Mweiga, who has always been a very weak elephant, suffered a bout of diarrheoa on the 11th, which caused us a few anxious days, and was yet another set-back for this very fragile elephant. However, having been dosed with Sulphadimidine, she has recovered, but her health has been further compromised in a very dry, and challenging year. Extremely protective of her, are two rather unlikely orphans, the young 5 year old bull named Sosian, and the once pushy little Ugandan elephant, Mweya. Both have demonstrated an enduring compassion and love for Mweiga which has stood the test of time. Both are always by her side, keeping her company when she lags behind and cannot keep up with the rest of the group, and shielding her from the exuberance of the other young bulls, who enjoy demonstrating one-up-man-ship by mounting. Sosian and Mweya were there for her when she remained back in the Stockades during her bout of ill-health, too weak to go out with the others. Their love and care of her is proof yet again that elephants feel compassion for the plight of the less fortunate, and have an enduring loyalty to those they love, even at a very young age.
This month, the wild Matriarch called “Naomi”, who is a longstanding acquaintance of the orphans, has spent quality time amongst them – on the 2nd, when Laikipia and Natumi did their best to coax her calf away from her, and she held it tightly between her tusks and forelegs; again on the 3rd when she and her herd joined the orphans at their noon mudbath, and this time Mukwaju found himself in trouble for trying to hijack her calf. On the 5th, Natumi and Ilingwezi led the orphans to join Naomi’s group, focusing again on her small baby, but on this occasion they were permitted limited access. On this day Thoma had fun with a much larger wild cow, who obligingly lay down and allowed Thoma to clamber all over her. On the 6th Naomi and her family again joined the orphans at their mudbath and spent a long time with them.
During the evening of the 6th, Emily, Aitong and Sweet Sally turned up at the Night Stockades to take a drink – the only occasion that they have chosen to renew contact this month, which has surprised us. They have been spotted on many occasions in amongst a large wild herd, so they are obviously having a fun time with this group, and after all, l month is not a long separation in elephant terms! No doubt they are still keeping in touch through the elephant low frequency infra-sound. The Keepers noticed that Aitong and Sweet Sally have visibly lost condition, which is not surprising in this, a very dry, dry season. We are confident that if they feel nutritional help, they will know where to find it!
On the 11th the orphans made contact with a wild group consisting of 3 cows, 2 grown-up daughters and a four year old calf, who found himself walking back amongst the orphans, without his family, when they began to return for the night. Realising that he was without his mother and family, he panicked, and yelling, began to rush back to be met by the family as they were rushing forward to fetch him! On the 19th the orphans again joined 3 large wild females who had five medium sized youngsters with them. Natumi had an intimate time with the Matriarch, standing close beside her, and quietly touching each other gently with their trunks. The Keepers felt that Natumi was exchanging Matriarchal information with this wild cow, perhaps even getting a few tips about what it takes to be an elephant Leader! On this occasion Laikipia engaged a wild age-mate, closely watched by Morani, and when the wild elephant began to get topsides of his friend, Tsavo came in to lend a helping hand and back Laikipia up!
Aside from the serious search for food during a very dry season, the Voi orphans have had great fun playing together, especially during the mudbath hour. Burra, Solango and Seraa are close friends, whilst Morani remains a great favourite, especially with Edie and Mukwaju. Loisaba’s best friend is Tsavo, an alliance formed when both were favourites of Emily. Ilingwezi is showing strong leadership qualities, and she, Edie and Icholta share the Matriarchal duties and leadership with Natumi, who is a less forceful character. As always Laikipia is a major player amongst the Voi orphans, and especially within the bull set. He is a very outgoing and friendly elephant, who mingles easily with wild groups and features prominently in every Voi Diary. He, Salama, Lolokwe, Nyiro, Mukwaju and Mpala often engage one another in tests of strength and enjoy trying to mount the young cows, something that is never popular! On one occasion when Mukwaju was being a pain to Mvita in this respect, she resorted to placing a branch on her back to deter him!
Encounters with other species this month feature chasing off warthogs at the mudbath, seeing off a lesser kudu at the base of Mazinga Hill, and chasing a squirrel! Apart from Mweiga’s bout of ill health, it has been a rewarding month for the Voi Unit, with quality time spent with Naomi and her wild family and other wild units. The long absence of Emily, Aitong and Sweet Sally, is note-worthy and unusual, and, of course, of great interest to us, Emily having been hand-reared from the tender age of just one month in the Nairobi Nursery who grew up to take over the Matriarchal duty and Leadership of the Voi Unit from Malaika, who tragically died in childbirth when l0 years old.