Keepers' Diaries, September 2012

Voi Reintegration Unit

Antics at the noon mudbath and the search for browse dominate this month’s Voi Keepers’ Diary. Most of the wild elephant herds have left the area utilized by our current 15 Keeper Dependent orphans who are based at night at the Voi Rehabilitation Unit’s Stockades. Browsing takes place mainly around nearby Mazinga hill, with the orphans often splitting into three separate groups. Shimba, who is the Climber of the herd leads his bull peers up the hill, while the girls prefer to remain at the foot, all watching over the wellbeing of the smallest member of the group, two year old baby “Panda”, who is cosetted and loved by all the Big Girls, but especially by Wasessa, and the Matriarch, Lesanju, who enjoy priority in terms of “possession” of the baby. However, Ndii, Kenia, Sinya and Lempaute are all also eager to be Carers, and seize every opportunity to be so when the two biggest girls are otherwise occupied in the mudbath. Panda, who was orphaned old enough to bypass the Nursery is thriving, regaining strength and putting on weight. She is contented and happy within her newfound elephant “family”.

01 September 2012

The orphans emerged in a happy mood, Tassia and Taveta teaming up to take on Mzima while Kenia and Ndii took on Lempaute, Shimba and Rombo. Meanwhile little “Panda” strolled around the compound swinging her trunk joyfully as she playfully approached some baboons who obligingly ran off, making her feel even better! Once out in the field, all the orphans focused on browsing, searching for food to fill their hungry bellies. At the mudbath Layoni, Dabassa and Kivuko had a great time, while others took a dustbath or scratched against trees. Soon it was back to browsing again until the late evening when all walked back home for the night.

02 September 2012

After the usual morning Stockade games, the orphans walked in single file around the base of Mazinga Hill before splitting into three groups, boys (Mzima, Shimba, Rombo, Layoni and Dabassa climbing the hill, while Wasessa, Lesanju, Sinya, Lempaute and Kenia guarded little Panda further down. The milk dependent group took their noon milk before cooling themselves at the mudwallow, followed by the older weaned elephants who went straight into the wallow. Sinya and Wasessa enjoyed a slippery Pushing Game in the pool, given space by the others who were interested onlookers. Shimba is not fond of water, but surprised the Keepers by taking a trunkful to spray over his body. Browsing continued until late evening when the orphans returned to their Night Quarters and a handout of supplements in the form of Lucerne and Copra cake.

03 September 2012

Ndii was the star of the day at the noon mudbath, performing all sorts of maneuvers that impressed Rombo, recognized as the current wallowing Champion! He and Layoni then jumped in but rapidly exited the pool when Mzima mounted onto Ndii who bellowed for help which brought Lesanju and Lempaute to the rescue, leaving Mzima alone, so he, too, came out. Meanwhile a herd of impala were waiting on the sidelines hoping for a drink, but Taveta and Tassia saw them off after which Tassia was missing for a while. When it was time to leave, the Keepers called him back and he came trumpeting and bush-bashing, feeling very proud of himself!

04 September 2012

Panda enjoys wallowing overseen by Lesanju and Wasessa who keep the naughty boys at bay while the baby enjoys herself. She practiced digging the banks with her tiny tusks, and even submerged herself completely. When she was ready to come out, Taveta and Rombo had the wallow to themselves, Taveta sitting in the water and waving his trunk in the air while Rombo decided to do the opposite – put his head under the water and lift his bottom in the air! Things went wrong when he fell over onto his back with all four legs in the air, letting out a high-pitched scream which scared Taveta, leaving Rombo struggling to also exit the pool in a hurry. Kenia and Ndii began to come to his aid, but once they saw that he was getting out unaided, made themselves scarce! The Keepers had to intervene to bring the situation under control, because all the players were in a high state of excitement!

05 September 2012

Just before it was time to move to the waterhole, Tassia tried to push a huge boulder down the hill. When it refused to give, he sat on it instead. At the wallow little Panda enjoyed sliding on the banks, overseen by Wasessa, who had to help her up using one foreleg. Panda then enjoyed a dustbath, again overseen by Wasessa, who fondled her lovingly as she did so.

