Keepers' Diaries, September 2018

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Voi Reintegration Unit

This month was cloudy and dry throughout the southern area near the Voi Reintegration Unit, as is typical of this time of year. Because of this our ex-orphan elephants choose to venture further afield within the greater Tsavo Conservation Area so unsurprisingly we did not see them throughout the whole of September. With the short rains due towards the end of November, we are sure they will be back visiting the stockades to greet their human family, and check in on their dependent orphan friends as soon as the rains break and the waterholes fill. With the dryer conditions even the dependent orphans have to walk further each day from the stockades, and up onto the higher slopes of Msinga Hill where other animals don’t reach. The orphans stretching their trunks up to the highest branches was not an uncommon sight, and Panda surprised Ndii and Ishaq-B one day by even standing up on her hind legs to reach up as high as she could. Every morning the orphans ate their fill of the delicious and nutritious supplements provided for them by the Keepers, including copra cake and Lucerne pellets, which set them up nicely to begin their days. As a result they all remain in immaculate condition!

The dependent orphans were in happy sprits despite the dry weather, and played most mornings within the stockade compound before heading out. Murit and Araba were excitedly chasing baboons one morning, when Araba fell over and very nearly landed on the electric fence that protects the orphans at night from lions. The newest orphans, who arrived from the Nairobi Nursery over 3 months ago now, have settled in well interacting more with the older orphans now too. One day Lasayen, Murit, Godoma and Mbegu charged towards a herd of buffalo that they encountered when going to drink, but the buffalo were unperturbed and made no effort to move. The older orphans were quick to support them, and Ndii, Kihari, Kenia and Embu came rushing in to provide backup recognising that the situation could become dangerous for the younger ones. The youngsters from Nairobi still remain loyal to their mini matriarch Mbegu however, and one day when Nelion pushed Mbegu very hard to move her away from a tree he wanted to scratch against, Ndotto, Murit and Lasayen charged up and nearly launched a three pronged attack on Nelion! His long tusks deterred them from them going any further, but it is clear they are highly protective of their adopted mother Mbegu.

Ngilai has been causing quite the frenzy around feeding times, becoming a very greedy little chap and demanding extra milk from his friends once he has finished his own bottles. One day he was in such a rush to get to the milk bottles first, he knocked Godoma to the ground in his hurry. One elephant he is still afraid to cross however is Ndoria, as she is always ready to put up a fight. Ndoria must have been terrorizing her friends quite a lot recently, as we often saw the other orphans going out of their way to avoid being cornered by her, or have her walking up behind them. Nguvu even took off when he saw Ndoria running up behind him, even though she was just trying to catch up with her friends. She is a renowned tail-biter and seeing the reaction of the other babies this month we know she must have been up to her naughty tricks quite a lot recently. Suswa seems to be the most easy-going during milk feeding times, one day even giving up her milk bottles to allow Mudanda to feed first, whilst patiently waiting for the Keepers to bring her some more.

Having just welcomed our 30th wild born baby elephant, Lulu, to Lualeni at the Ithumba Stockades, we were delighted when just a couple of days later our hand raised eland Kore, now three years old, gave birth to her first calf who we named Karibu. The father, we are certain, is our very own fellow eland Tawi, currently still living happily with a wild herd of eland and zebra, and who we see from time to time while the elephant orphans are out browsing. What was remarkable is the very next day after Kore gave birth to little Karibu Tawe arrived back at the stockades to enjoy his new born baby girl! We always marvel at the powers of telepathy exhibited by the antelopes, and this is something Daphne has observed for years too.

The dependent orphans did enjoy some happy and healthy interactions with wild elephant herds this month too. Bada was the first to welcome one particular herd to join the orphans, followed by Panda. On this occasion one wild elephant bull was quickly surrounded by the twenty six orphan elephants in a highly charged greeting. Tahri enjoyed interacting with the matriarch of the wild elephant family before they all walked away from their noon milk feed near the baobab mud bath. Nelion also had one particularly nice encounter with a wild bull which joined the orphans one day, enjoying wrestling and strength testing games for most of the afternoon.

We had a number of school visits at the Stockades this month, from schools in the surrounding Tsavo area. For many, this is the first time they will have seen an elephant so up close. Community outreach and education of our future generation is such an important part of the work that the Trust does in the areas surrounding the Park where our elephants and other wildlife are protected. The orphans did not disappoint in helping their cause, and the children were delighted to watch their antics as they had their milk bottles and played. Ngilai was a hit one day, and surprised the children by smelling their faces with his trunk which sent them into peals of laughter.

September 2018 day to day

01 Sep

The orphan elephants came out of their stockades and headed straight for their milk bottles. Ngilai was a little greedy and went around demanding his friend’s ones too, but ran away when he got to Ndoria, who was not happy about his intentions and was ready to fight him. The orphans then assembled in a line to feed on Lucerne grass a pellet, taking up trunkful’s of the pellets and stuffing them into their mouths. Before leaving the stockades for the day Tahri enjoyed a soil dusting game while Godoma and Nelion had a scratching session against the various outcropping rocks around the stockade compound. Bada felt that the stockade activities were taking too long and headed towards the browsing grounds. He was quickly followed by the rest of the orphan herd who did not want to fall behind. At noon the orphans visited the baobab water hole where they had a lot of fun playing mud bathing games. In the evening a wild herd visited the stockade water trough for a drink. Mbegu, Godoma and Murit rumbled greetings to them from inside their stockade.

Ngilai scratching his head

Kenia and Araba browsing together

Suswa browsing

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