Managing the morning supplementary feeding times for the Voi Keeper Dependent Juniors is proving challenging. The elephants tend to become greedy and pushy at such times, especially Big Girl Wasessa, and the Keepers try to ensure that they all get their fair share which is not an easy task. The smaller orphans such as Mbirikani (whose foot is still tender), Naipoki, Kihari, Ishaq-B, Mudanda and Panda take theirs first, followed by the next age group and then lastly the big members of the herd, who are let out of their night stockade after the others have fed. It is extremely touching that even Big Girl Wasessa respects the orders of the Keepers, although she could flatten any of them with just one swipe of her trunk. When she is particularly “pushy” at the Handout, the Keepers order her to spend time out, as would a Senior Elephant, and even when this means leaving her favourite calf, Mudanda, she is totally obedient to that command.
This month Emily’s Ex Orphans have been in almost daily contact with the Juniors. They either turn up at the compound in time to dominate the morning supplement handout, or if the Juniors have already left, to at least pick up leftover crumbs. After they have passed by the compound they usually seek out the Junior herd in the field and join them there or at the noon mudbath. On one occasion Laikipia and his bull friends joined the Juniors at their noon mudbath and on other days just a Splinter Group of Ex Orphans showed up.
When the Ex Orphans came to the compound on the 4th, Emily had a wild bull in tow. Whenever the Keepers detect the Ex Orphans homing in on the compound in the early mornings, the supplementary feed has to be put on hold until the Ex Orphans have left; the reasoning of which Lesanju fully understands! She leads the Juniors away from the compound, returning them to enjoy their full share once the Ex Orphans have left. Whilst Ex Orphans are always greeted warmly by all the Juniors, the Big Girls (Lesanju, Lempaute, Sinya and Wasessa) are never happy to see them. This is due to the snatching tendency of members of this Unit, the main culprits in this respect being a coalition of Icholta, Mweya, Thoma and Seraa.
This month Lesanju and her help-mate Matriarchs have had a difficult time keeping their orphaned family intact especially on the 5th when Icholta, Seraa and Thoma managed to split Mbirikani and Laiyoni from Lesanju’s herd. Meanwhile Emily, Sally, Mweya and Morani enticed Naipoki, Kihari and Ishaq-B away. The keepers were watching from a vantage point on Mazinga Hill, when they were joined by Lesanju and the rest of her unit, obviously seeking their help. The Keepers went first to try and retrieve Mbirikani and Laiyoni, but their access was initially blocked by the “Snatchers”. Laiyoni responded with a low rumble when called by the Keepers; she broke free and rushed to join them, followed by a somewhat reluctant Mbirikani who always likes being left alone. Since her cable snared foot is not yet fully healed, the Keepers are reluctant to let her join the Senior herd, even though she would clearly like to do so. Naipoki, Ishaq-B and Kihari joined the other Juniors at the noon mudbath that day.
On the 7th Wasessa had a stand-off with Thoma over little Mudanda. When it looked as though Wasessa was losing the tussle, none other than little Mudanda came between the two big females to prevent further confrontation, after which Wasessa went to play with Sweet Sally and Emily’s calf, Eve. That day all the orphans left together for the bush; Lesanju leading her group up Mazinga hill while the Ex Orphans remained at the base. However, they joined the Juniors at their noon mudbath later.
Another attempt was made to “snatch” little Mudanda on the 15th. Lesanju was attempting to spirit her group away up the hill, but was intercepted by Thoma, Icholta, Mweya and Seraa. Lesanju, Wasessa, Sinya and Lempaute had a stand-off with the “Snatchers” which was beginning to turn ugly until Emily led the Ex Orphan group away to avoid further trouble.
Later that day the Voi Keepers were involved in the rescue of a zebra foal from Kushushe in Tsavo West, who had attached itself to the fence maintenance staff. The infant foal was transported back to the Voi Stockades to join the Voi Units other orphaned zebras. Lualeni has at last became accustomed to little Ngulia, who was rescued last month, and now has to act as a Nannie since she follows him everywhere demanding milk! With two zebra foals in tow, Lualeni will certainly find himself fully occupied!
Several light rain showers have relieved the intensity of the heat during February and several subsequent overcast days have been beneficial for browsing during the hot season. However on a very misty day on the 20th, when Mazinga hill was covered in cloud, the orphans were scared to browse there, sticking instead to the plains below. For instance, on the 16th Tassia was scared by Mbirikani who, unbeknownst to him, was browsing nearby in thick bush and broke a branch, which hit the ground with a loud thud, missing Mbirikani by a whisker. She yelled and broke into a run and upon hearing the commotion approaching his direction, Tassia then took to his heels heading towards the rest of the herd, who in turn took to their heels screaming. The Keepers had a difficult time rounding them all up and calming them down, after which all clung closely to the Keepers for the remainder of the day! At a noon mudbath, Rombo landed with a thud in the wallow, whilst all the others were having fun and just a thud made all flee screaming!
The Juniors enjoyed contact with a friendly wild herd on the 13th and again on the 14th. They obviously had no “snatching tendencies” because both Wasessa and Lempaute enjoyed playing with small wild babies. On the 25th the Juniors fraternized with several wild friends. On the l0th a Wild Bull who came alone to the orphans’ noon mudbath was entertained by Naipoki and on the 3rd three friendly wild bulls came to teach Mzima, Tassia, Rombo and Laiyoni Pushing techniques.
This month, Naipoki has gradually attained leadership over the Nairobi trio of Ishaq-B and Kihari which had been contested by Panda, however a compromise seems to have emerged. Out in the field these four often split into two separate groups, sharing time with both little would-be leaders.