06 September 2012

The Keepers drove to Kilabasi today to rescue a baby elephant who had an arrow lodged in its body behind the shoulder. The calf was extremely weak, and so was captured easily and driven to the Voi Stockades, where the Vet attached to the Trust’s Tsavo Mobile Veterinary Unit was awaiting its arrival. He sedated the calf to remove the arrow and dress the wound, but the baby kept falling over once revived, and died during the night.

07 September 2012

The orphans left to browse early, since September is usually a very hot month. They split into separate groups - Wasessa keeping vigil over baby Panda and Emsaya (her two favourite calves) while Rombo, Kenia and Ndii went further afield, and Lempaute Lesanju, Sinya, Mzima and Kivuko chose the slopes of Mazinga Hill. Led by Shimba (the Climber) the others climbed the hill to search for green shoots high up amongst the rocks. At the noon mudbath, the young bulls dominated the mudbath, Rombo putting on a spirited display, with even Shimba who normally shuns water, right in the middle.

08 September 2012

On another hot day, the orphans had to take turns in the noon mudbath, Kenia and her group going first, followed by Rombo and Layoni. Dabassa mounted onto his friend Kivuko, believing her to be Rombo. Kivuko was furious, head butting Dabassa and chasing him out of the pool with Lempaute moving between the two to calm things down. Kivuko then returned to resume her wallow, while Dabassa had a dustbath instead. Ndii guarded little Panda, and Mzima decided to enlarge the waterhole, using his tusks. The orphans remained at the mudbath for a full hour until the Keepers called them away to feed for the remainder of the afternoon.

09 September 2012

It was a good browsing day, because it was cloudy. Kenia led the orphans out to feed, joining up with a herd of impala on the way. Tassia began chasing them around, but they playfully did high jumps to avoid him so he trumpeted for help. Taveta obliged and together they managed to disperse the impala herd and resume browsing until it was time for the mudbath. By then it had turned hot, so all enjoyed the wallow.

10 September 2012

Panda led the orphans to the noon milk venue today and having downed their milk, the Younger set moved to the water barrels for a drink, but found a herd of eland and zebra busy quenching their thirst instead. Ndii shoved Panda aside and charged the unwanted visitors so that the orphans could drink. Tassia, who enjoys dispersing unwanted intruders, set off in pursuit of the zebra to ensure that they were far enough away. The orphans then enjoyed their mudbath, Ndii emerging the star wallower of the day!

11 September 2012

Today the orphans decided to browse up Mazinga hill where they encountered a wild herd. The Matriarch warned them off with a low rumble, which brought Lesanju, who was at the back, to the forefront. Recognizing that Lesanju was the young Matriarch of her group, the wild cow gave the same low warning rumble, and Lesanju responded by spreading her ears wide and turning to the babies to warn them not to go any further forward. The orphans then did an about turn down the hill, but having reached the foot of the hill, a huge wild bull strode by. All the older girls rushed to their Keepers leaving the younger ones to greet the Bull. Tassia and Taveta went forward to greet him. He was very polite, and allowed them to touch and admire his giant body before walking away, followed by Tassia and Taveta. The Bull then turned, and rumbled to them, obviously telling them to return, which they obediently did!

12 September 2012

The mudwallow had very little water in it today, so the orphans walked around it to find a wet spot, testing the temperature with their trunks. As they were attempting to roll in a damp spot, some warthogs approached to await their turn. They were spotted by Emsaya who ran to Wasessa, in the process scaring Rombo and Tassia who were unsure of the identity of the latest intruders. When Tassia noticed that they were just hogs, he went after them, sending them rapidly on their way!

13 September 2012

Although Tsavo is excruciatingly dry, and most of the wild elephants are out on the Ranches where food is more plentiful, our orphans are the lucky ones who can afford time playing at the compound before heading out each morning. Little Panda is putting on weight, enjoying her milk and the care she gets from Wasessa and Lesanju every day. At night Kenia and Ndii protect her from bully boy Rombo, not forgetting the Keepers who ensure that all is well with her. Each morning the baboons are a constant menace, irritating even the elephants, since they steal their Copra handout.

