Keepers' Diaries, September 2015

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.

01 September 2015

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.

02 September 2015

It was a nice sunny morning with the orphan elephants coming out with great energy looking forward to a long and busy day of browsing. Mbirikani and Mzima’s intention to drive the orphans up the Msinga hill was countered by the ladies Lesanju, Lempaute and Sinya who drove them onto the far northern side of the stockade for browsing. The good time keepers and leaders Ndii and Kenia meant that the milk dependant crew arrived in the middle water hole well on time. The main activity was in the main water pool, after all enjoyed drinking clean water from the half drums. Naipoki took Bada for a comprehensive dusting competition after mud bathing. Bada tried his level best rolling onto a gradual slanting ground, round and round like a perfect barrel, attracting many elephant orphan spectators and Keeper alike. Ndii was quick to notice how well Bada was rolling and reluctantly sneaked away from the game to avoid any further embarrassment. Bada was very happy and excited from the game and happily charged away to join his friends in browsing for the final session of the day. Kihari enjoyed a lead of taking the milk dependant orphans back to the safety of the stockade later that evening.

03 September 2015

The morning was good with the orphans teaming up in games after milk feeding and feeding on the copra cake and the dairy cubes. Tundani and Nelion took on one another in a tough wrestling match that attracted the attention of Layoni. Layoni mistakenly thought that the two were engaged in a real fight, a scenario that always pulls him close to them. On noticing that the fight was leaning towards Nelion, Layoni intervened and slowly pushed Tundani away from Nelion, terminating that game. Tundani and Nelion thought their game was harmless, and once Layoni had moved away slightly they continued engaging each other head on, but Layoni who was still watching followed them again and brought an end to what he thought was a fight. The two realised they had no other option but to stop that game and to join the others moving towards the browsing grounds. The rest of the browsing day went on perfectly well.

04 September 2015

The day began well, with the orphans leaving the stockade early in the morning for the field. Here they settled in a single file browsing for the better half of the day. Panda enjoyed a lead of the milk dependant orphans to the middle water hole where they enjoyed their noon milk bottle before interacting with their senior friends, once again drinking water and taking a wonderful noon mud bath. Soon after leaving the water pool, a big wild herd of elephants came in a rush, plunging into the water for a bath with their small wild calves. Ndoria and Bada took the lead of the orphans herd, going to back to greet the wild herd as well as to admire the wild calves swimming and rolling in the plentiful water. One wild boy came out of water to welcome them, but Bada dashed off, not trusting his intension. Others came in to join them, with Mzima and Lempaute securing some wild friends for some beautiful pushing games. They later parted ways after the bath, with Lesanju and Wasessa pulling the orphans herd away from the wild herd to go and browse.

05 September 2015

There was a wonderful moment today with browsing, getting the much needed priority in the morning hours of the day. The sun got bright with the sky clearing up, calling for the orphans to take refuge under trees between browsing grounds. There was a BIG bathing party today when the orphans arrived at the middle water pool in style that afternoon. Naipoki and Mzima went for some bathing competition, but the main attraction to them all and the keepers was that Sinya, who doesn’t favour bathing, also took part in the main event today. Kihari became much exited in Sinya’s presence, extending her excitement into some sliding games on the banks of the water pool. With her eyes focused behind to see what Sinya was about to offer, Kihari accidentally fell down, and made a huge impact, before turning to sit on her buttocks. The impact of her hitting the water resembled a sack full of sand hitting the surface of water; the splashes went on her friends and even scared some of them out of the water. Only Bada who was out of the water dusting under Kenia’s guard came in to sympathize with Kihari’s situation at that moment. Kihari reluctantly walked out of the water to join her friends in browsing for the remainder of the day.

06 September 2015

The sun came out nicely in the morning with the clouds collecting later on the day and giving the sun a thick cloud cover. The orphans arrived in the middle water pool to obey their thirst and drink milk, but were not willing to take a real bath. Nelion, Tundani and Lentili engaged in a nice soil dusting competition, with Bada sitting a few meters from them enjoying the same. Lentili stood up, collected huge chucks of soil with her trunk and blew them skyward, accidentally getting some in the eyes of her friends that were lying down enjoying their own games. She repeatedly did that, making Nelion and Tundani give up their game as there was no enjoyment in it anymore. The rest of the browsing day went on close to the air strip, with the orphans heading back to the stockade that evening under a careful leadership of Mbirikani.

