Keepers' Diaries, September 2014

Voi Reintegration Unit

There is a sense that the rains are getting closer with some days being incredibly hot this past month, and the skies building. There were a couple of days when it did rain and it was a relief to see the parched dry park now slowly begin to transform into a paradise. We hope the rains will well and truly break early. The orphans have all been well and this month saw our two new arrivals, Bada and Sorka, tame down in their stockades where they had their milk and tasty browse brought to them throughout the day and night to help build their strength and get them completely used to the Keepers and their milk bottles. It is important that they feel comfortable so that they will not run off with the first wild herds they encounter. That could pose a big problem as while both of them are over two years old they are still very much dependent on milk to sustain life.

01 September 2014

The orphans left the stockade in the morning to where they began their day of browsing and playing. Mzima and Layoni were the leaders of the group today while babies Panda, Mudanda, Ishaq b and Kihari remained behind under their loyal leadership of Wasessa, Lesanju and Lempaute. The two orphan herds browsed separately for the better half of the day. Layoni was very punctual to have come down the hill well in time for their daily milk feed. She ran past the other orphans alerting all of them exactly what time it was… Milk time! After their milk feed the orphans walked to the mud bath and all plunged into the water. After their entertaining day Panda slowly led the younger orphan’s home.

02 September 2014

The elephants played throughout the day and then a wild herd came and joined the orphans at the water hole. The orphans interacted with them and seemed to enjoy one another’s company. The orphan’s attention was first focused on a small wild elephant calf until eventually Tasia, Lempaute, Lesanju and Kivuko built up the courage to go over to the little baby is some hope of stealing the little calf. Tasia was first, she approached the little baby and began to push the little baby with her buttocks and tusks to try direct the baby away from its family. Unfortunately they were accidentally seen by the wild calf’s’ teenage sister who alerted its mother in a loud trumpet and began to charge the 4 naughty orphans. After all the commotion the mother did not appear aggressive towards the orphans but was from that point on sure to keep a closer eye on them. Mzima attempted to mount a wild elephant but instead it led to a wrestling match, Dabassa stood close by and watched the two battle it out until eventually they were far too exhausted to continue. The orphans then browsed with this wild herd for an hour or so before following behind Ndii to the stockade safety in the evening

03 September 2014

It was a cold and cloudy morning when the orphans awoke this morning. Throughout the day the orphans browsed and played amongst each other. Mudanda went and expressed her love for Wasessa by suckling her ears and Wasessa savoured all the love and attention she was receiving, as she stood there content. Taveta and Tasia began to wrestle one another however their game didn’t last long when the two realised that no one was paying any attention to their silly games. These bulls do like an audience. At mid day, all the orphans walked towards the water hole for their milk and drinking water, it was too cold for any of them to play in the water and mud so slowly they ambled off to browse.

04 September 2014

It was another cold morning as the orphans took their Lucerne, but none dared to touch the cold water in the trough. Instead they all peacefully fed on their share of Lucerne grass and there after began their journey to the bush for feeding. Before the elephants left for the bush Naipoki was busy greeting and welcoming our new arrival Sorka who was in the nearby stockade. Naipoki even seemed willing to stay behind and care for the new little arrival, but the keepers insisted on her joining them in the bush to browse, which after awhile she reluctantly did. All the elephants trekked out to the browsing field, and enjoyed their day out. As the night began to fall and the orphans returned home, Naipoki went to establish the where about of Sorka and luckily enough she was kept in the stockade near to Naipoki’s stockade so throughout the night the two had frequent interactions.

05 September 2014

It was a beautiful warm morning. Tasia stood tall as he stretched his trunk out high into the branches of the trees located near the stockade however none of his friends were close by. In the mean time, Wasessa was busy guarding Mudanda and Ishaq b who were scratching simultaneously on the same rock boulder. Naipoki tried to get involved with Ishaq b and Mudanda but instead was denied the chance by Wasessa who completely blocked her grand entry into that game. Naipoki took refuge close- by but curiously watching the two playing in the hope to somehow join, there was no chance as grumpy old Wasessa was sure to stay close and push off anyone who tried to intervene.