14 September 2012

As soon as the babies had taken their morning milk feed, they headed to the Lucerne pile where they found Ndara, who is still nursing her wounds, and who returns to the large enclosure at night. After rumbled greetings, Tassia and Kenia went to check on Ndara’s leg, while little Panda admired Ndara’s huge trunk. As they moved off Tassia and Taveta engaged one another in their usual play. As it was a cloudy day, none of the orphans wallowed.

15 September 2012

Kenia and her peers rushed into the mudbath before the others so that Panda could take a quick roll. When the others arrived, she came out, (not wanting to be shoved around by the boys) and went to lie in the sun. Wasessa noticed her absence, and when she saw the baby lying down, she rushed out of the mudbath to check that she was alright. Wasessa’s sudden arrival scared little Panda, who was taking a nap. She bellowed, and Wasessa quickly soothed her.

16 September 2012

During this very hot month, wallowing is all important for both the Elephants and the Keepers, who have to bring water to the drinking barrels and bush mudbath sometimes twice a day. This is because the wild elephants also rely on the mudwallow intended for the orphans, and often empty the water barrels before the arrival of the orphans. On a very hot day all the orphans take a mudbath, the Big Girls looking out for little Panda. Kenia normally leads the group back to the Stockades after the afternoon browsing session.

17 September 2012

Having browsed all morning, and enjoyed the noon wallow, Kenia and Layoni decided to enjoy a Pushing Match on the way back in the evening. This was hijacked by Taveta and Tassia, and then joined by Dabassa, who mounted onto Taveta. Taveta bellowed for help which brought Lesanju and Lempaute at the double and prompted Dabassa to take to his heels and hide behind some bushes, fearing punishment from the girls! Tassia took advantage of Taveta whilst he was down, but also ran off when he saw the girls coming!

18 September 2012

After the orphans’ noon mudbath, there was another Rescue Alert from the Chief at Bushuma who said there was a lone elephant calf in a nearby village. Upon arrival at the village in question, the locals escorted the Keepers to the location of the calf, who was too big to capture, being about 7 or 8 years old. The Keepers explained this fact to the locals, thanking them for the report, and having taken photos of the wild calf, then drove back.

19 September 2012

The milk dependent orphans chose to go to the mudbath early today, because it was so hot. (Wild elephants have become crafty, hiding behind bushes whenever they hear the tractor approaching, and moving in once the drinking barrels and mudbath have been filled. Today, however, the junior group was there early, and had to wait for their milk to arrive. Rombo is a glutton, always pushing and shoving even before the bottles have been unloaded! Kenia watched over little Panda whilst at the wallow, until Lesanju came with the second batch, who are no longer milk dependent, and immediately took over the motherly duty ensuring that the baby was cooled down, using her trunk to spray water over her.

20 September 2012

At 11 a.m. the Keepers received another phone call from the same Chief at Bushuma, saying that there was another smaller elephant in Miasenyi village who was in a group of 2 other older calves. Miasenyi is along the Mombasa road populated by a mixture of cosmopolitan tribes, and used by poachers who can get rid of their loot easily. The Ranches abutting Tsavo are currently a poaching hotspot because a lot of elephants have left the Park in search of food and water. The Rescue team set out immediately, and having combed the bushes, flushed out one of the babies. The locals all took to their heels as the Keepers moved in to capture the lone calf, who was 2 – 3 years old, and very weak and emaciated, obviously having been without a mother for some time. The Rescue team did not see any sign of the other two calves. The captured orphan was driven back to the Stockades, and was named “Miasenyi”.

