Keepers' Diaries, September 2021

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Voi Reintegration Unit

Our Voi herd has a wonderful, steady dynamic. Everyone knows and respects each other’s roles without complaint. Of course, it took time to get to this point: When Tamiyoi and Tagwa graduated to Voi last year, Mbegu was initially very standoffish towards Tagwa. She must have known that Tagwa was a fellow mini matriarch at the Nursery and sensed some competition. However, Mbegu’s hostilities dissipated after a few months, once she realised that Tagwa had no such leadership aspirations.

And so, Mbegu is the undisputed mini matriarch of the young orphans — a group that includes Tagwa, Tamiyoi, Sagala, Emoli, Godoma, Ndotto, Lasayen, and Murit. Tagwa enjoys her own privileges within the herd. Every day, she, Tamiyoi, and Sagala lead the herd out to browse. This is a special responsibility for a young elephant, and all three girls seem chuffed that the other orphans have entrusted them with it. Our reformed tail-biter Ndoria usually remains at the back of the herd, which everyone prefers, as they worry she might be tempted to revert to her old ways

Lots of wild elephants filtered through this month, eager to take advantage of the fresh water at the Voi water troughs. One day, a herd arrived with four calves in tow. The Voi girls were delighted to have such little visitors in their midst and set about wooing them to come play. Sagala and Mashariki were lucky enough to interact with one of the calves. However, its mother prevented Panda from joining in. Panda is bigger than the other girls, so the mum probably worried that she would wander off with her baby!

While visiting calves have their own allure, Pika Pika remains the darling of the Voi herd. One day, the little girl yelled out in excitement at seeing the milk bottles being arranged for the morning milk feed. This sent Kenia and Ndii running over in a frenzy, wondering if everything was ok. While the older girls’ covetousness over Pika Pika seems to have subsided, Kenia and Ndii continue to monitor Naipoki’s every move to make sure she stays away from their adopted baby.

We can always rely on Ngilai to be the biggest showoff, although Ndotto is a close second. Both boys are so playful, and their energy is infections: One day, Ngilai was pulling some very extravagant poses as he played along one of the stockade terraces. His moves attracted Ndotto, who instigated a wrestling match with him. Mashariki was jealous of all the fun they were having and invited herself to their game. By now, Ndii and Ishaq-B wondered what everyone was up to, so they came over with outstretched trunks, which is characteristic of an ‘enquiring’ gesture in elephants.

As the youngest boy in our Voi herd, Emoli has become a little spoiled from all the attention he receives. At the same time, he is also extremely sweet. He really looks up to Ngilai, and the two boys share a wonderful friendship. As Ngilai led the orphans out to browse one day, Emoli shadowed him and even kissed him with his trunk as they walked along.

While some orphans are always up for a game, others are far more reserved. After browsing for more than four hours one afternoon, Lasayen went in search of a sparring partner. He paired up with Araba and they enjoyed a friendly wrestling game for some time. Lasayen was so excited that Araba accepted his invitation to play, as she usually thinks such games are beneath her. Arruba is another girl who eschews most games, except for with Ndotto of course, as she likes to maintain her dignity as one of the oldest members of the herd.

Tundani is the oldest and largest boy in our Voi herd. However, Ndotto is eager to prove that he is becoming a strong contender himself. Tundani is a good sport about this, and not a day goes by that they don’t engage in a strength testing match. They can get quite spirited, as bulls are loathe to concede defeat! Females tend to take a more relaxed approach. Before an afternoon milk feed, Mbegu decided to take on Rorogoi in a sparring challenge. Afterwards, both girls snuggled up and patted each other with their trunks, eagerly anticipating the tasty bottles they were about to enjoy.

This month was marked by many hot days, so the orphans approached mud bathing with extra gusto. Everyone has their own unique wallowing style: Suswa likes to luxuriate after all the other orphans have left, taking up space and lolling around in the water. Mashariki is another elephant who enjoys a solo swim. Embu is often the first to plunge into the waterhole, though she also loves a long dust bath. Murit is a little choosier about his water temperature and will forgo wallowing all together if his friends report that it’s chilly.

Our other orphans, Cheza and Ivia the buffalos and Diria the zebra, are doing well. Diria had a close shave with a rogue lion one day, but the Keepers and elephant orphans quickly sent it running across the plains. Lions have taken up residence during the dry season, so we kept the little buffalo and zebra triumvirate near the stockade compound for their own safety.

September 2021 day to day

01 Sep

This bright morning, the dependent orphans were busy feeding on lucerne grass after their milk feed, at the far end corner of the stockade compound. After a few minutes, Rorogoi decided to go back towards the stockades, followed by Lasayen, Godoma and Arruba, to drink some water.

Tagwa, Tamiyoi and Sagala led the orphans out to browse and they settled deep in the bush beside Msinga Hill. Just before noon, the orphans walked down to the milk feeding area for their bottles, and when they were done, they walked down to the mud bath beside the baobab tree. Emoli rolled around in the dust, surrounded by Mbegu and Godoma, while Rorogoi stood by the baobab tree scratching her eye. Ndoria was minding her own business and doing her own thing, while Mashariki swam alone in the mud bath. A few minutes later, Embu walked in to join her. She splashed around for a little while but didn’t stay long, leaving Mashariki all alone in the mud wallow.

Panda stood by the water trough as Suswa cooled off, by splashing water from the trough on her sides, chest and under her ears. As the orphans left the mud bath to resume browsing, Arruba was left behind scratching her bottom against the water trough. She ran to catch up with her friends and the orphans had a peaceful rest of their afternoon.

Rorogoi rubbing her eye


Mashariki wallowing