06 September 2014

After the orphans had finished their supplement feeding, it was games as usual with Naipoki once again getting herself into a bit of trouble with grumpy Wasessa. Mudanda was playing by the nearby tree and Naipoki kindly wanted to join but Wasessa refused and instead she reared up and charged at poor Naipoki. Naipoki luckily got away and joined the other orphans as they walked out into the bush. In the evening Taveta and Layoni decided to challenge one another’s strength, instead they were left alone and slightly embarrassed that no one seemed to take any interest in their naughty, silly games.

07 September 2014

After the orphans had their morning milk and their supplement feeds, Lesanju, Wasessa and Sinya led the others to the eastern side of Msinga hill for the start of the browsing day. The others followed swiftly as they searched for greener foods as the lower browsing grounds were drying up fast. Sinya began to lie on the warm rocks in hope to warm up after the cold morning start. Unfortunately no one followed him, but he didn’t seem to mind because the warm rocks were a pleasure and sharing them could have led to a fight. Tasia and Taveta who favours browsing uphill were far ahead of the others, the two browsed for a couple of hours before joining their friends who were heading to the water hole at noon. At the mud bath all the orphans seemed to have a fantastic time as they all rolled in the mud and enjoying each other’s company.

08 September 2014

It was a beautiful morning once again and the orphans came out of their stockades and all emptied their milk bottles. They then joined the bigger group in gulping water at the stockade water trough. A big group of impala came behind the orphan elephants to try squeeze into the robust group in search of a few sips of water. Unfortunately Dabassa and Kihari were not willing to share and quickly charged the impalas off. Later, the orphans went to the water hole as Mbirikani plunged into the cold water and persisted on spraying all the orphans and keepers with water. Kivuko and Lesanju rolled around on the water banks and enjoyed the warm sensation of the soil. The two even knelt on their hind legs and tossed their trunks in the air. The orphans seemed to of had a fantastic day and were exhausted by the time they got to their stockades, so it didn’t take long until they were all sound asleep.

09 September 2014

The day started with a lot of games at the stockade in the morning. Taveta and Tasia pushing each other which evoked all the others to join in and push one another, Dabassa took on Kenia and Layoni took on Rombo. Taveta then went and took on Ndii however Ndii was not interested in this game and instead went to seek refuge amongst Lesanju and Sinya. The games here at the stockade consumed a considerable amount of time before moving off to the field for browsing. The orphans visited the water hole at noon, with Panda, Dabasa and Kenia playing extensively in the mud bath. Sinya went close to them enjoying their game but never touched the water herself. In the evening when the orphans were in their stockades, a teenage wild elephant cow left its herd that were browsing on the Msinga hill and came alone to drink from the stockade water trough. Mbirikani and Ishaq b went to greet her with a rumble while inside their stable. The wild cow responded as she rumbled back.

10 September 2014

Another beautiful morning has come with the orphans playing happily around the stockade compound after their breakfast feed of milk, dairy cubes and the lucene grass. There were many wild elephant herds seen browsing on the far lower side of the Msinga hill but the orphans never caught up with them. After browsing for the better half of the day, Kenia led the milk dependant orphans towards the water hole for their mid day milk feeding session. At the water hole Taveta and Dabasa decided to push one another around in the slippery mud, it didn’t take long until Ndii came and settled the two before someone got hurt. The orphans later rested under an acacia tree to get away from the scorching hot sun.

11 September 2014

The orphans had a wonderful time playing at the stockade in the morning. Mzima invited Taveta into a pushing game today with Lempaute refereeing that match. They both tried their level best as they refused to be defeated by the other in front of the beautiful Lempaute. Eventually they both called it even after Lempaute decided their game was quite boring to watch. Tasia was busy being chasing off by Dabassa, it seemed Dabassa was in quite a foul mood and had no intension for playing with anyone. Instead Tasia then approached Ndii and Kenia in hope that they would play a game, but unfortunately no one was interested. The journey to the browsing field then started under the leadership of Sinya and Mbirikani. Here the orphans browsed in a single file and shortly afterwards the orphans walked to the water hole. It was a lovely day and they all seemed to enjoy it thoroughly despite the scorching sun and heat.