07 September 2015

It was a fantastic morning with the orphans downloading their morning milk bottle before settling onto other supplement food, but not forgetting a few socializing games before heading out into the browsing grounds. The orphans scattered across the field, collecting as much food as their mouths would allow, before moving to the water hole that afternoon. As a tradition, the milk dependant orphans moved in two groups, followed by their senior friends a few minutes later. Mzima stretched his trunk requesting for some milk from Kenia’s share who usually drinks very slowly, not like the others who drink their bottles so quickly in a matter of seconds. The orphans went to drink water but only Dabassa and Layoni moved into the water to try a cold bath, which didn’t last long. The two then moved out to join their friends in browsing for the remainder of the day.

08 September 2015

It was a nice beginning of the day with the milk dependant orphans enjoying their milk bottle before joining their friends in copra cake and dairy cubes feeding. In the process of feeding, Dabassa stopped and went to a rock close to the stockade water trough to sort out the itchy lower part of his neck for a scratch. He later came in to join the others but found that all the copra cake had been eaten. The keepers took another pile for him to get equal opportunity, as during the dry season it is important for their diet to be supplemented. The expensive Lucerne grass had been a huge financial commitment for the trust for many months, and has proved to be a great boost in their healthy condition during this challenging dry spell.

09 September 2015

There was a huge commotion in the morning at the stockade today when Mudanda and Bada, who each strive to be closest to Wasessa, engaged head on in a tough battle after they disagreed over a piece of copra cake. They moved each other away from Wasessa and had a long fight, with Lempaute noticing them and moving to stop that fight. Wasessa however, who was busy enjoying her copra cake pile, was far from noticing the fight. Lempaute felt very respected and honoured by the two who she managed to stop fighting, and she went celebrating her success in a buttock scratching game, on an outcrop close to the stockade water trough. The two babies then maintained that peace brokered by Lempaute throughout the rest of their browsing day.

10 September 2015

The day began well with the orphans having a brief game in the stockade compound before heading towards the eastern side of the park. Later they turned and slowly moved towards the middle water hole that afternoon. As soon after they arrived, they were happy to welcome a teenage wild elephant bull for a clean drink of water in the half drum barrels. Soon after finishing drinking, a wild elephant family, some relatives to the wild boy, approached but today they were not very lucky as only a little clean water remained in the barrels. The wild herd resorted to drinking in the main water pool that had plenty of clean water as well. There was perfect interaction between the orphans and the wild herd in mud bathing. The herd then followed them for a few hours towards the Voi River, before the orphans returned to the safety of the stockade for the night.

11 September 2015

The day began well with Lesanju blowing a ‘let’s go’ trumpet when she felt that the stockade hide and seek game among the orphans was taking longer than expected. There was a calm browsing time for the better half of the day with another wild elephant herd joining the orphans in the middle water hole later that afternoon. They came in straight, assembling around the half drum barrels to salvage the little water that the orphans had left after a huge drinking session. They later went to top up in the main water hole, with Mzima securing a wild friend for a wrestling match, before following them towards the air strip after a wonderful bath. Mzima spent one hour with that wild herd, before returning and reuniting with his friends in a final browsing session before heading back to the stockade safety that evening.

12 September 2015

Browsing went on well with the orphans taking the longest browsing route all the way around the Msinga Hill, arriving in the middle water hole twenty minutes after their usual 11am time. After a wonderful moment of milk feeding, the orphans went to quench their thirst before heading to the water hole for a bath. While in the middle of enjoying their bath, a big wild elephant herd approached to join them. The orphans first came out of the water to allow the wild herd to settle in and have a clean drink in the main water hole, before breaking through to play with the four tiny calves in the middle of the herd. One teenage wild boy, around three years older than Mzima, marched to the front to deny Mzima, Lesanju and Lempaute to approach their babies. The wild boy got hold of Mzima, engaging him head on. Lesanju and Lempaute came up behind Mzima however, to provide support when they noticed that Mzima was having difficulty pushing back. The two herds browsed peacefully together for an hour, with no one being able to play with the wild babies until they parted ways.

13 September 2015

The orphans moved to the water hole after browsing under a leadership of Mudanda and had a peaceful time of milk feeding before having a lot of fun in some mud bathing games. There was a small wild elephant herd, one that frequents the stockade who came to drink water in the stockade trough at 4pm. They then hung around the stockade compound, relaxing for more than half an hour before moving off to the main park for browsing. The wild elephant herd decided not to join them and moved off in a different direction to the orphans.

