Lesanju’s partially independent herd of older orphans, now numbering ten elephants, is comprised of the following besides Lesanju herself: Lempaute, Sinya, Wasessa, Kivuko, Mzima, Taveta, Rombo, Dabassa and Layoni, all of whom are becoming increasingly independent since the onset of the rains, food and water being plentiful and the independent orphans of Emily’s group so close at hand. Currently Emily’s completely independent and wild herd includes the following elephants - Emily with her babies Eve and Emma, Edie with her wild born babies Ella and Eden, and Sweet Sally with her tiny newly born baby boy Safi plus the nannies, namely Mweya, Thoma, Ndara, Seraa, and Icholta with bulls Moran, Laikipia and Lolokwe as male chaperones. This month we enjoyed a visit from independent bull Siria after an absence of nearly a year.
Early in the month it was Mweya and Laikipia who came to escort Lesanju’s herd of older orphans further afield, perfect timing for the transition to new-found independence. Nevertheless, their daily visits back to the stockades and to check on the dependent orphans continued throughout the month, and it is clear they are not completely ready to be wholly independent as they put themselves back into their night stockades most nights.
Araba, a new arrival in Voi, whose mother was a victim of poisoned arrow poaching, has joined the fold and is now tame enough to be able to leave the confines of the Taming Stockade. We have been cautious about letting Araba out too soon, mindful that her wild days still burn bright in her memory and she might be vulnerable to joining up with the wild herds as well as the ex-orphaned group; still very much a milk dependent calf this would jeopardise her survival. She has become more attached to her new, young Nursery peers who ensure she remains within the dependent fold. As it was, Araba has been successfully whisked away on a couple of occasions this month by wild herds as well as the ex-orphans which has kept the keepers on their toes.
Early in the month three new arrivals from the Nairobi Nursery were transferred to the Voi Relocation Unit - Mashariki, Arruba, and Rorogoi, all of whom originated from the southern sector of Tsavo East National Park, so they were, in effect, returning home. The move went well and their arrival was greeted by an expectant Lesanju and Wasessa and their satellites. Emily’s independent orphan herd also visited the Voi stockades to meet the newcomers, accompanied by two magnificent bulls. Arruba, Mashariki and Rorogoi handled the encounter well, despite being somewhat intimidated by the size of the Big Boys. In no time the newcomers settled in extremely well, and the older orphans such as Lempaute and Lesanju singled them out for special attention, hovering around them to make their transition was as seamless as possible. All the Voi Unit orphans, having experienced the same journey themselves, understand exactly how the newcomers feel and empathize with them. However, the fresh green pasture brought on by bountiful rains and soft muddied red earth was enjoyed almost immediately by the new arrivals, who relished the different vegetation on offer in Tsavo.
One day soon after their arrival in Voi, ex-orphan females Seraa and Thoma with big boy Laikipia returned to the stockades. Seraa and dependent baby Arruba instantly formed a special bond, Seraa being much loved by all three new arrivals. They spent a happy morning together before Laikipia gave a persuasive nudge signalling to Seraa his intentions to head off to the Voi River in order to join his wild friends. Emily’s herd have been visiting the stockades more frequently than usual, clearly enamoured by the new arrivals. Their wild born babies Emma, Eden and Safi provide endless fascination for the dependent orphans who relish access to the little ones, their association with them always carefully monitored by the respective nannies namely Mweya and Thoma!
There was a day when the orphans joined a large wild herd close to the midday big mud wallow, but when the Keepers called out to the orphans signalling time for their milk feed, the wild herd were spooked and rapidly departed the scene, Arruba, Mashariki, Rorogoi and Araba inadvertently became caught up in the mayhem and were spirited away. The Keepers had to spend the rest of the day retrieving their charges from the wild herd, separating them using a vehicle. Eventually the babies came charging back for their milk bottles, very thirsty after their ordeal.
On the 14th of December the Voi orphans were joined by more ex-Nursery orphans, this time Embu, Elkerama and Suswa made their journey to Tsavo. Initially their trip went smoothly but due to a torrential downpour that fell the night before, the truck got stuck just before the National Park entrance. However, thanks to swift action, it was pulled out in less than thirty minutes and soon the babies were being offloaded from the Elephant Moving truck. On this occasion the bigger orphans were not there to greet them upon arrival having become scattered due to the torrential three inches of rain overnight. However, they were warmly greeted by their best friends who had travelled before them, Mashariki, Rorogoi and Arruba, and they were quick to settle in, although Embu felt the effects of the tranquiliser for some time after their arrival. That, coupled with the humid heat, lulled her into a standing slumber for a good long time; by evening she was again active and seemingly loving her new surroundings.
On the 27th our teams responded to a report of an orphaned elephant in Tsavo East. The Trust’s helicopter was mobilised and it and the anti-poaching ground teams scoured the area, but although many elephant herds were sighted, there was no sign of a lone calf. We surmised that it must have been reunited with its herd.
There are many more stories in the Keepers daily diary entries about the comings and goings from this original relocation unit Voi, first built by David Sheldrick in the late 1940’s; Voi has become home for the reintroduction of well over 100 hand raised elephants over the years.