12 September 2014

The weather was fairly cold this morning but it was favourable conditions for the orphans to play there all time favourite game… Hide & Seek! The orphans hid behind trees and boulders until eventually they decided to head off into the bush and begin there day searching for delicious greens. On the way to the northern side of the stockade there was a wild herd of elephants that were browsing half way on Msinga Hill, they rumbled at the orphans as a greeting sign. Mzima attempted to join them but was quickly stopped by all his friends who pushed him to stay with them. The orphans arriving at the water hole later that afternoon, there were only a few orphans who dipped their trunks into the water and sprayed themselves with a refreshing spray of cold water before resting under a tree. In the evening, Mbirikani sneaked away from the others and started heading to the stockade it seemed she wanted a head start on her milk before anyone else got there.

13 September 2014

Ndii, Kenia and Panda were extremely interested in the new arrival Bada, they even were sneaking their trunks into the new baby’s stockade in attempt to get a smell and touch the newest arrival, Bada was far more interested in the luscious greens in the stockade than all the orphans. The orphans all scattered themselves in the field in order to collect as much as possible in their stomachs. They later walked to the water hole for milk and water at noon. At the water hole, Ndii ran the show and stole the spot light as she rolled and slid in the mud. Kenia was sure to stay close and keep all the other babies from hurting her. Dabasa, Panda and Naipoki went down into the water to challenge her. The air was filled with happy trumpets and blasts of water from all the orphans’ trunks. The rest of the browsing day was fantastic as they ended their exciting day at the stockades.

14 September 2014

The morning was fully packed with games after the orphans finished their morning bottle of milk, Lucerne and copra cake. They then headed to the far western side of the stockade and then the normal routine of going to the water hole. After a delicious noon milk bottle, Kivuko and Dabasa began to fight after Dabasa attempted to grab Kivuko’s precious milk bottle after he had finished his own bottle. Lempaute and Sinya saw the two fighting but they seemed to have no motivation to stop the two so instead they joined the other orphans in the mud hole. After the bath, the orphans left the water hole in two groups. Kenia took, Ndii, Naipoki, Kihari, Ishaq b and Taveta, with the rest accompanied Lesanju. The two orphan groups browsed separately for an hour before uniting again for the preparation of heading back to the stockade that evening.

15 September 2014

It was a nice morning with Dabasa and Layoni wrestling after their milk bottle. This match lasted for so long until eventually both Lesanju and Wasessa had to intervene. The journey to the bush began as soon after the two had been separated. Once the orphans had arrived they settled down by a short acacia tree, the orphans completely stripping its delicious barks and make a feast out of it. They later spread out in for browsing reaching the water hole later that afternoon. Kivuko and Rombo went down by the water as they were competing with each other in rolling games. Tasia got jealous of their game and came to interfere by standing between the two. That brought that game to a perfect end with the two coming out of the water to join the others in browsing for the rest of the day. During the remainder of the day we were blessed with a little rain shower that cooled the hot Tsavo plains. We can sense the rains are close with the clouds building up most afternoons.

16 September 2014

It was a nice morning once again with the orphans settling down for milk and the supplement feeding before heading onto the browsing grounds. The orphans browsed while slowly walking towards the water hole. They had a lot of fun at the mud bath while Rombo, Kivuko and Dabasa prevented poor Birikani from getting into the mud bath. Mzima and Tasia did equally well in their soil dusting game, while Kenia, Ndii, Lempaute and Sinya played with their buttocks by scratching games on the embankment of the water hole. The rest of the browsing day went on undisturbed with no interaction with the wild herds that seem to have spread due to the recent rain.

17 September 2014

The day became increasingly hot until eventually the orphans broke into two small groups sheltering themselves under trees. Wasessa came fast to recapture her baby Mudanda who Lempaute had already taken and was embracing her like her own new born baby which was amazing to see. At mid day, the milk dependant orphans gulped down their milk bottle and went to the main water hole to take a quick shower to cool down before moving to drink clean water in the water buckets. In the evening, Taveta and Tasia started their pushing game, but were brought to an end once all the orphans began to enter their stockades.

18 September 2014

Mbirikani led all the orphans to the eastern side of Msinga hill. They enjoyed some green grass that had been brought in by the recent rain showers before moving to the water hole in the afternoon. The elephants bathed and had a fantastic time, Rombo, Layoni and Ndii taking each other into a tough bathing competition as they slid and knocked each other into the mud. Sinya only dipped her trunk into the water and refused to do any more which is typical of Sinya, her water phobia has been consistently evident from the beginning. The orphans then came out of the water hole and browsed for the remainder of the day before Panda led them home.

