Published on the 30th of January, 2018
Jackson’s hornbills swoop down from small trees in front of our origional Reintegration Unit at Voi, a hive of activity amidst the vast expanse of Tsavo East National Park. They sit patiently clucking in front of the elephant Keepers as they eat their lunch, waiting in eager anticipation as the Keepers are happy to share their meal, doling out spoonfuls of rice to these resident birds. One mother, who nests in the same acacia tree in front of the elephant stockades year on year, has populated all of the birds currently sharing this luncheon. Standing beside the hornbills and ground squirrels eating with the Keepers are Kore, Tawi and Ngulia, the resident elands and zebra orphans who also call this Reintegration Unit home, eating their late morning lucerne pellets before they wander off into the compound to find a shady tree to rest in the heat of the day. Rescued in their time of need from within the greater Tsavo area and raised alongside the 22 elephants orphans currently at the Reintegration Unit, they needed the same love, care and attention from the Keepers to raise them from infancy to a stage where they are now ready to rejoin the wild.
3 year old elands Kore and Tawi have both been at Voi since they were infants; Tawi a young male rescued at 3 weeks and Kore a female who was 3 months when she arrived at the Unit. Tawi is the friendliest soul and loves a good head scratch. He recently went wild with a herd of zebra for a couple of weeks before coming across the Keepers again as they patrolled out in the bush with the elephant orphans on the 9th January, and he chose to return with them to the stockade. He might have chosen to test life in the with a herd of zebra because of his close relationship with orphan zebra Ngulia, developed over his years in the compound with her. Ngulia is the oldest of the orphans at over 3 years old and was rescued from Ngulia in Tsavo West when her mother was killed by lions and she was left to fend for herself. She was found and brought to Voi when she was just four months old and ever since then she has been Queen Bee of the Voi stockades, mothering all the other little orphans that pass through our hands and dishing out discipline whenever she feels it is required! She isn’t fond of new guests and will purposely chase them around the stockades with her teeth bared.
She also, unfortunately, holds a grudge and has not taken well to the new baby buffalo at the Unit, Oltukai. Oltukai was rescued by the DSWT/KWS Amboseli Vet Unit at 6 months old in October 2017, after his mother died during the drought which gripped the country in the latter half of that year. Having arrived at a slightly older age and with an injured foot he was a feisty baby and let this be known from the outset. He head butted everyone in sight including the unsuspecting Ngulia who thought she would have a new baby to fuss over, and she has never forgiven him his initial greeting!
Oltukai is still fed milk every 4 hours and receiving treatment of green clay and antibiotics on his injured leg, still very much dependent on the Keepers, but the other three are slowly being reintroduced to life in the wild. During Tawi’s recent foray in the bush, Kore also grew restless and eager to spend more time away from the compound. During Tawi, Kore and Ngulia’s outings onto the plains below the Keepers follow them to make sure they are safe as they don’t have the protection of a herd like other animals, and slowly, like Tawi recently experienced, they will begin to reintegrate with the wild herds and become less dependent on their human family.