This month’s Diary incorporates the details of days from November 21st, which came too late to be incorporated in the November Diary. The long expected rains came late everywhere, and whilst being a very welcome relief in Tsavo, especially for the Voi Unit, they were poor. However, they led to quality time for the orphans, who have enjoyed a new flush of green shoots and emergent grasses along with a great deal of contact with their wild elephant friends. Every day from the 26th November until the 10th December, the orphans hurried out of their Night Stockades each morning, to join the wild herd, running joyfully to meet them, trumpeting, urinating, entwining trunks and rumbling, all part of a very warm elephant greeting. This wild herd obviously harbours many of the orphans’ wild friends, so apart from feeding and wallowing together, they were able to play with wild age-mates at will. Each evening, Laikipia (who is very conscious of the time, and the Big Boy of the still dependent group) rounds up all the members of his orphaned family and marches them back home to their Night Stockades. It is interesting to note that the orphans willingly return to their Night Stockades, for they could easily remain out all night with their wild friends if they chose to do so.
Most rewarding is the fact that little Tsavo is quite obviously very happy with the big leap he has made into a wild environment, and is now glued firmly to Emily’s side, as he was when she was the Orphans’ Matriarch. He has always been her favourite baby, just as Sally is the chosen favourite of “Aitong”, so the foursome known as “Emily’s Group” have also spent a very happy Festive Season enjoying the company of each other, along with that of a different herd of wild friends, and so much so that they have not felt the need to fraternise with the still dependent group, even when seen feeding close by. No doubt, however, they are in close touch. Last month saw Emily returning almost every day to spend time with the orphans, and we wonder whether this was not to persuade Tsavo to join her!
In this Diary, there are only very few days when our orphans did not meet up with the wild elephants, and spend all day amongst their wild friends, which must surely be an “Orphans Record” in terms of fraternisation and familiarisation. Only when the wild elephants moved elsewhere were they apart, and it is interesting to note that our orphans seemed to know when the wild elephants intended to move off, making no attempt to search for them, but instead going in the opposite direction to feed on the slopes of Mazinga Hill, until such time as the wild herd put in an appearance again. Then it is usually Laikipia that leads them back to join their wild friends again. Mingling in amongst the wild elephants, our orphans enjoy playing with age-mates, but still watch out for one another. It is touching to see Laikipia coming to the rescue of his friend Salama, who challenged a wild elephant stronger than himself and ended up being knocked over. Even Mweiga had enjoyed playing amongst the wild elephants, though usually with Seraa, and always carefully watched over by Sosian and Mweya, who are never far from her side. Whenever the others opt to climb up Mazinga Hill, Sosian and Mweya remain at the bottom to keep Mweiga company, since she is too fragile for such strenuous exercise.
A running herd of zebra “upset the apple cart” of both the orphans and the wild herd they were with one day. Fearing something more sinister, all elephants fled screaming in all directions! Contact with other species has been with two wallowing buffalo, whose puddle was usurped by the orphans who expelled them and took it over, a rather rash attempt to disperse a very large buffalo herd (about l,000 strong) which ended in failure as the buffaloes stood their ground. Whilst feeding, the elephants are sometimes joined by impala and waterbuck, which are sometimes tolerated, and sometimes provide the fuel for a play chase.
Laikipia features prominently in this Diary, enabling Natumi to take a back seat in terms of leadership. Yet again, Mweya is revealed as the prankster; according to the Keepers always eager to ensure that she is the centre of attention, plunging into a very cold waterhole with a hearty trumpet when all the others are hesitant to join her. On this occasion poor Sosian had not option, because a bigger peer positioned propelled him in having positioned a tusk on either side of his bottom!
Sadly, another orphan aged about two, named “Lumo” and rescued from the community area of the same name on the 20th December, only lasted the night in the Voi Stockades, being far too emaciated and feeble to withstand the trauma of capture. Apart from this casualty, the Voi Unit have had a wonderful and very happy time at year-end, and now face the challenge of yet another very dry, dry season, as do we, with a great deal of trepidation!