19 September 2014

The orphans woke up early in the morning and passed via Bada and Sorka’s’ stockade before assembling for their milk bottle outside their stockades. It was games as usual in the stockade compound after feeding on the copra cake and other supplements while Kivuko decided to take little Mudanda and persist on teaching her how to push and fight. Surprisingly Wasessa didn’t seem to have any problem with Kivuko since she was her sweet heart before the arrival of Mudanda and hence trusting her far more than any other orphan in the herd. The orphans then left to the bush, and on the way Lempaute decided to scratch her buttocks on the big rock but was ignored by all the others who were focused on browsing in those morning hours of the day. The day went on well with the orphans arriving at the water hole later that afternoon. It was fun as usual in the mud with Kihari, Ishaq b, Naipoki and Panda teaming up and playing together, later the orphans played in the dust and enjoyed one another’s company.

20 September 2014

The elephants all had an interesting and fun day however the main highlight was Bada and Sorka were let out of their stockades in the evening. Here they interacted with Panda, Mbirikani, Mudanda, Ishaq b, Kihari and Naipoki who all wanted to play with the two latest arrivals. Naipoki and Ishaq b gave them a welcoming gesture by tenderly touching them and entwining their trunks in a friendly approach. Kihari and Panda ignored them completely as if they never existed. Mbirikani mistook them as intruders who have come to steal their milk bottles and keepers love for them, to the extent that Mbirikani even pushed poor Sorka to the floor and refused for her to get up, the keepers were then forced to intervene. The two spent that night with their new friends in the stockades with Mbirikani still acting very cautiously around them both.

21 September 2014

It was a big day today for both Bada and Sorka as today was the first day that they would head off into the bush with their new friends and keepers. They had spent a long time in the taming stockades as both of them are over two years old and could easily leave with the wild herds if they were not totally dedicated and use to their keepers and milk bottles. So we had to have a very conservative approach as both these elephants came to us very thin, and are very much milk dependent still. They were escorted into the bush by Wasessa, Sinya, Lesanju, Lempaute and Naipoki. Mudanda seemed very confused as Wasessa barely spent any attention on her so instead she followed behind with the keepers hoping that Wasessa would come to find her. The orphans even gave up with their dairy cube feeding and instead concentrated on the new ones by touching and stroking them softly with their trunks. They were simply thrilled to have some new babies in their midst. In the evening Bada and Sorka were quite reluctant about getting back into their stockade as it seemed they wanted to stay outside, having tasted that freedom once more, but in time they will get used to their new routine. The KWS rangers recovered two orphan baby kudus that were being handled by the community near Buchuma, the two orphaned kudus of the same size looked almost to be twins. Unfortunately the fate of their mother is still unknown.

22 September 2014

There was an orphan elephant that had been reported to our mobile veterinary unit in Tsavo and was in bad health. It was a three year old elephant that could hardly anchor herself on her rear legs. There was a scar on her hind quarters that looked like it was a poison arrow wound. This could explain the paralysis in her hind quarters. This orphan elephant came to drink at a small water pan of the Mzima/Mombasa water pipe line leakage and had then fallen down close to the water and was unable to get back up. This was in the Ngutuni area. The vet treated this elephant and decided that it should be taken to the stockade for milk and further treatment as it could not stand up. The vet also stitched the deep infected wounds of an orphan baby warthog that was brought in yesterday from the Galana ranch. This warthog was cited by a guest on a game drive in the Galana ranch and rescued her, after recuing the baby warthog they called the vet unit for further assistance, the baby then stayed at the stockade for the night with the tender loving care of the keepers.

23 September 2014

It was a sad morning today, Naipoki, Kihari and Panda draping their trunks in prayer between the metal bars of the holding stable where the very weak new orphan elephant rescued from Ngutuni was lying. They came in to send their condolences and give the very sick orphan elephant some hope that it was safe. These three orphans then stayed close to the sick elephants stockade in hope to encourage the baby to live. The sick elephant could hear the presence of her fellow elephants and rumbled but never brought her head up even after the keeper’s assistance. The drips went on last night and the whole of today but no promising signs of her revival. The three elephants along with Ishaq b visited the sick orphan in the evening but still there was no change to its health and slowly the baby began to slip away, very sadly rescued too late.

