Keepers' Diaries, September 2013

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Voi Reintegration Unit

It has been a challenging month for the Voi elephant Keepers and the Orphans, who were very saddened to loose little Kajire at the beginning of the month. She succumbed to lung and kidney problems. The Keepers were called upon to undertake no less than three rescues during the month – on the 22nd the rescue of tragic Zongoloni, who watched the demise of her beloved elephant mother shot in the shoulder by Poachers. The l0 month old calf guarded her mother as they lay dying on the ground, forced to drink her mother’s urine as she died in order to try and survive herself. The 25th brought the rescue of little Mshindi, found wandering along the Mombasa highway, and the next day, the rescue of Shujaa from the mud of the leaking Mombasa Pipeline, both calves flown to the Nursery in the same plane.

It has been a challenging month for the Voi elephant Keepers and the Orphans, who were very saddened to loose little Kajire at the beginning of the month. She succumbed to lung and kidney problems. The Keepers were called upon to undertake no less than three rescues during the month – on the 22nd the rescue of tragic Zongoloni, who watched the demise of her beloved elephant mother shot in the shoulder by Poachers. The l0 month old calf guarded her mother as they lay dying on the ground, forced to drink her mother’s urine as she died in order to try and survive herself. The 25th brought the rescue of little Mshindi, found wandering along the Mombasa highway, and the next day, the rescue of Shujaa from the mud of the leaking Mombasa Pipeline, both calves flown to the Nursery in the same plane.

Shimba, (still suffering from his lion mauling), Mbirikani whose cable-snared front leg is still not entirely healed, Panda who began life somewhat feeble, but who has since recovered, and little Mudanda, are collectively known as the “Invalid Group” and browse around the Stockades, since they are not up to traveling the distances the others have make on a daily basis in search of fodder. They are also fed their handouts apart from the others to avoid being shoved around.

Scarcity of food compromising survival always triggers stiff competition amongst elephants. The only available browse within the orphans’ daily browsing range is to be found mainly up and around nearby Mazinga hill, where the odd bit of greenery can be found sprouting amidst the rocks, mainly at the very top of the hill, which up until mid month had been monopolized by the wild elephants not about to share and which also entails a lot of effort to reach. When the wild elephants vacated this prized spot, and the orphans climbed the hill to access it, they were scared off by shouting baboons up the trees, and came rushing back down to their Keepers and it was a few days before they summonsed the courage to venture up again, ever mindful of the lions. The younger orphans obviously have to give way to their greedy elders, especially Wasessa, who is the largest member of the herd and particularly pushy at both the Stockade supplement feed and also out in the bush. Hence should younger members happen upon a tasty tidbit behind a bounder, they down it as silently and as quickly as possible before their elders, who are always on the look-out for an easy snatch, notice, and move in to take it over!

There is a great deal of concern over Shimba, whose recovery from the horrendous lion mauling he endured months ago, seems to have taken a down-turn. Not only has he lost an enormous amount of condition, despite extra rations, but he is becoming weaker with every passing month. We suspect that there may still be some infection deep within his head behind the now closed earhole, so Dr. Poghorn of our Mobile Veterinary Unit will be looking into what further can be done to help him. Disturbance during the nights by lions roaring around the Voi Stockades obviously inflicts additional psychological stress on poor Shimba which doesn’t help matters and has left Lesanju and the Big Girls nervous out in the bush, continually raising their trunks to test the wind for lion scent. Mbirikani’s horrendous leg wound is healing miraculously, but she is still lame so she and Shimba avoid the older elephants for fear of being pushed around. Meanwhile the baby of the group, little Mudanda, so far is thriving, cosseted by all the older females as well as Panda, who is now the accepted Leader of the Invalid Group. She was up to charging a dikdik she spotted near the compound, who disappeared under the electric wire of the KWS Compound, Wasessa rushing forward to prevent Mudanda from touching it and getting a shock! All the older females are particularly protective of those smaller, especially Ndii who adores baby Mudanda.

The orphans enjoyed just one friendly wild contact this month – a cow and her family who were browsing up the hill and who came down to greet the orphans who were further down. This wild cow was obviously known to the orphans, since they greeted her fondly and were happy to spend time with her and her family under shade thereafter; also happy to welcome what might have been her teenaged son, who suddenly appeared out of the blue to join them. Lesanju led the orphans back to the same area the next day, hoping again to meet up with the friendly wild family, but sadly they had already moved on.

Our Ex Orphans, led by Emily, have not been seen all month, but since we now know from experience that should they be in need help, they return to seek it, we must assume that all is well with them wherever they happen to be, which will be where most of their wild friends are at this time of the year. As soon as the rains break next month, they are likely to reappear again.

There is always fun and games at the noon mudbath, and also around the Stockade compound before the orphans head out each morning. This month they have enjoyed a new mudbath site, which they found occupied by an unfriendly wild herd who were not about to share it with them towards the end of the month. The Keepers intervened to chase the wild herd away so that the orphans could enjoy it. The mudbath is always followed by a spectacular dust-bath, with clouds of red soil tossed in the air, obliterating the elephants themselves. Rombo and Taveta are now very close friends, as are Kenia and Ndii, but it was a surprise for the Keepers to see Kivuko interacting with Dabassa this month, since these two orphans normally dislike and avoid one another! Perhaps forgiveness for some previous misdemeanor is in the offing, because although elephants never forget, they also forgive!

September 2013 day to day

01 Sep

Shimba, Mbirikani, Panda and Mudanda – the foursome who browse close to the Stockades, enjoyed their noon milk feed and later had a lot of fun at their Stockade mudbath, Panda rolling and wallowing while little Mudanda sprayed water behind her ears, stepping out to avoid being sandwiched by the other three. After the usual dustbath, Mbirikani led the group back to browse. Back in the field, the older orphans, led by Kenia, arrived at the new artificial mudbath to quench their thirst and cool down having been up and down Mazinga hill in search of browse, Kenia, Taveta, Layoni and Ndii the first to jump in followed by the older orphans. Later Kivuko initiated the dustbath, blowing dust over with her trunk, which attracted all the others, so that soon the entire area was covered in red dust. At 4.15 p.m. the herd began their journey back to the Stockades.

Panda enjoying the mudwallow

Mudanda spraying water

Kivuko dustbathing

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