

09 September 2009

Today the orphans browsed along the Southern side of Mazinga Hill, Tassia and Taveta sticking close together, so that Wasessa and Lesanju had to follow both closely. All enjoyed the wallow and in the evening Lesanju led the group back home for the night.

10 September 2009

The orphans left the Night Stockades in a rush, to get in as much browsing as possible before the day turned too hot. Shimba, who prefers to move at a slower pace, was well behind them, grabbing the odd plant as he went. As the orphans approached the noon milk venue, the Keepers separated the group into two, taking Lesanju, Taveta, Tassia, Lempaute and Sinya ahead to take their milk first, with the others coming later. Mzima, who was with the second milk group, wasn’t pleased to see the others rushing into the water without him, so he gulped down his bottle of milk and ran to join them, hurling himself into the midst. They all enjoyed the mudbath, fed for the rest of the afternoon, and were led back in the evening by Lesanju.

11 September 2009

On their way out this morning, heading for the foot of Mazinga Hill, the orphans met up with a large group of wild elephants, amongst whom was Uaso, who was leading the group to the Stockades to drink. Uaso paid a lot of attention to Tassia and Taveta, while Lesanju and Wasessa watched from a distance, before moving up to join them. The orphans then all moved freely amongst the wild elephants, returning with them for another drink at the Stockade trough, They then all went to browse near Mazinga Hill, Mzima, Taveta and Shimba moving freely amongst the wild group, Lempaute and Mzima enjoying feeding near a wild boy. Upon realizing that the Keepers were not actually with them, Tassia and Taveta came back, followed by the other orphans, but leaving Shimba amongst the wild herd, who took a little time to realize that his orphaned friends were not with him. The Keepers called him, and all the orphans then went to the mudbath, leaving the wild elephants moving towards the North.

12 September 2009

The orphans left the Stockades in single file led by Lesanju, and heading for the North side of Mazinga Hill. Wasessa proved to be a good mountaineer, climbing high up the hill to browse, but suddenly realizing that Tassia was not with her. He later came up with Lempaute, and the three fed together. Mzima then led the race to the milk and mudbath venue, holding his bottle of milk himself. All enjoyed the mudbath, before resuming to browse again for the rest of the afternoon.

13 September 2009

Just after the orphans had left for the hill, a small family unit comprised of one large cow elephant, one 9 year old and a small calf of about 2 years came to drink at the Stockade trough. The orphans came down from the hill for their milk and mudbath, but just missed the wild herd, who had left shortly before, after hanging around the Stockade compound feeding on acacia leaves. The orphans had a lot of fun playing in the mudbath, Mzima teaching Tassia and Taveta a rolling game. They later went back up the hill, and came down in the evening with full bellies.

14 September 2009

The Stockade compound was filled with happy trumpets and rumbles as the orphans played before moving to the field. Lesanju gave up the lead on the way out to separate Sinya and Siria, who were having a disagreement over a tasty branch, while Tassia and Taveta were very interested spectators. The orphans fed along the Eastern edge of the hill today. Taveta and Mzima took a mid-morning nap, overseen by Lempaute. At mudbath, as usual Mzima took the lead, attracting all the others into the water. The afternoon session found them browsing calmly as they returned to the Stockades for the night.

15 September 2009

Today, once the orphans had reached the eastern side of the hill, they separated into three groups. Lempaute, Wasessa and Tassia fed up the hill, Siria, Lempaute and Sinya half way up with Shimba and Mzima keeping Taveta company at the bottom. All the groups united on the way back to the milk and mudbath, but since it was a cool day, they avoided going into the water, opting for a dust-bath instead.

16 September 2009

The orphans grabbed what they could on their way out to browse, plucking grass growing from between the rocks and stuffing it into their mouths. Shimba took his time, as usual. At the mudbath Tassia enjoyed wallowing beside Wasessa, and then suckled her ear as they took a rest under shade.

17 September 2009

The orphans enjoyed chasing the troupe of baboons at the Stockades, so excited trumpeting filled the air, as the orphans managed to separate the baboons who were fleeing in all directions. Eventually, the Keepers called the orphans to order, since it was time to begin feeding. Lesanju pushed Taveta into the lead, but when his pace proved too slow, she took over. Mzima and Siria fed next to one another all morning, and were together in the mudbath as well.

18 September 2009

It was a cloudy day, so the orphans could concentrate on feeding throughout the day, with just a brief break for the mudbath. They didn’t feel the need to take water at the mudbath, but drank when they returned to the Stockades in the evening.

19 September 2009

Emily’s group was spotted at Ngutuni Ranch today as they came to drink at a leakage on the Mzima – Mombasa pipeline. This chance waterhole has proved a life-saver for all wildlife during this very drought year, when water is scarce everywhere. The calves of both Emily and Edie looked well, albeit a little lean due to the dry conditions which has probably impacted on their mother’s lactating capacity. The now wild orphans were with a lot of wild elephants, who were also drinking at that same spot. Natumi’s group was not seen.

