Every morning, the orphans dash out of their bedrooms with such enthusiasm. Pika Pika and Emoli started a little rivalry over milk, racing to see who could get to theirs first. Because the dry season stretched well into December, vegetation was still very hard to find, so we continued supplementing everyone’s diets with lucerne grass and pellets. These tasty treats are a silver lining of the dry season. One day, lions were in the area, so the Keepers led the orphans back to the stockade area for the afternoon. Mashariki flapped her ears in excitement, as if she couldn’t quite believe her luck to be enjoying lucerne for the second time in a single day!
The beginning of this month was all about relaxation. Earnest browsing sessions were punctuated by long and luxurious dust baths, along with the occasional game. Of course, energetic elephants like Ngilai will never be deterred from playing. One day, he decided to challenge Tagwa to a wrestling match. She tried to sneak away, but Ngilai grabbed her tail with his trunk, entreating her to stay. Another day, Ngilai and his best friend, Emoli, tried to simultaneously browse and spar, which made for quite a funny sight!
On several occasions, the orphans took impromptu naps in the bush. Sagala and Mbegu were a bit worried to see Tamiyoi and Tagwa lying down, so they came over to pat them with their trunks. Once they were satisfied that all was well, they let their friends nap in peace. One afternoon, Ndoria was luxuriating in the dust and almost got left behind as the others headed to the milk feed. Ndotto waited for her, which was a very chivalrous move on his part.
Ex orphan Bada returned home a few weeks ago, and because of the prevailing dry conditions, he looked rather thin. However, home feeding quickly worked its magic. The Keepers are pleased to see him looking plump and healthy. Bada’s good friend, Mudanda, has been busy looking after him. They always browse together.
The long-awaited rains finally arrived on the 10th. The orphans couldn’t contain their excitement. They ran about to and fro, splashing in the raindrops and playing hide-and-seek. They were in such a joyful mood! They loved browsing on all the new vegetation, shoving their mouths with fresh greenery. After several months of dry and hard food, this must have been such a delicious relief.
With all this lovely greenery at their feet, none of the orphans were in a hurry for their noon milk feed. This is in stark contrast to before the rains, when they were desperate for the extra nourishment. In the end, Tamiyoi, Sagala and Emoli couldn’t resist the temptation of their beloved bottles, and the other milk-dependent babies eventually followed suit. However, Murit was so full of greens that he only managed one gulp before abandoning his bottle!
Pika Pika remains the darling of the Voi herd, with her eagle-eyed chaperones watching her at all times. One day, the little girl approached Ngilai for a sparring match. He knew to be gentle with her, as she is so much smaller. However, Ngilai’s best friend, Emoli, became jealous of their game and shoved Pika Pika all the way into the waterhole. He was lucky Ndii and the other older females were preoccupied and didn’t see him! Instead, Murit and Mbegu saved the day: While Murit distracted Emoli, Mbegu whisked Pika Pika away from the boys and all their boisterous behaviour.
Pika Pika looks after her friends, too. One morning, she witnessed Ndotto and Arruba enjoying an intense wrestling match, which she mistook for a real fight. Pika Pika is very fond of Arruba, who she sees as an adopted big sister. She stretched her trunk out towards Ndotto, pleading with him to leave her “big sister” in peace. Arruba reassured Pika Pika that it was all in good fun, and to confirm this, Ndotto gently touched Arruba’s face with his trunk in a friendly gesture.
Just like any families, our Voi herd has their occasional quarrels, but they are overwhelmingly supportive towards one another. Arruba is one of the kindest orphans. Elephants can be covetous, but she is always happy to share. One afternoon, she used both her trunk and her toenails to dig up a stubborn root that she wanted to eat. When she succeeded, she invited Embu to share it with her. Another day, after the rains, she was enjoying an impromptu wallow in a small pool. Panda wanted to join her, but there was only room for one, so Arruba moved over and gave her friend the chance to wallow.
We enjoyed a lovely, peaceful Christmas morning. Mbegu gave Emoli a gift by shepherding him away from the others so they could feast on lucerne together. We realised she was intentionally keeping Emoli away from Ngilai, who has been roping the younger boy into sparring matches before he had even had a chance to finish eating. Mbegu clearly wanted Emoli to enjoy an uninterrupted breakfast. The heavens opened around 4 o’clock on Christmas day, so the orphans took a break from browsing to play in the raindrops.
New Year’s Eve was just as lovely as Christmas. First thing in the morning, the orphans assembled for breakfast. Emoli was acting like a small baby, demanding pellets from Mbegu’s mouth instead of picking up his own from the ground. There was a lot of cloud cover at the noon milk feed, so only Pika Pika and Arruba hazarded a swim. The rest of the afternoon passed peacefully, as the orphans munched on lush grass and creepers.
As the sun began to sink in the sky, our Voi herd returned home for the night, bringing an end to another special year.