24 September 2014

Ngutuni was the name we had given this very brave little elephant but sadly the baby stopped fighting during the night and we sadly lost her in the early hours of the morning. Today, all the orphans surrounded the Ngutuni stockade as they all paid their respects. The keepers did everything they possible could to save the orphans life but unfortunately the baby was far too ill. The keepers then did everything they could to hide the death of that sick elephant in order to prevent the orphans from being affected by the death but unfortunately the elephants are far too clever and instantly picked up on the death and offered their respect. It was evident their hearts were heavy today.

25 September 2014

Bada and Sorka went out today out once again with the others. Wasessa seems to have fallen in Love with Sorka as she will not leave Sorka’s side. Naipoki felt so bad to have lost this same baby that she was eyeing and looking after to Wasessa yet again. Soon after arriving at the browsing ground, Naipoki decided to face Wasessa head on to take Sorka from her. She bravely backed up towards the two using her buttocks as a shield in case Wasessa decides to charge her. This is usual behaviour for a great elephant submission to their more senior colleague a sign of peace and great respect. Wasessa didn’t push her off but held Sorka on her back maintaining her ground and refusing to give up Sorka. In the mean time, Mudanda was getting bored and was looking for some kind of attention until eventually Lesanju came over and obliged. Bada is still shying away from the other orphans and refuses to be touched by them, in time she will warm up to them in her own time. Clearly Bada is still very disturbed about events leading up to her being orphaned.

26 September 2014

Everything seems to be very well with Bada and Sorka almost completely settled in. Soon after the orphans had arrived at the browsing grounds, we got a report from our vet who had been informed by KWS that an orphan elephant calf had fallen down a manhole along the Mzima Mombasa water pipeline and was in desperate need of rescuing. The fate of the mother could not have been established at that time, but we thought it fell by accident. Other keepers thought it may have lost its mother somewhere else and came to the spring in search for water and then accidentally fallen down the hole.. The tiny orphan elephant calf was rescued and air lifted to Nairobi nursery on the same day.

27 September 2014

Today Mbirikani and Kivuko have built some kind of a grudge against Bada and Sorka. As the two were getting their extra bit of milk because they are still very thin and are in need of that extra bit of food, Mbirikani and Kivuko then obviously didn’t understand this concept and ambushing the two orphans giving them and the keepers a very difficult time by pushing them and annoying the elephants and keepers. Eventually the keepers had no choice but to chase them off in order for the two new elephants to drink their milk in peace.

28 September 2014

Bada and Sorka didn’t want to leave their stockade this morning because while they are in the stockade the keepers are constantly spoiling them with lots of treats such as green lucene grass, tender grewia branches, dairy cubes and copla cake in order for them to heal and while out in the bush they don’t get all these treats especially with greedy Mbirikani and Kivuko hanging around . The keepers tried to convince them to come out but they were not interested and may be they also still fear Kivuko and Mbirikani after their actions yesterday and decided they better remain in the stockade. On coming back to the stockade in the evening, Naipoki came to greet the new arrivals in their stockade and even managed to steal a few grewia branches from them. Later Ishaq b came in as well and knelt down to stretch her trunk to hide her naughty self from the eyes of the others while she too stole some grewia branches.

29 September 2014

The morning was good with Bada and Sorka on board as they went out to browse in the morning. Mbirikani and Kivuko have started to see the two as friends and not so much enemies anymore. The orphans browsed peaceful with the new ones arriving at the water hole that afternoon. After emptying a milk bottle each, Bada and Sorka watched in awe as the other elephants played in the mud and dust. The two avoided the water hole as their friends were excited and could push them over, some like Layoni and Mzima who always enjoy playing rough.

30 September 2014

Today Bada and Sorka calmly came out with the other orphans as they left their stockades in the morning and walked out into the browsing fields. Wasessa seemed to have missed them as she had her trunk out ready to greet them she also seems to have a real soft spot for Sorka as she gave her the most attention. Today Mudanda tried her level best to stay as close as possible to her adopted mother Wasessa giving her little chance to nurse Sorka. Lempaute eventually then took Sorka from Wasessa and tried to play with the new baby but Sorka was very anxious and would much rather stay close to the keepers where she knew she was safe. Then Sinya took Bada and left Lesanju is charge of the twenty one baby elephants we have here at the stockades. Sorka and Bada began to interact with the orphans more and more throughout the day so there is no doubt the two elephants will fit in perfectly.