Keepers' Diaries, September 2015

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Voi Reintegration Unit

The orphans have had a good September month, a month filled with midday interaction amidst numerous wild herds, and many afternoons spent in the company of the wild elephants. There have been wild groups visiting the water trough at the Voi stockade compound too this month, some with tiny babies. These highly social animals have an extremely sophisticated system of communication, with all their senses heightened from hearing, vision, touch and smell and other mysterious means such as telepathy. Much of their communication is via infrasound, inaudible to human ears, telepathic and via body language and because of this sophisticated communication we see wild herds visit the stockade compound taking water just meters away from human activity, and yet remain totally relaxed and comfortable, sometimes staying for hours in the area. There they know that they are safe, and are aware that not all humans are bad.

The orphans have had a good September month, a month filled with midday interaction amidst numerous wild herds, and many afternoons spent in the company of the wild elephants. There have been wild groups visiting the water trough at the Voi stockade compound too this month, some with tiny babies. These highly social animals have an extremely sophisticated system of communication, with all their senses heightened from hearing, vision, touch and smell and other mysterious means such as telepathy. Much of their communication is via infrasound, inaudible to human ears, telepathic and via body language and because of this sophisticated communication we see wild herds visit the stockade compound taking water just meters away from human activity, and yet remain totally relaxed and comfortable, sometimes staying for hours in the area. There they know that they are safe, and are aware that not all humans are bad.

Early in the month Ndoria and Bada were mesmerised watching small wild born babies swimming in their mud wallow when the orphans were joined by a wild herd. They were welcomed into the fold by a wild bull, but his advances eventually unnerved them so they reluctantly retreated. Just as that happened big boy Mzima and older girl Lempuate came to join in the fun. Eventually Lesanju and Wasessa coaxed their herd of orphans away from the wild friends, as Lesanju gets particularly jittery around them, convinced that she may lose one or two of her orphan herd to the persuasion of others. Lesanju is the Voi Unit matriarch, ably assisted by big girls Wasessa, and best friends Lempuate and Sinya. At the Voi Unit there are 24 dependent orphans under their watch of varying ages.

Big boy Mzima one day enjoyed the company of a wild friend and the two spent many happy hours together. These friendships within the wild herds are extremely important, and in time will become more significant as our orphans become independent and join them and live wild for protracted lengths of time.

Another day both keepers and orphans alike were stunned when Sinya became involved in an extremely vigorous mud bathing session. She has habitually shunned the mud wallow having been trapped in a well when young which was the reason that she was separated from her elephant family. The possibility of being trapped again has never left her, and water is not something she gravitates towards willingly. On most days Sinya makes do with a dust bath and is happiest watching from a safe distance. This day was different, she savoured every moment of the midday mud bath playing with abandon. During the action Kihari accidentally slipped, splashing into the waterhole causing dramatic waves which intimidated many of the others, prompting some to hurriedly evacuate.

On the 10th of September our orphans were joined at their midday mud bath by a herd of wild elephants who having all wallowed together chose to stay in their company. They browsed towards the Voi river for the afternoon until it was time for the babies to return to their night stockades. In an orderly way, with the wild herd seemingly understanding the routine, the orphans peeled off on their own accord, mindful of the time, and began their walk back home, the Keepers having kept their distance due to the presence of so many wild elephants.

Another time a herd joined the orphans, and all the elephants were having a wonderful time, when the mood changed because a wild boy fell in love with Bada and tried to steal him away from the orphan herd. The big protective older girls led by Wasessa, Lesanju, Naipoki and Ndii were quick to move in to retrieve their precious baby back. This intervention required the help and strength of big boy Mzima in order to assure success, and he got several prods in his buttocks from their tusks as they drove him forward on the recovery mission. Finally Mzima succeeded and Bada was reunited with his eager orphan family. At this point the orphans were quick to exit the scene, with the older girls fearful that more of their young babies might be kidnapped.

Many of the wild herds have been accompanied by new born babies, which is always an attraction for our orphans. However the wild elephants are watchful and make certain that a nannie is on duty, sometimes in the form of a wild teenage bull, who deters any intentions of kidnap. On the 16th of September the orphans and wild herds converged on the mud bath with over sixty elephants congregating together. At such times the Keepers keep a safe distance, observing the spectacular interaction proudly, watching as their charges move more and more towards becoming wild. Mzima and Ndii were in the thick of things on this day.

While the big girls share the responsibility of watching over the orphans, Wasessa is reluctant to share the attention of the little ones. Particularly she considers Bada and Mudanda her very own. One day there was a huge morning commotion at the Stockades when Mudanda and Bada had an altercation. On this occasion it was Lempaute who stepped in to sort matters out, Wasessa being busy concentrating on her copra cake pile so that the entire incident went unnoticed by her.

On the 18th of September our Voi Keepers rescued another trapped calf from the Mzima Springs pipeline, but fortunately Mum remained in the area and they were able to ensure the baby was reunited. Understandably the mother was extremely aggressive so the mission was not an easy task, but thankfully ended successfully. Over the dry months our Voi Keepers have successfully rescued and returned to their mothers numerous babies trapped in the drying watering points, which are much used and become treacherously slippery with steep banks that become extremely fraught for tiny calves.

On the 29th of September Voi was blessed with some much needed rain after a very long. hot dry season, just enough to wet them all, freshen the vegetation and make the earth softer and more slippery underfoot. However storms are brewing and it will not be long before the main rains break again providing the orphans with abundant food and water at hand. The wet season is Celebration Time for elephants!

September 2015 day to day

01 Sep

It was a nice beginning of the day with the orphan elephants sticking to their usual routine in the morning, emptying a delicious milk bottle before proceeding onto the supplement feeding and then to socializing games in the stockade compound. After which they headed to the browsing grounds for the beginning of a busy day of feeding. Orphaned zebra Ngulia stood guard to block baboons coming downhill in those early morning hours, to allow the orphan elephants to enjoy a peaceful moment of copra cake feeding. The browsing day went on well with Lentili moving to take refuge from the burning sun under a big tree. She did not notice her friends moving for a noon milk bottle, but heard their noise once while they were savouring their noon feed. She was caught by surprise finding herself all alone, hence running to join the older ones in Lesanju’s herd in taking their milk. They all had a brilliant time bathing afterwards before returning to the serious business of feeding as there was definitely no time to waste due to the extremely dry season that is afflicting the entire area.

Ngulia at the stockade

Kihari in the water

Rombo left and Mudanda at the mudbath

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