14 September 2015

The orphans had a nice time browsing all throughout the morning. They went to the middle water hole that afternoon with the milk dependant orphans moving first. After a calm time of milk feeding, it was Ndoria who today held Mudanda and pushed her by the buttocks, driving her into the middle of the bush and giving her completely no chance to turn around for revenge. The two left the keepers in laughter as they intervened to stop the fight as the rivalry of the two orphans was growing with time. The only surprise is that they are peaceful all through the day, but then they look for each other as soon as milk feeding is finished at noon. There was another wild elephant herd, a different one from yesterdays that came to drink water in the stockade water trough when the orphans were already in their respective night stockades just after 5pm. This wild herd is also a common one though, having two calves that have been visitors to the stockade before. Ishaq-B and Kihari gave them a rumble greeting while inside their stable before the wild herd left ten minutes later for the main park.

15 September 2015

The morning was good with the milk dependant orphan’s running to drink their milk bottle as soon as the gates of their stable was flung open in the morning. They later moved off to the browsing grounds after all the activities of feeding on the other supplements was over. The browsing day went on well with the juniors in Panda’s herd moving first to feed on milk, and then followed closely by Kenia’s herd after finishing. Kenia, who came in with the second milk feeding group, enjoyed her milk bottle and even started to fall asleep with the milk bottle still in her mouth! Mzima, who was passing by, found Kenia sleeping and requested that milk bottle by stretching his trunk to grab it away from Kenia’s mouth. Kenia woke up, realizing she was on the losing end, as Taveta came in with the same request. On arriving at the main water pool, Lempaute protested by smashing, rolling and kicking one of the half drum barrels upon finding that a wild elephant herd, who had come a few minutes before their arrival, had drunk all the water leaving empty barrels. She went ahead searching for them, charging the nearby bushes, but did not succeed finding them for revenge. The rest of the day went on perfectly well with the orphans returning to the stockade under the leadership of Tundani and Lentili.

16 September 2015

The orphans came out of the stockade in happy mood after feeding on their share of milk as well as the supplement food. They browsed in a deliberate slow motion, arriving into the middle water hole that afternoon. After a nice bathing time, Nelion engaged Bada in a pushing game, with Ishaq-B who has a soft spot for Bada, sneaking in and trying to take him for the same wrestling match. Wasessa stuck with her adopted baby Mudanda and even threatened to fight Lesanju who came in for her attention as well. Nelion walked off to join Rombo for some alternative dusting games, but paid the price when Rombo decided to take a wonderful rest of his big head on Nelion’s back. Nelion finally succeeded in freeing himself from that heavy baggage, and moved away from Rombo. There were four herds of wild elephants that had come to drink today, prior to the arrival of the orphan elephant herd. Several had sweet tiny calves that streamed into the water; in all they totalled more than sixty elephants who were trying to get enough water to quench their thirst. The orphans today, especially Mzima and Ndii, had a wonderful wrestling match with their favourite wild friends before parting ways after one hour of interaction.

17 September 2015

There was a nice bathing game when the orphans arrived at the water pool at noon. They were happy to welcome yet another wild herd of elephants that mixed with them freely in that wonderful mud bath. Their happiness and comfort diminished however when one wild boy fell in love with Bada and tried to steal him away from the herd. Wasessa, Lesanju, Naipoki and Ndii moved in to push the wild boy away as a strategy to have their lovely baby back. The ladies were a little shy though and highly depended on Mzima’s strength to recover Bada from the wild boy who was constantly pushing him at the front to go with them. Mzima got several prods on the buttocks from the ladies behind him to drive him forward in the recovery mission. Mzima had the uphill task of proving his superiority over the older wild boy, but finally succeeded in bringing the milk dependent baby Bada back to the orphan herd. The ladies drove the orphans far away from the wild herd after that wonderful recovery, as they were not ready to make any further mistakes again.

18 September 2015

The morning was good with the orphans moving out of the respective stables in happy games before heading out for the beginning of a very busy day of browsing. The day went on un-disturbed and the orphans attended a wonderful mud bath right in the middle water pool that afternoon. As soon after the orphans arrived in the safety of the stockade that evening, we received a report from the senior warden that there was a trapped wild elephant baby in the same Mzima Mombasa water pipe line that needed a quick response. A rescue team was mobilized and although the mother elephant was still there, she was a little aggressive in protecting her trapped calf. The rescue operation was made possible by the help of two Trust vehicles which the desperate calf was following, and successfully handed over to its mother and the herd.

