For the Voi Unit it has been a joyful month, with intermittent rain, sometimes heavy, so they have loved playing in the puddles and feasting on fresh green vegetation. Emily’s unit, which consists of her, Aitong and Sweet Sally, all of whom are no longer enclosed at night, have failed to join the other orphans only once, on the 31st December. Normally, they are either waiting at the Stockade Gates in the morning, or join up with the others out in the bush or at the mudbath.
An exciting event has been the reappearance of one of our Big Boys – 16 year old Edo, who was last seen in March. He turned up to greet the entire group on the 18th, and spent time with them every day thereafter, except on the 31st, when he and Emily’s group were absent for the entire day. In the absence of Emily, Natumi is the self appointed Leader, reinforced by Ilingwezi, and Edie, all of whom share the load, but Emily and Aitong take charge whenever they are present, always greeted with immense joy by all the others, and especially by Loisaba, Ndara and Tsavo, who have always been Emily’s favourites. It is interesting, however, that unlike Sweet Sally, even these “favourites” of Emily, are not yet prepared to be out and about with her, but choose to remain within the main group, even when Emily peels off to go her own way. It is also interesting that Aitong and Sally remain very much part of her group, something that will obviously endure for life.
Edo (ex Amboseli) is a gentle and favourite “Uncle” who indulges them all and basks in the hero-worship of the entire unit, even taking time to join Emily and Aitong in escorting them back to base in the evenings. He and Emily are, and have always been, firm friends, having shared Nursery time together in Nairobi.
Every mudbath each day has obviously been a joyous and particularly pleasurable event this month, since the large waterholes are full enough to allow the orphans to actually submerge themselves in the water. The usual friendships endure – Burra, Mpala, Solango and Nyiro often playing together, as do the older bull set - Laikipia, Lolokwe and Salama whilst Mweya continues to play a leading role amongst the younger females of her age-group. Little Morani remains a great favourite, especially of Aitong who always pays him special attention whenever she returns to join the group. Natumi suffered an unfortunate minor accident when she slipped in the mud and fell, one tusk piercing her trunk, but since no further mention is made of this in the Diary, it could not have been serious. Encounters with other species include chasing off zebra, having fun in amongst the impalas, expelling a dikdik, waterbuck and a troupe of baboons, and, of course, the odd buffalo, an event that is always accompanied by high excitement, the breaking of bushes and loud trumpets. In short, therefore, the festive season for the Voi Group has been filled with joy, and the fact that Emily, Aitong and Sweet Sally are no longer with the others in the Stockades at night, has been accepted as daily routine. They know exactly where to find the others at any time of the day.
Wild elephants have been conspicuous by their absence this month, obviously concentrated elsewhere, which makes Edo’s appearance just that much more special, and the fact that Emily, Aitong and Sally have remained to escort the other orphans, a touching show of responsibility, when they could be partying with the wild elephant wet season get together. This is when friends and families from far flung places come together to romp, mate and play, and when the bulls join the female herds for a festive season when food and water is plentiful, and when socialising supersedes the serious business of survival