Overview - Voi Unit:- There is interesting behaviour recorded in this month’s Diary, illustrating the human aspect of elephants. Examples are when Laikipiacunningly deliberately enticies Morani away from the others in order to try and mount him – Morani then bellows and Emily and Aitong rush to the rescue, sending Laikipia into “Coventry” for several hours. Then Emily demonstrates to Seraa how to dig up roots using tusks and a forefoot, and Seraa immediately emulates her, kneeling down to do likewise. Jealousy is illustrated when Sweet Sally refuses to allow Morani to suckle Aitong, although Aitong is obviously happy to comply. Mvita picks up a stick and uses this to scratch a leg and when all the orphans respond to Irima’s cry for help when Mweiga threatens to snatch his bottle, lining up behind him to ensure that he gets his rations unhindered. On the 20th we read how Solango has an altercation with Burra and resorts to picking up sticks which he “accurately” throws at Burra. Aitonggives Sweet Sally a lesson in pushing, holding Sally’s head gently and pushing her away, after which Sally manages to overcome Mweya who would otherwise usually win!
Most interesting of all is when the orphans surround an old bull buffalo in a thicket and the buffalo threatens to retaliate, lowering his horns. Emily immediately retreats encouraging her family to immediately do the same, but then returns alone to deal with the buffalo so that it does not pose a danger to her charges.
On the 28th we read how Aitong held onto Morani with her trunk to prevent him running away from an approaching huge wild bull, forcing him to stand and be introduced to this friendly, albeit daunting, stranger. And as usual, there are instances when friends have ganged up to get revenge on another who has wronged them, illustrated on the 29th when Salama and Nyiro formed an alliance to sort out Laikipia.
There have been several encounters with wild herds – on the 2nd when a wild group hurried by, then on 6th when Laikipia paid special attention to the wild baby of one of 3 cows, but was closely monitored by two younger wild females. The orphans joined 5 adult wild elephants and a 7 month old calf on the 19th, and again two wild teenagers kept a close watch on Aitong, who was very enamoured of the baby. On 20th Aitong took Sally into a wild herd, and returned with a wild bull who spent time with the orphans and on the 23rd,when the orphans again joined a wild herd of 9 who had a tiny baby. Lolokwe and Morani were fascinated by this baby, whilst Emily played with a wild male age-mate. When the baby tried to leave with its mother, Laikipia unsuccessfully tried to restrain it, holding it back using his trunkand tusks! Another wild encounter took place on the 24th when Mukwaju and Salama engaged wild age-mates in friendly bouts and when the orphans spent 3 hours with the wild herd. On the 30th the orphans joined 2 wild cows, each with a calf, plus 3 other females, who were greeted warmly by Aitong, Emily and Laikipia, but which ended less happily when the wild Matriarch objected to Aitong trying to mount a member of her family, prompting the orphans to take their leave!
Adventures with other species include being chased by an ostrich that was sitting on eggs, scared witless by mating hyaenas, chasing off baboons and waterbuck, startled by a giraffe, but saving the life of a hare which was being pursued by a jackal. On this occasion Burra, Solango, Mpala and Sosian were the heroes who took care of the jackal whilst the hare shot through the legs of the rest of the group and escaped unharmed.
The strong bond that binds Sweet Sally and Aitong is again graphically illustrated as is the love Emily has for Ndara. Icholta and Mvita are seen to be competitive, as are Mpala and Morani. Mweya and Nyiro are seen to be forming a strong friendship, which ended when mischievous Mweya couldn’t help biting Nyiro’s trunk when it was inserted lovingly into her mouth! Mweya is always up to pranks – not least when she rolled herself up”like a millipede” and got wedged in the middle of an old tractor tyre and had to be extracted by the Keepers.
The compassionate side of elephants is represented when we read about the love that Aitong had for the new rescuee, “Galana”, who spent the night of the 14th in the Stockades before being air-lifted to the Nairobi Nursery on 15th. Aitong was very reluctant to leave her the next morning, holding her with her trunk in an attempt to persuade her to follow. That evening, when the orphans returned, Aitong immediately went in search of the calf, expecting to find her again, and was obviously very agitated when she found her gone. Sweet Sally, Mweya and Icholta also took especial care of the baby during the night she spent in the Stockade with Aitong, , standing very close to comfort and reassure her, but strangely enough Emily seemed dis-interested, obviously happy to leave the responsibility to Aitong.
The dry season is tightening its grip again, and promises to be another tough one, but so far all the orphans are in good shape, even weakling Mweiga, who is showing signs of becoming much stronger. Mweiga, who will be 6 years old in October, still enjoys a daily ration of milk, plus extra Dairy Cubes, and the usual Copra.