19 September 2015

The orphans enjoyed their wonderful milk and supplement feeding before engaging in some brief games before heading to the browsing grounds. They settled down to a calm browsing mission, with the herd sticking together for the better part of the day. The orphans moved slowly in browsing to arrive at the middle water hole amid some light rain showers that afternoon. They assembled around the water pool, not willing to take a real bath due to the cold weather and already being wet from the rain. Lentili broke the silence however by plunging into the central part of the wallow; not for long however as even she was unable to take that cold bath for long. They only enjoyed a very brief moment there, before moving off to browse. Ndoria enjoyed the lead of taking them back to the stockade that evening.

20 September 2015

The day begun well with the orphans moving in single file, browsing in a peaceful manner and feeding being very much the priority of the morning. The milk dependant orphans took the lead in arriving in the middle water pool for their milk, followed closely by their senior friends. Mzima plunged into the water in his own unique style, and lay down in the water for a lengthy swim. Naipoki approached him at close range, picking up a few bathing tips from what was on offer that day. Ndii was also interested in what Naipoki was looking at, and joined her in giving Mzima a hero bathing audience. Lentili saw that and went into the water to counteract Mzima’s games with her own; by breaking down the walls of the water pool with the help of her little growing tusks. Ishaq-B then got very jealous of Lentili’s games and went in to oust her out of the competition and take over from her in the same game. Ndoria saw all the commotion in the water and took her wonderful games out of water, away from her competing friends. They all later came out of the water pool to browse for the final part of that day.

21 September 2015

Kenia was a good time keeper today and took the lead for the milk dependant orphans to move towards the water hole, as if she was constantly day dreaming of that delicious afternoon milk bottle. After all the drinking activity was over, nearly all the orphans jumped into the water to partake in bathing. Kihari and Ndii put on the best bathing performance by rolling in the plentiful water. Mzima came in, giving Ndii several kicks in the buttocks in a lying down position, focused on trying to defend his mud bathing title that he was still holding at the time. He was playing rough, which called for Panda to police the situation and make sure that little Bada, who was lying down in the water, was not hurt as an innocent bystander amidst all the rough play. Ishaq-B and some of the others decided to give those three their chance in the middle of the water, and took their games to the banks of the water hole. The rest of the browsing day went on perfectly well after that wonderful bathing session.

22 September 2015

The orphans left the stockade early this morning catching up with the first light of the day in the browsing grounds. They walked all the way to half way on the western side of Msinga Hill, before heading to the middle water pool that afternoon. Bada had his amazing buttock scratching game on the walls of the water pool, inviting Ndoria as a spectator. Ndoria seem to have awarded Bada a considerable amount of good points in that game, which made him happier than ever before. Tundani tried his luck onto the wall games as well, technically scratching the under part of his belly on the rugged wall, but was not as successful in attracting as many onlookers, as the other orphans had already wound up their bathing activity and were heading to the bush to browse for the rest of the day.

23 September 2015

The better half of the browsing day went on peacefully on the lower, flatter areas of Msinga Hill. There was a dramatic moment at the noon mud bath when Ndii and Lempaute surrounded little Bada admiring his water games, and trying as much as possible to embrace him in their own. This gave him no chance to interact with the others during the bathing time. On seeing that, Wasessa got hold of Mudanda with her trunk and pulled her close by her side, noticing that she might be the next target to be taken by the other two in their water games. They later all moved off to browse for the rest of the day, remaining close to the water hole.

24 September 2015

It was a fairly cold morning when the orphans arrived at the middle water pool to quench their thirst at noon. Kenia tried to go into the water for a cold bath, but revised her decision after touching and feeling the cold temperature of the water. Then in came Rombo, who took the bath as if the water had been warmed up for him alone that day. His bathing attracted Bada as well, who persevered with the cold water temperature and shone with Rombo as the sole bathing competitors that afternoon. The two later left the water, to join their friends in browsing. A wild herd of elephants that had visited the stockade a few days ago with their three calves, arrived for a drink at the stockade water trough after the orphans had returned. They took more than half an hour, completely quenching their thirst with clean water, before marching off into the bush.