21 September 2012

The newcomer, “Miasenyi” is extremely wild, and won’t allow anyone to come close, obviously having witnessed the brutal death of her mother at the hands of humans. She has decided to fight to the very end before lying down to die. Kenia, Ndii, Rombo and Panda tried everything they could to restore hope in this poor baby, Ndii putting her trunk through the rails to caress her, but having to rapidly remove it before it was crushed. In the morning the older orphans rushed to say “hello” to the new family member, instilling a little hope in Miasenyi, who moved a little closer and exchanged greetings with Lesanju. The orphans spent more time than usual at the Stockades in an attempt to calm her, mingling peacefully in the midst of the Keepers so that Miasenyi could see that the Keepers were different to the people who killed her elephant family but eventually it was important that the orphans move off to feed, leaving Miasenyi to rest.

22 September 2012

As soon as the Stockade Gates were opened, Lesanju moved to greet Miasenyi, and exchanged a trunk greeting with her. Sinya then moved in to do the same, but Miasenyi still charges the Keepers. Soon it was time to move off to Mazinga hill to try and find browse before moving to the milk and mudbath venue at noon. In the evening all the orphans exchanged greetings with Miasenyi.

23 September 2012

A small mudwallow was prepared for Miasenyi in her Stockade. She seems to be doing well and has everything she needs, but still won’t take milk from the Keepers. We hope that soon she will be able to let out to join the others and eventually return to where she belongs – in the wilds of Tsavo. Kivuko and Shimba were at the mudbath today when the tractor arrived bringing the second load of water. Shimba drank straight from the tap as the water was pouring into the mudbath while Mzima, Sinya, Lempaute, Emsaya and Taveta cooled their feet in a puddle. After the babies had taken their milk little Panda went into the wallow, overseen by the Big Girls, while Dabassa and Emsaya played together and Sinya and Taveta scratched their bodies on the edge.

24 September 2012

Kenia and Ndii led the orphans to the main Park in the morning where they fed calmly until noon when they moved to the waterhole. Kivuko Dabassa and Ndii enjoyed bathing, while Rombo splashed mud onto himself. All went well for the remainder of the day.

25 September 2012

Wasessa came running from her Stockade this morning to escort little Panda to the Stockade water trough. Kenia and Ndii wanted to escort Panda as well, but Wasessa was too possessive to allow that. Having enjoyed the Lucerne handout, Shimba and Lesanju led the group out in single file to feed. None of the elephants wallowed today, but instead splashed water over themselves.

26 September 2012

After the usual Stockade Games, Lesanju led her group towards the western side of Mazinga hill to browse. The mudbath took place at the Middle Waterhole today, all enjoying themselves in the soapy pool

27 September 2012

Miasenyi is not well today. She is weak and has stopped feeding so we summonsed the Vet, who came and gave her a long-acting antibiotic injection. Meanwhile Taveta and Tassia had a good wrestling match, with Mzima moving in to take them both on. Out in the field Emsaya and Kivuko engaged one another which turned into a fierce fight, which was broken up by the intervention of Kenia.

28 September 2012

On the way out to browse today, the orphans again encountered a herd of Impala which were chased off by Rombo and Ndii. Today Ndara joined the Orphans out in the browsing area, later moving off towards the Voi River accompanied by Shimba, who returned alone later. We were all very saddened that little Miasenyi died during the night. This calf simply did not wish to live after losing her elephant family.

29 September 2012

Lempaute managed to have quality time with little Panda today until Wasessa moved in to repossess her favourite baby. The orphans enjoyed soil dusting at the mudbath venue today, with Ndii and Dabassa running around tossing huge chunks of soil in the air with their trunks. In the evening Dabassa led the orphans back home.

30 September 2012

Today there was another Rescue alert, this time an orphan who had strayed into Maungu town, abutting the Park. It was successfully rescued and airlifted to the Nursery, a young bull estimated to be about l0 months old, who has subsequently been named “Ngasha” the name of a hill close to the rescue site. Sinya managed to have Panda to herself for a while whilst Wasessa was busy enjoying herself in the mudbath. However, as soon as Wasessa spotted Sinya with little Panda, she left the mudbath to take possession again. Others:- There has been no sighting of Emily and Edie’s Ex Orphan group this month, who must be elsewhere with the wild herds. We believe they are safe, since none have returned to the Stockades. An orphaned baby duiker was brought to us, but sadly, despite our best efforts, it died soon afterwards.