Keepers' Diaries, September 2019

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Voi Reintegration Unit

Throughout September the south of Tsavo East National Park, including Voi, has been extremely dry, a challenging time for all wildlife, with many elephants leaving the boundaries of the Park in search of food on the ranches adjacent to the Park as they traverse through to Tsavo West National Park. The wild herds have visited the water trough used by the Voi elephant orphans on an almost daily basis as they pass through, making for some very interesting and important interactions with the orphan youngsters. 

It was during a morning patrol of one of the ranches adjacent to the south of Tsavo East that a pilot from Wildlife Works made the unusual sighting on the 5th of September of what appeared to be a young elephant calf in the company of five adult bulls. The calf was still milk-dependent, which could only mean that the elephant had lost its mother and was trailing the bulls for protection.  This month there had been significant cases of human-wildlife conflict in the region and it is assumed this calf lost her family as a result. KWS authorised a team of rangers and experienced elephant Keepers/rescuers from the Voi stockade to be mobilized if the calf was in need of rescue. This was how we came to receive a young female calf called Pika Pika, who arrived at the Voi Unit by 4pm that same day. While feisty initially she settled in very well to the Voi Unit and has made friends with the other orphans, which was especially easy with so many females in the mix. Just under two years of age Pika Pika is the smallest and youngest at the Unit, and the females can never resist a baby, so they are smothering her with love and affection.

Last month Ndoria was really establishing her independence with her friend Mbirikani who was leading and remained by her side.  However as the dry season creeps on we have found her spending more time with the orphans and choosing to visit the stockades in the morning for the supplement feeding.  This trend we have welcomed as she had lost a fair bit of condition as a result of staying further afield with Mbirikani.  The Keepers began to offer her a milk bottle to help boost her condition once more which she has happily accepted in earnest. 

Our Voi bull Nelion managed to find a play mate most times a wild herd came by to drink from the baobab tree water hole. He would find the youngster in their midst and invite them to strength testing games. Another quiet gentle bull in the Voi herd mix is Tundani who has developed the habit of taking a whole bale of Lucerne that the Keepers provide for the orphan at noon during this dry month, and he whisks it away to the water trough to eat in peace there, sometimes even dropping some of it in the water. He kept charging at a wild herd who were trying to drink from there one day while he was having his fill, and ended up taking his Lucerne protectively and moving on somewhere else with fewer disturbances. The orphans have had to get used to sharing the water hole and with many other species too who all welcome the fresh water that is brought there daily. Sometimes there are herds of buffalo that wish to drink from there as well, and the orphans need to push their way through for a drink. It makes for spectacular viewing along with great conditioning for their wild independent lives one day.  

Mbegu is still the quiet little leader of her own group within the Voi herd, who are primarily all those still dependent on milk, plus Araba and Tahri too. Mbegu still mollycoddles little Emoli as the ‘baby’ of the group and goes everywhere with him, which he probably both appreciates and finds a little tiresome as well; as a young bull he wishes to play and wrestle sometimes too. He can only watch on as Ngilai and Murit have their wrestling matches, despite wanting to join them some of the time, Mbegu and Godoma stand between him and the other bulls protectively not wanting him to get hurt. Kenia is still just the same with her ‘adopted’ baby Tahri, and if she sees any of the other females like Ndii taking the opportunity to play with her she feels jealous, and comes over to interrupt their fun or push the other elephant away to take Tahri all for herself.

September 2019 day to day

01 Sep

It was a good beginning to the day with Emoli, Sagala and Tahri running ahead of the rest of the group for their morning milk bottle which they downed before settling to enjoy the Lucerne grass and pellets. There were some brief games around the stockade compound with Suswa and Mudanda settling to browse on a very green bush that they found. Mbegu and Lentili took the lead of the orphan herd to the browsing fields where they settled to browse in single file.

After the noon milk feed Godoma and Mbegu were seen to be in some sort of discussion after which Godoma stayed with Emoli. Baby Emoli had already been prevented from joining a wild herd that was drinking water from the baobab tree water trough. The rest of the orphan herd joined the wild group while Godoma ran ahead of Emoli and prevented him from getting to the wild herd. Once the wild herd moved away, Emoli was allowed to join the rest of the orphans and enjoyed a drink at the water trough. Ngilai then had fun playing with Godoma while Nelion went to watch two teenage wild bulls playing a pushing game, after which he rejoined the orphan herd as they returned to the browsing fields for the afternoon.  

Suswa browsing on a green bush

Godoma and Emoli

Godoma playing with Ngilai