25 September 2015

The morning was good with the orphans running and emptying a morning milk bottle before settling to eat some copra cake and lucerne. They later matched out in browsing arriving in the middle water pool later that afternoon. After a wonderful milk feeding session, Mbirikani took centre stage lying in the middle of the water pool playing some fantastic ‘rolling into the water’ games. Naipoki became jealous, and moved closer, lying on her back to make Mbirikani’s movement impossible. Mbirikani stayed calm though, and acted as if she was no longer interested in the games; later though she swung into action once again Naipoki had left the water hole for some alternative dusting games. Mudanda was interested in Mbirikani’s games, and came lying next to her to join in. Taveta approached Mudanda, intending to take the advantage of her position to try and mount her. Ishaq-B came in fast to give Mudanda the necessary protection, leaving Taveta with no other option but to move out of the water. They all later came out of the water to browse quietly for the rest of the day.

26 September 2015

The morning was cool with the orphans coming out in a happy mood, drinking a morning milk bottle and taking off into the browsing grounds in high spirits for a successful browsing day. It was indeed beautiful as the sun was covered by the clouds, making a favourable cooler day for perfect browsing. This cool weather lasted until noon when the orphans went to obey their thirst at the middle water hole. Mbirikani once again took advantage of the others not going into the cold water to shine in some bathing games in the centre of the wallow. It was a big day for Mbirikani as her games attracted Sinya who only took a partial bath as a challenge. However then in came Kihari who rushed in to push Mbirikani out of the water, in a bid to counter her growing influence in the water hole. Mbirikani’s misfortunes for the day didn’t end there though, as Taveta also arrived, ousting Mbirikani from her dusting position and eventually taking it for himself. The rest of the browsing day went on well with Kivuko taking the lead of taking the milk dependant orphans back to the stockade that evening, where they feasted on very green lucerne grass and grewia branches.

27 September 2015

The day began well with the orphans marching behind Lesanju and Sinya, heading to the browsing grounds for the morning. The orphans ate deliberately slowly today, breaking into small groups all aimed at utilizing the crucial time in gathering as much vegetation as they could. There was some action in the mud bath when Kenia and Naipoki sat in the water side by side, engaging one another in a wonderful bathing competition. Ishaq-B went to sit on the walls to enjoy a nice buttock scratching moment, tossing her trunk skyward in shear ecstasy at satisfying the itch. The orphans enjoyed it a lot in the water before moving out and browsing for the remaining part of the day, close to the water hole. Tundani and Ndoria enjoyed the lead of taking the milk dependant orphans back to the stockade that afternoon.

28 September 2015

It was a very cloudy morning when the orphans left the stockade for the browsing grounds today. The weather changed fast and soon it started raining, wetting the hard Tsavo earth and the orphans backs too. The orphans enjoyed browsing on the moist grass very much; none were in a hurry of moving to the water hole to drink at noon. Milk and the keepers food was delivered to that spot. Later in the day the clouds started clearing up, paving way for some bright sun. Lesanju played her matriarchal role well, leading all of them to drink water in the water pool, arriving there around half past three in the afternoon. They then browsed their way slowly back to the stockade as evening arrived.

29 September 2015

It was a wonderful day for the orphans as they followed the usual daily routine of the day today. They were back in the stockade at noon, where a herd of thirsty wild elephants that frequent the stockade came through to drink clean water at the stockade water trough. They came down from Msinga Hill, walking majestically one after the other into the stockade, until all the members of that beautiful wild herd had made their presence in the stockade known. They took their time, drinking and spraying water onto their bodies with their calves comfortably playing in the stockade compound, before moving off into the main park.

30 September 2015

It was a beautiful morning for the orphans who ran emptying their morning milk bottle and to feed on the supplements, before heading off to browse. At the middle water hole in the afternoon, the orphans encountered a wild herd of elephants that had come in a few minutes before. The orphans were worried but they were lucky enough to find clean water in the half drum barrels still there. They went to join that wild herd for a bath soon after drinking water. A few minutes later, another big wild elephant herd that were very thirsty, came running in, driving off all the orphans and their wild friends from the water pool. One wild cow stood in the middle of the wallow, owning the whole pool as if it was meant for her herd alone. The orphans were surprised by the behaviour of that wild elephant cow, who was even chasing away impalas from drinking there. The orphan herd left reluctantly knowing they had been deliberately denied their rights at drinking or bathing any further at the water hole for the day.