Voi Reintegration Unit
Little Ashanti is one of the drought victims who joined our Voi herd this year. December began on an exciting note — her first day out in the bush with the rest of the orphans. Mbegu, Tamiyoi, Sagala, and Rorogoi shuffled around the little girl and seemed very interested in her trunk, which was sliced short by a wire snare. They looked shocked when Ashanti got down on her knees in order to eat grass directly with her mouth, instead of using her trunk.
On the 4th, we received another visit from ex-orphan Mweya, her daughter, Mwitu, and Edie’s baby, Eden. Lemeki sauntered right over to Eden, who is nearly twice her age. Eden welcomed the attention of the younger girl and they even indulged in some playful pushing and trunk touching. It was lovely to see Lemeki pursuing new friendships!
Although we received some rain in Voi, it remains very dry in the area. However, the orphans are still full of vim and vigour. Ndotto, Ngilai, and Emoli are the undisputed kings of play, but even the more stoic girls, like Godoma, can be convinced to join in the games. It is usually mature Suswa who restores peace, reminding the orphans that they must diligently focus on browsing.
Murit and Lasayen are known for being our laid-back boys, but that is starting to change. One day, Lasayen invited himself to join Emoli and Ngilai’s sparring match. Ngilai strode off, knowing that a match is meant for two. Lasayen became so excited that he charged off, threw himself on the ground, and rolled around with joy. We love that he is discovering his playful side!
Our newbies, Hildana, Dabida, Kilulu, Kenderi, and Ashanti, have formed a sweet little friendship group. They like to stand off to the side, trunk hugging each other as they observe the antics of the larger orphans. Roguish Ngilai occasionally tried to play some mounting games with them, but he was swiftly seen off by Mbegu and Tagwa. Working in unison, the two mini matriarchs blocked the way with their large bottoms, putting the young bull firmly in his place.
In general, the new rescues tend to be wary of their senior friends. Juni is the only younger orphan who bucks the trend. She is very close with Tagwa and feels confident knowing that she has the older girl’s undivided protection.
We marvel at how Ndotto helped no-nonsense Mudanda discover her nurturing side, but it seems there are limits to her affections. One day, newcomer Akina tried to get in between her and Thamana. This made Mudanda very upset, as she views Thamana as ‘her’ baby and hates to share him with anyone. Luckily, kind Mbegu came to the rescue, shepherding Akina away and trunk touching her in a maternal manner.
Pika Pika is no longer the baby of the herd, but she is still a little princess. On a particularly hot afternoon, the orphans had a wonderful time in the mud bath. Ndotto charged in first, outsting Pika PIka from her favourite wallowing spot — that is, until her ‘big sister’ Aruba came to the rescue! She chased Ndotto out and proudly escorted Pika Pika into the water.
On the 15th, newbie Baraka joined the orphan herd. Another orphan of the drought, he spent several weeks calming down in his stockade. This is an important step for any new rescue; let out too early, and they could bolt into the wilderness. Luckily, Baraka’s first day was a great success. Maternal Sagala was a great babysitter, trunk hugging him and showing him around the browsing areas.
The 20th marked a momentous step for four of our big girls: For the first time, Arruba, Mudanda, Embu, and Rorogoi spent the night out in the wild. Early the next morning, Mweya and her mini herd escorted Arruba and Mudanda back to the stockades. They also had a surprise addition: Tahri! As Tahri has been living wild for the past three months, we were particularly delighted to see her. Embu and Rorogoi were not with the little group; presumably, they chose to remain out with Tahri’s wild herd.
The 29th was a day of hellos and goodbyes. After an absence of nearly a year, Edie’s ex-orphan herd finally returned to Voi. The Keepers awoke at dawn to find Edie, her babies Eco and Enzo, along with Kenia, Mbirikani, Lentili, Panda, Kihari, and Naipoki waiting outside the stockades. It was wonderful to see them looking so well, especially after such a long and gruelling drought. This was Kenia, Naipoki, and Panda’s first year as ‘ex-orphans’ — and based on their healthy appearances, they are thriving in their wild lives. We are incredibly proud of them.
The reunions continued to the end of the month. 23-year-old ex-orphan Laikipia, who travels in the same orbit as Edie and Mweya, appeared in the company of two wild bulls. Everyone enjoyed catching up with friends old and new, as we bid farewell to 2022 and welcomed a new year.