The year began with the following ex Nursery orphans resident at the Voi Unit Stockades – Lesanju, Lempaute, Sinya, Wasessa, Shimba, Mzima, Siria, Taveta, Tassia, Kenia and Shira. Also still within the vicinity throughout the month were Emily and her calf Eve, Edie and her calf Ella, and some of the ex orphans accompanying these two now “wild” Matriarchs. (Emily and Edie brought their respective calves back to the human family at the height of the 2009 drought, their babies weakened since the mothers’ lactating capacity had been compromised by the extreme conditions. Supplements sent down from Nairobi to boost the mothers’ milk yields happened to coincide with the onset of the first heavy rains, so both calves rapidly recovered and are now again healthy.)
Emily, Edie, their babies and some of the now wild ex orphans accompanying them have remained in the area during January, often meeting up with the resident Keeper Dependent orphans now based at the Voi Stockades and spending quality time with them. Siria and Shira are particularly comfortable amongst the older ex orphans, and Icholta stands out as being the most friendly towards the new Youngsters.
Emily’s group was at the Stockades on the 2nd accompanied by a “friendly” wild boy when Icholta led all the orphans, including the new ones, out to browse around Mazinga hill. The Voi orphans enjoyed all morning in the company of the ex orphans and it was only when they spotted the pickup taking their milk to the mudbath venue that they left them.
On the 13th Emily’s group just missed meeting up with the new Voi orphans at the mudbath venue, so Icholta followed their scent trail until she caught up with them in the afternoon, and browsed with them until Emily began heading off in the direction of the airfield. Icholta then left the babies, and ran to join Emily’s unit again. On another occasion (31st) the Voi orphans bumped into Emily’s and Edie’s groups on their way back to the Stockades in the evening, and Shira remained with them, while the rest of the Stockade group hurried ahead for their milk. Shira then decided she had better do the same, but was prevented from leaving by Mweya and Icholta who blocked her retreat. The ex orphans loved having her with them and brought her home long after all the others had already been enclosed for the night.
Edie’s group were spotted at the Red Waterhole on the l8th, but happened to miss the Voi orphans on that day, who had already left ahead of their arrival. However, on the l9th as the Voi orphans were heading out to browse, Shira and Siria lifted their trunks, rumbled and hurried ahead to join Emily’s and Edie’s groups who were all together round the corner. On this occasion the Youngsters were with the older ex orphans for the entire morning, joined them at the noon milk and mudbath venue at the Red Waterhole, and enjoyed a joint swim with them in the pool, Lolokwe, Salama and Nyiro having fun in the water with Siria whilst Icholta picked up a dry stick to scratch her itchy belly.
The routine of the Voi orphans follows more or less the same pattern on a daily basis. Upon being allowed out of their Night Stockades and after their first milk feed of the day, the orphans enjoy playing around the Stockade compound until the Keepers are ready to escort them out to the browsing area, which is usually around, or up, nearby Mazinga Hill. Singled out especially as good hill climbers are Shimba and Siria, but all the Youngsters enjoy being up the hill where they find tasty herbs in amongst the rocks. At about 11.30 they begin heading towards the milk and mudbath venue, either back at the Stockades, but more recently at a large natural waterhole below the KWS Headquarters, known as the Red Waterhole where the noon milk feed takes place. When full, this waterhole is deep enough for them to submerge their entire bodies, with just their trunks above the waterline like periscopes and on hot Tsavo days, the swimming and wallowing activity provides endless fun and games, especially when the ex orphans are there with them.
The main Matriarch of the Keeper dependent group is Lesanju ably assisted by Sinya and Wasessa. Wasessa has singled out little Tassia for her special attention. She is never far from his side and allows him to comfort suckle on her ears. She is also every protective of him, and on the 8th punished Siria severely for interrupting an ear suckling session by attempting to mount Tassia. Siria ended up with a couple of small wounds in his bottom inflicted by Wasessa’s small, but sharp, tusks! Another altercation took place between good friends Mzima and Siria when Mzima snatched a tasty branch from Siria’s mouth, triggering a furious chase but on this occasion Mzima managed to escape with the prize, and all was forgiven and forgotten during the Red Waterhole games!
Of the Voi orphans, Siria and Shira seem to enjoy the company of the older ex orphaned group most. Exciting encounters with other species include bumping into the resident troupe of baboons making their way from the hill to the Staff Lines to scavenge in the mornings, something that always provides an interesting diversion. Once the baboons are on the run, a spirited charge ensues, usually led by Siria and Shimba, the two most Senior boys. The orphans often come across other distractions on their daily travels, such as vervet monkeys, which they also enjoy chasing, and the resident impala herd, with whom they are quite friendly. On several occasions the elephants actually browse in amongst the impalas, but are usually freaked out whenever the ram sees off an intruder competing for his ewes. The elephants were very disturbed when on the 16th they happened upon the body of an impala killed by a predator. All then dashed back to their Keepers and were extremely fearful. A resident leopard who frequents Mazinga hill occasionally gets a baboon.
When two of the now wild orphaned kudus, the male called Mkuki and the female named Aruba returned on the 16th minus their male companion, Njia, the Keepers are worried that perhaps Njia might have suffered the same fate as the impala. We hope not. The Keepers were also were very saddened to loose little “Manga”, a baby bull eland orphan currently in their care, who died very suddenly on the 31st. This orphan was pathetically thin when handed over to them by a community person, and is likely to have succumbed to tick-borne disease through a depressed immune system caused by the recent drought.