Keepers' Diaries, September 2016

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Voi Reintegration Unit

During the peak of the dry season, the special lucerne pellets and copra cake combined have assisted a great deal in keeping the orphans and the visiting Ex Orphans looking well and healthy. The trio of Ex Orphans Lesanju, Taveta and Tassia in particular visited the Stockade almost daily this month to take advantage of these supplements. Kenia and Ndii try to avoid Lesanju and her little group as much as possible in order to try and keep the dependent orphans under their own leadership, and endeavour to move the herd out early in the morning. Whenever these older three do succeed in taking the other orphans away from Kenia and Ndii, it definitely disturbs them, and they often bite their trunks in protest! However, the dependent orphans enjoy being with the older trio since they respect them and can learn a lot from them. One day when Taveta sharpened his tusks on a rock boulder, they were in awe especially because the youngsters are still too short to reach it! Lesanju is a capable leader, guiding the younger orphans further up Musinga Hill where they might find more browse during dry times. Amongst the Ex Orphans and those older milk dependants, such as Kenia, Ndii, Panda, Kihari and Lentili, there is always competition to browse near the younger babies, such as Araba and Bada.

During the peak of the dry season, the special lucerne pellets and copra cake combined have assisted a great deal in keeping the orphans and the visiting Ex Orphans looking well and healthy. The trio of Ex Orphans Lesanju, Taveta and Tassia in particular visited the Stockade almost daily this month to take advantage of these supplements. Kenia and Ndii try to avoid Lesanju and her little group as much as possible in order to try and keep the dependent orphans under their own leadership, and endeavour to move the herd out early in the morning. Whenever these older three do succeed in taking the other orphans away from Kenia and Ndii, it definitely disturbs them, and they often bite their trunks in protest! However, the dependent orphans enjoy being with the older trio since they respect them and can learn a lot from them. One day when Taveta sharpened his tusks on a rock boulder, they were in awe especially because the youngsters are still too short to reach it! Lesanju is a capable leader, guiding the younger orphans further up Musinga Hill where they might find more browse during dry times. Amongst the Ex Orphans and those older milk dependants, such as Kenia, Ndii, Panda, Kihari and Lentili, there is always competition to browse near the younger babies, such as Araba and Bada.

On the 2nd of the month the Keepers at the Voi Stockades rescued a young orphaned calf reported to KWS and to the DSWT Stockades by a Wind Pump Maintenance Team. The bull calf was very thin and still milk dependent, but was being watched over by a considerate young teenage bull elephant. Having been under observation throughout the day, it was clear that he was an orphan under the protection of the bull, since lions have recently been exacting a heavy toll of elephant calves this dry season, ambushing the babies at waterholes. The next morning the orphaned calf was airlifted to the Nairobi Nursery; where he was given the name “Wanjala”, after the area from which he was rescued. Then on the 16th our Keepers were called by the Tsavo Mobile Veterinary unit and Nairobi HQ to rescue a young orphan whose old mother had died from drought related starvation; her teeth worn down so her browsing ability had been seriously compromised. The calf was captured and taken to the Voi stockades to await the rescue plane the following day. Her mother was a very prominent female with extremely long tusks, one of which was broken with the passage of the years. Estimated to be well into her sixties, it is amazing to think that this cow roamed Tsavo during the time that the late David Sheldrick was Warden of the Park. Her calf was named Malkia, the Swahili word for “Queen’ in deference to her magnificent mother.

The very next day after Malkia had been flown to Nairobi, we were called by the Rangers at the Voi Gate to Tsavo East National Park regarding an older calf stuck in a drying waterhole. He was alone so the Keepers managed to haul him out using ropes and a pulley. He was in a state of collapse, thin and exhausted from the ordeal and unable to stand and being so vulnerable was extremely lucky to have escaped being attacked by predators. Having been driven to the Voi Stockades, he was nursed back to health and after 4 days of tender care and ample food, he was finally able to stand up unaided; and was aptly named ‘Nguvu’, meaning ‘strength’ in Kiswahili.

Embu has, thankfully, gradually been gaining weight following her lion attack a few months ago. True to her caring character, Lesanju has been watching over her and contributing to her recovery. However, recently, Embu has again shown signs of wishing to follow a wild herd again, and we wonder why she has not learnt the lesson after such a traumatic experience like last time! The call of the wild is obviously strong for Embu.

On the warm days this month the orphans have greatly enjoyed their mud bath, sliding on the side walls, rolling around in the mud and spraying themselves with it. Ishaq-B, Suswa, Mbirikani and Nelion, Araba and Panda especially have enjoyed these lengthy muddy extravaganzas. Araba Idolizes Panda while Kenia and Ishaq-B also fuss over Araba, given that she is the smallest. At times they jostle over who will accompany her to browse. Suswa and Arruba are still best friends and occasionally Arruba is allowed to suckle on Suswa’s ear. Tundani is a peaceful and non confrontational elephant and even though he is the same age as Bada and even slightly bigger, he will always give in to him during a friendly tussle. This does not mean that he does not sometimes pick a fight, and sometimes initiates Shoving Bouts against Nelion, especially when he thinks he has the advantage to win!

Back at the Voi Stockades, Ngulia, the orphaned zebra, Kore and Tawi, the two orphaned elands and Jamuhuri the orphaned buffalo have been exploring further afield while grazing all under the watchful eye of a Keeper. They return to the Stockade for the special Lucerne pellets that they have come to love. On the 26th Ex-Orphan male lesser kudu, Chia, was grazing close to the Stockade waterhole in the early afternoon; looking handsome with his long spiral horns – a success story indeed, hand raised from early infancy and now assimilated back into the wild.

September 2016 day to day

01 Sep

It was a wonderful beginning to the day as the orphan elephants came running out of their stockade, emptying a morning milk bottle before enjoying the Lucerne grass pellets. It was a big day for Kenia who was happily taking charge of her herd. Soon after arriving at the browsing grounds, Kenia noticed Taveta browsing alone on the slopes of Msinga Hill and decided to lead her herd to join him but none of the orphans wanted to join her as they were content browsing at the foot of Msinga Hill and did not want to venture further. While the orphans were browsing Nelion engaged Tundani in a tough strength testing and pushing game which resulted in Tundani bravely conceding defeat upon noticing that Nelion was determined to play the game for as long as he could. It was fairly cold this afternoon, and the orphans had their noon milk bottle on the northern side of the Msinga Hill close to where they were browsing. After finishing her milk bottle Arruba went to suckle on Suswa’s ear. The orphans later visited the middle water hole to drink water before spending the rest of the day browsing close by.

Taveta browsing on Msinga Hill

Tundani lying down

Arruba suckling on Suswa's ear

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