Keepers' Diaries, September 2022

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Voi Reintegration Unit

The month began with a private tete-a-tete between Mudanda and Ndotto. The old friends stood head-to-head, excluding everyone else from their discussions. Mudanda is usually busy looking after Lemeki and Thamana, so Ngilai seized his window of opportunity. He got down on the ground so Lemeki could roll on him, before getting up and continuing with a relaxed sparring match. Ngilai made sure to be very gentle with the little girl.

Earlier this year, Tahri suddenly reappeared after spending more than a year living wild. She seems very happy to be at home — but no one is happier about her return than her best friend, Embu. Some days, they just stand side by side and hug each other with their trunks.

We have rescued an unprecedented number of new orphans this year, including several who have gone directly to Voi. Mbegu, Lemeki, and Sagala are the most welcoming out of the herd and like escorting the new babies around. Juni, who was rescued in May, has settled in beautifully. She is a great favourite of Tagwa, Sagala, and Mbegu. 

On 6th September, new rescues Hildana and Dabida had their first day out with the Voi herd. Mbegu, Arruba and Sagala oversaw the welcoming committee and escorted them around, introducing them to everyone and everything.

Two days later, a SWT pilot reported a female orphan along the Voi River. She was rescued and brought directly to the Voi stockades. Although we cannot be sure what happened to her family, we suspect she is a victim of drought or human-wildlife conflict. We named her Akina. 

On 12th September, poor Ndotto had a nosey ordeal. The Keepers noticed he was really fussing with his trunk, and upon closer investigation, discovered he had gotten a large stone lodged up one of his nostrils! Dr Limo came to the stockades, sedated Ndotto, and successfully removed the stone. As soon as he woke up, he reunited with his friends, who were calmly waiting nearby. No one was alarmed by the treatment, as they clearly understood that Ndotto was receiving help.

The Voi herd is full of mud bath personalities. One afternoon, Pika Pika, Embu, Rorogoi, Arruba and Suswa teamed up for an eventful session. Pika Pika rolled and slid down Embu’s tummy, while the others splashed around and displayed themselves. Rorogoi, as usual, waited for the rest of the herd to leave the water before going in, so she could enjoy her own solo mud bath!

After one noon milk feed, Tamiyoi was among the first to get to the water trough. She proceeded to pose with one foot perched aloft as she drank. Emoli came around and mimicked her, posing with his back foot up while he drank. Next in line was Sagala, who followed the trend and put one foot up while drinking. She was joined by Rorogoi, who did the same. Perhaps all the orphans had weary legs after a morning of browsing and wanted to relax!

With the new rescues comes an inevitable shift in herd dynamics. Pika Pika watches Hildama and Dabida, lest they get too close to ‘her’ adopted mother, Arruba. Godoma, meanwhile, adopted some dramatic measures to catch the attention of the new babies. She climbed up the terrace wall and pulled all these funny poses, which we believe was all in an effort to show off to Hildama and Dabida. Sagala and Tagwa, meanwhile, are happy to devote themselves to little Juni, leaving their more senior friends to vie over the affection of Hildama and Dadiba!

On the 26th, just before the noon milk feed, we received a call from the SWT/KWS Tsavo Veterinary team about an elephant mother who had succumbed to an internal injury. She left behind a 2-year-old, milk-dependent female who was now an orphan. The Voi Keepers organised everything within the shortest time possible and drove to Manyani to rescue the baby elephant. Upon arriving, they found her standing next to her mother’s body. The Keepers then linked up with the Nairobi Nursery team, who had arrived to airlift the baby to the Nairobi Nursery.

On the last day of September, we received a call from Lualeni Ranch about an orphaned elephant. The Voi keepers left immediately for a rescue operation. After an hour’s drive, they found the young baby, who was alone, dehydrated, and very skinny. The Keepers quickly embarked on a rescue mission and secured the baby, loading him into the stockade pick-up and driving him to the Voi stockade, where his healing process has begun.

September 2022 day to day

01 Sep

It was a bright morning at the Voi stockade compound this morning as the Voi dependent orphans enjoyed their milk bottles followed by supplement food of lucerne pellets and dairy cubes. As soon as they were done with their breakfast, Tamiyoi set off towards the bush, leading the way across the rocky slopes of Msinga Hill. Tagwa and Sagala remained behind waiting for Juni, who was sluggishly sauntering along at the back of the herd with Mbegu. 

The orphans settled at the foot of the hill to browse for the morning. Emoli and Tahri decided to stop and scratch against the same big boulder, while Tamiyoi and Ngilai browsed side by side across a grassy clearing. Emoli decided to start a sparring match with his senior Arruba. Murit lay down on the ground to relax for a while. Mudanda and Ndotto had a private conversation while standing head-to-head, showing that it was completely private whatever they were discussing! Mudanda then set about browsing again, pulling up the touch grass and roots from the ground with his trunk. Ngilai had a good time playing with little Lemeki, getting down on the ground so that she could roll on him, before getting up and continuing with a gentle sparring match. Ngilai made sure to be very gentle with the little girl.

Thamana was having a private moment with Godoma when naughty Emoli came over and tried to climb on him, asserting his dominance as an older bull within the herd over Thamana. Thamana turned and engaged Emoli head-on so they could wrestle it out.

Just before the orphans walked down the hill to their usual milk feeding spot, the usually quiet Lasayen decided to start a sparring game with Murit, which didn’t last long because it was time for their 11am milk feed. When they were done the orphans made their way over to the place where the Keepers are putting their afternoon supplement lucerne pellets, due to the ongoing dry conditions, where they enjoyed their snack and continued browsing in the same area until it was time to return home in the evening.  


Tagwa, Juni and Sagala

Emoli and Thamana sparring