The Voi Orphans’ priority of trying to find sufficient browse to satisfy hunger during this exceptionally harsh dry season within Tsavo, was diverted by the rescue of Panda, a 2 year old female orphan from Mgeno Ranch abutting Tsavo, who was sufficiently old enough to be able to bypass the Nursery. She was taken into the new “Taming Stockade” at the Voi Stockades and very warmly welcomed by all the Voi orphans, especially the Big Girls, Lesanju, Lempaute, Wasessa, Kenia, Ndii and Sinya who crowded around her stockade reaching in trunks to comfort and calm. Little Panda has been the focus of all the Big Girls’ attention ever since, especially Wasessa and Lesanju who have come to an arrangement whereby they “share” possession of her, while Kenia, Lempaute and Ndii have to be content with odd moments when the other two Big Girls are not looking. So far, only Sinya seems to have given up even trying to get close to the newcomer!
Browsing dominated the Keeper Dependent orphans’ daylight hours until evening, when all rushed back to check up on little Panda in her Taming Stockade. Until later on in the month she was too weak to be up to accompanying the others out into the field and remained back at the Stockades until they returned in the evening. The noon mudbath is when interaction and fun supercedes browsing, different orphans vying with one another to dominate the pool, climb over each other, enjoy Shoving Matches, a dustbath and generally have fun. Once Panda was up to accompanying the others, she has enjoyed the undivided attention of Wasessa, and sometimes Lesanju all day long. Wasessa who is the largest female of the group is, however subservient to Lesanju who is the main Matriarch, hence the “sharing” compromise. Kenia, Ndii and Lempaute just have to take their chance insofar as being close to Panda is concerned and the boys keep away for fear of reprisals should they become too familiar with “the pet”. Previously it was Emsaya who was Wasessa’s special calf, but because Panda has usurped her position in this respect, she now harbours a grudge, which became all too apparent when she pushed poor Panda to the ground after a milk feeding session. The baby’s cry brought Wasessa to the rescue swiftly. Emsaya was driven away and Panda comforted by the fondling of trunks. Thereafter both Wasessa and the Keepers kept a close watch to ensure that the baby, who is still somewhat weak, is not knocked over again by jealous Emsaya. By month end Panda had recovered some strength and was settled and enjoying her new family, especially the undivided attention of Wasessa and, to a lesser degree, Lesanju. She was even going into the mudbath under the watchful eyes of Wasessa and Lesanju.
Taveta seems to get “the short straw” during mudbathing for the others seem to enjoy pulling him down a peg or two by sitting on him in the water, on one occasion almost drowning him. He let out a watery bellow and Lesanju responded instantly, driving his tormenters out! Tassia, who has long been Taveta’s main rival was a gleeful onlooker at this drama!
It is at the mudbath venue that most of the interaction with wild elephants has taken place this month. On the 15th Wasessa and Mzima enjoyed playing with age-mates amongst a visiting wild herd whose wild calf was inadvertently left behind amongst the orphans as the wild herd moved off. The wild calf panicked, charging around in confusion upon seeing the Keepers. This stirred up the orphaned herd, who began doing the same, as the wild calf dashed off to catch up with its departing family, hotly pursued to the Park airstrip by Layoni. He in turn was closely trailed by Lesanju who was bent on retrieving him for she actively discourages members of her unit from fraternizing too closely with wild visitors in case they become tempted to join them. Again on the 21st a wild herd as drinking from the Orphans’ Water barrels, amongst them a tiny baby in whom the female orphans were taking a lot of interest. However, the baby was closely guarded by two bigger sisters, who would not allow the orphans too close. Wild elephant herds passed by the Orphans’ Middle mudwallow on the 27th and the 28th when Shimba was tempted to follow them, but had a change of heart because the wild elephants were moving fast. Shimba is a very quiet and laid back fellow, who seldom hustles, but is the Climber of the group, ever eager to scale Mazinga hill whereas the others prefer to remain only half way up. On one occasion he climbed right to the summit and remained there all day foraging on tasty tidbits amongst the rocks, foregoing both his milk and a mudbath. In the evening the Keepers had to climb up the hill and get him back down.
There has been no sign of Emily’s Ex Orphaned group this month, who are obviously still away with most of the wild herds. However, Ex Orphan Tsavo showed up to drink at the Stockades on the 26th – now a Big Boy with large tusks who was last seen with Lissa’s family. And Ex Orphan Ndara returns each night to her Recuperation Enclosure, her injured foot joint now almost again normal, although she still walks with a slight limp, and obviously does not feel up to going too far afield. The days find her browsing Mazinga hill, and returning in the late evening to fraternize with the Youngsters and partake of Lucerne and Dairy Cubes.
The month ended on a high note at the mudbath when the orphans arrived at noon to find warthogs, waterbuck, zebras and eland in attendance, all of whom had to be excitedly dispersed as unwelcome intruders! Despite the harsh conditions experienced in Tsavo, all the orphans continue to look in good condition, with little Panda (the “darling” of the group) recovering rapidly. It has been very touching to see how well she is looked after by all the Big Girls, and even some of the Boys when they get a look in.