January has been a very joy-filled month for the Voi orphans, with plentiful food at hand, brim full waterholes to submerge in, mudwallows at every turn, and the close friendship and support of one another to enjoy. Every day has found the orphans romping playfully together around the Stockade compound each morning, feeding on the fresh lush vegetation, and enjoying a swim at a time of their choosing in a large natural rain-filled waterhole below the Park Headquarters, into which Lolokwe dragged a log, which serves as an amusing play-thing for the swimmers.
Following good rains at last, all the Voi elephants have now been able to be weaned off milk, all now being 4 years and older, but Mweiga, who had made so much improvement, has since deteriorated in condition again. We will look to increasing her supplements again, possibly even laced with a little milk again, in an effort to reverse this loss of weight. Mweiga has always been an enigma – an obviously weak elephant, suffering from joint problems, and also, we suspect, a heart defect. However, she enjoys the special protection of all the others, and has some very supportive and close friends in Sosian, Mweya and Morani, who remain with her to keep her company at the base of Mazinga Hill, when the others choose to climb it, Mukwaju being an avid mountaineer. Up the hill are succulent aloes and other delicacies not found down below, so going up Mazinga Hill is a favourite past-time. On occasions, Natumi, the overall Matriarch chooses to remain with Mweiga, so she is never alone, and never wanting for compassion and assistance. At the large waterhole, she occupies the deepest part in order to avoid the exuberant games of her peers, who enjoy romping around and climbing on one another. On one occasion Lolokwe sunk Mukwaju, beyond trunk reach of air, something instantly noticed by both Natumi, (the Matriarch) and Laikipia, (the biggest boy), both of whom rushed to the rescue and drove Lolokwe out of the pool and off into the bush for a period of isolation as punishment! On another occasion Seraa submerged herself completely, with just the tip of her trunk moving around above the surface like a periscope, although she took the precaution of popping up periodically just to check that no-one was going to “duck” her as well!
Just one wild bull in passing on the 15th acknowledged the presence of the orphans, who were up Mazinga Hill at the time. He rumbled a greeting, and raised his trunk, and was answered in the same manner, but he was obviously on another important mission, and had no time to pause. On that day Emily and her group joined the orphans at the big waterhole, and having had a wonderful time there, spent the afternoon in their company, when Ilingwezi was very torn and would have liked to remain with her friends, but was called away by Emily. The next day their old friend Uaso came to visit them, and they had a fun time climbing all over him as he lay down in the shallows. Again, he took an interest in Edie, his favourite girlfriend, but apart from sniffing her genitals, refrained from persecuting her too much as he spent time feeding in the afternoon with our orphans, before departing for the Voi river. On the 17th Emily and her group returned, and this time Ilingwezi decided to remain with her friends, returning with them to the Stockades, just like old times, obviously with Emily’s permission, because on this occasion Emily did not try and call her back. Ilingwezi, slotted in as though she had never been away (having been a wild elephant for many months) and having taken a drink at the Stockade trough, happily joined the others in her erstwhile Stockade. Up until the end of the month, she was still with the other orphans, and Emily had not been back to retrieve her.
Very obvious in this Diary is the obsession Loisaba has for Morani who is one of the younger members of the group, (5 years old). She stands guard over him as he frolics in the waterhole, keeping the other rompers at arms length and keeping him close when feeding. Up until now, it has been Ndara who has always been Loisaba’s favourite, but Morani now enjoys the special protection of both Loisaba and Ndara, so he is in the pound seats! As the overall Matriarch, Natumi does not seem to have any particular favourite, and shares the overall supervision of the group with Big Boy Laikipia, who is now 8 years old and large for his age.
He is a very compassionate, friendly and gentle character, a far cry from the tiny waif that just lay down to die and didn’t even want to try to live, who was mistaken for dead by a herdsman way back in 2001!
Serena, (the orphaned zebra foal) and Rukinga (the orphaned baby kudu), both of whom form part of the Voi Orphans, and who are thriving and growing up in the care of the Keepers, have enjoyed feeding in amongst the resident herd of impalas. Likewise, the orphaned elephants have fed peacefully amongst this resident impala herd as well. The resident impala herd comprise descendents of Daphne’s beloved impala orphan “Bunty”, who, for the 12 years of her life, chose to spend the days in Daphne and David’s garden, but joined the wild herd at night, and who had 8 wild born offspring, Daphne acting as midwife on each occasion. Because of Bunty, the resident herd of impala around the Park Headquarter compound holds a special place in Daphne’s heart.