20 September 2009

Today, before leaving for the hill feeding session, Wasessa tried to monopolize both Tassia and Taveta, and were joined by Lesanju, who did not object, but also wanted to be close. The two little ones enjoyed the attention of the two Matriarchs. They all went in a rush to get their noon milk feed, and thereafter enjoyed an amazing bathing game, when Siria, Mzima and Wasessa teamed up to romp around together. Mzima then sat on the mudbath walls, which obviously impressed all the others.

21 September 2009

Careful monitoring of Emily's group on Ngutuni Ranch was carried out today, when it was noticed that Irima had an arrow in his hind-quarters. Our Mobile Veterinary Unit was called, and Dr. Ndeereh removed the arrow head which fortunately was not poisoned. All the others in the group were fine.

22 September 2009

An injured elephant calf was reported on Rukinga Ranch. The KWS Vet attached to the Trust’s Mobile Veterinary Unit was at Ngulia dealing with another case, so he asked the Keepers to go and assess the condition of the invalid. The calf was about 5 years old, and the hind leg looked smashed. The Vet was informed and later came to euthenase the calf. Whilst waiting, we were notified that Natumi’s group of ex orphans were likely to be on the Ranch, since very friendly elephants had been seen, one with an arrow wound. The Ranch Staff were instructed to inform Joseph Sauni as soon as the group was spotted again. On our way back, another orphaned calf was spotted at Ngutuni Ranch, but was too big to capture without being sedated. Its tusks were about 15 cms. long.

23 September 2009

Having all taken water, the orphans left for Mazinga Hill. Shimba proved a lone Ranger, climbing high up the hill to feed on special plants. Tassia stuck close to Wasessa, sometimes suckling her ear, which pleased Wasessa, who also stopped browsing and stood quietly with closed eyes. The orphans loved their mudbath today, Tassia right in the thick of things in amongst all the others. Tassia preferred to wallow in the splash on the banks, where he was joined by Sinya. Later Taveta had a turn suckling Wasessa’s ear.

24 September 2009

The orphans enjoyed their Copra hand-out in the morning, Lesanju inspecting the new Pickup truck before leading the others to Mazinga hill to browse. They fed deliberately and slowly, getting what they could before moving to the mudbath. There Tassia sucked on Wasessa’s ear actually in the mudbath, as Lesanju tried to ease him away by pushing him with her buttocks. However, Tassia wasn’t budging. Lempaute sat on Mzima in the water, before they all left to continue feeding around the hill until it was time to return in the evening.

25 September 2009

Lesanju led the group up the hill today, but Tassia and Taveta were reluctant climbers, so the older elephants slowed down to keep pace with them. However, when the Keepers called them for their milk, they came down rapidly, ignoring the little ones, Mzima running like an ostrich to be at the milk first! Afterwards Mzima led the wallowing along with Siria, but all soon resumed feeding, which occupies most of their time now.

26 September 2009

The orphans left in a hurry to feed around the hill, Lesanju pushing Tassia to her side, which didn’t please either him or Wasessa. They all came down the hill for the milk and mudbath, and spent a short time playing around the waterhole before returning to feed for the rest of the day before returning in the evening.

27 September 2009

The orphans enjoyed their Copra Cake and milk before leaving for the hill. It was a very hot day, so Wasessa and Lesanju took their group under trees to shelter from the sun. Tassia hid himself underneath Wasessa completely, and could hardly be seen. Later they went to the mudbath, where Siria and Mzima had a lovely time, Mzima resting a leg on Siria’s back. The others opted to be spectators today, resting under shade.

28 September 2009

Lempaute and Lesanju found themselves squeezed as both tried to get to the milk and Copra together. Having taken water, and played for a while, the orphans headed out as usual, Shimba trailing far behind, concentrating on finding anything edible. They sheltered under trees now and then, because it was a hot day, and all enjoyed the noon mudbath, until Siria pinned down Mzima with his sharp little tusks. Mzima bellowed and this necessitated the Keepers’ intervention, which prompted all to exit the mudbath. They fed along the western edge of the hill for the rest of the day.

29 September 2009

The morning started well, with a lot of playing around the Stockade until the orphans headed out to the flatter northern slope of the hill. Lesanju pushed Tassia down for some reason which the Keepers could not establish, other than that she was probably jealous of his relationship with Wasessa. Thereafter Tassia avoided Lesanju. They made their way slowly feeding towards the Stockade in the evening.

30 September 2009

The orphans had a busy day browsing all round Mazinga Hill, which Shimba especially enjoyed, emerging at the end of the day with a protruding belly. Tassia and Taveta were quite exhausted after such a long day, as all the orphans browsed their way back to the Stockades in the evening. Thuya was administered to Shimba, who seems to have a wart on his eyelid.