August at the Voi rehabilitation unit was mostly spent concentrating on the serious business of searching for food in the height of the dry season. The dry seasons in Voi has much less food than Ithumba for elephants, but when it rains this area is a haven for wild elephants who pour into the open grasslands. Our orphans were not visited much this month by the ex-orphans other than Mweya, Icholta and Moran who came by on a couple of days. Throughout the month, particularly at mudbath time, they had some wonderful encounters with wild herds, and were able to interact with them and play with their young. Lesanju is never overly enthusiastic about this sort of interaction, fearful that she will lose a member of her dependent orphan herd to the wild ones. Our dependent boys however, love to single out sparring partners with the wild bulls and this month was no different. These games are always watched closely by eager mothers and it is important our orphans do not overstep the mark, which sometimes they do and are then forced to make a hasty retreat.
Mudanda is still Wasessa’s cosseted baby who all the orphans aspire to spending time with, but act with extreme caution knowing that it will incur the wrath of Wasessa who does not always like to share Mudanda’s attention.
Ndii, Rombo, Lempaute and Panda have enjoyed some spirited baboon chasing around the stockade compound which provides endless pleasure. The mornings are always a joyous time as the orphans leave their night stockades to feed on supplementary Lucerne, copra cake and diary cubes before heading out to browse on the slopes of Msinga hill.
There was an unusual experience on the 3rd of August when the orphans spent time in the company of a young wild female who had left her herd on the higher slopes of the Msinga hill to give birth on the flat ground below we think. She was comfortable in the orphans company but the keepers noticed that she had genital secretions, suggesting she was in labor and almost ready to give birth. They chose to move the group away so as not to disturb the process.
On another day Panda led the orphans to the western side of Msinga hill and there Lempaute chose to lie down to catch the morning sun. In no time all the orphans were enjoying the morning rays and soaking up the early warmth. It was quite a sight to see a group of prone elephants sunning themselves peacefully.
On the 17th and 18th of this month the Voi orphans were visited at midday by David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust school kid field trips. The school children loved their experience and the elephants enjoyed performing for them, showing off more than usual on those days mindful of an audience.
On the 26th the Voi Keepers received a message from Angela about an orphaned elephant sighted on the Galana Conservancy. The Keepers quickly prepared themselves and left on the two hour drive to the location. There they found the Galana Conservancy Scouts standing vigil and keeping an eye on the baby who was on the slopes of a river bank. The rescue was challenging and the hour was late, but thankfully the team eventually managed to rescue the calf and prepare him for the long drive back to the Voi stockades. He was a boy, approximately two years old, who had obviously been without his mother for some time as he was in poor condition. He was given a name from the Orma tribe, Bada, which is the name for a 'bushy place'. Bada was driven back in the dark to the Voi stockades and placed in one of the taming stockades. This was a midst much excitement and interest from the Voi orphans who always love a new baby. Naipoki was the most interested in Bada the next morning, so much so she was prepared to miss her milk feed in order to spend precious time with him. It was decided that Bada would stay in Voi rather than have the stress of being airlifted to the Nairobi Nursery as he is approximately two years old.
Over the next few days he tamed down well, fed on his bottle and loved the company of the other orphans. It will not be too long before he is out and about with them during the day but we need to take this cautiously and not be too hasty in case he runs off with a wild herd or our ex orphans, because he is very much a milk dependent calf still. The keepers need to be sure he is totally hooked on his milk bottle and them before letting him spend the days out with the others. This process is happening fast and he is taming down quickly. He is a very lucky calf who would have definitely fallen prey to predators had he been left alone any longer. Thanks to the Galana Conservancy and Gary Cullen for keeping an eye on him and reporting his fate to the authorities in good time.
The 28th of August was a very dramatic night when two leopards hunted, chased and killed an impala just outside the orphan’s night stockades. This well and truly freaked them out and the keepers had to spend some time in the stockades in order to calm them all down, and convince them that they were safe.