Every female elephant aspires to the position of Matriarchal Leadership in charge of a herd, and our orphans are no exception. However, things become confusing, with ex Matriarchs now living wild with youngsters taken to form their wild unit, (Emily), her replacement, (Natumi), also now independent of the Keepers, with some of the youngsters taken from the dependent group to form her unit, but still more closely attached to the Junior set (Thoma) who are still enclosed at night for their own safety. Emily’s group returned after a month-long absence, often joining up with Natumi and her satellites, and in so doing usurping Natumi’s Matriarchal position. Edie, who was previously part of Natumi’s group, returned to assume leadership of the dependent youngsters amongst whom Thoma is the oldest female. All this mingling has caused a mixture of joy at each reunion, but also underlying dissention amongst the various Matriarchs. All are overjoyed to meet up again, but then Natumi resents having to step down in rank whenever Emily is present. Similarly, Edie is not overly excited whenever Natumi turns up to escort the youngsters, and Thoma would rather be in charge of them, but has to defer to Edie!
Natumi has frequently been in contact with the dependent youngsters this month. With so much interaction between the various independent and dependent groups, some of the orphans who were previously with Natumi, seem to have attached themselves to Emily, leaving Natumi with just three boys, Lolokwe, Mukwaju and Irima. Laikipia, was escorted off to join Emily by Uaso who seems to have teamed up with Mukwaju and Lolokwe, often coming with one of both of them without the others to join the youngsters at their noon mudbath. Then on the 2nd Mukwaju came to the Stockades on his own to escort Edie back to Natumi’s group who were on Mazinga Hill, but after a while Edie chose to return on her own to spend the rest of the night with the youngsters in the Stockade. Emily’s group and that of Natumi were together on the 4th when they turned up in the evening, and did the rounds of the Stockades, greeting all the youngsters who were already enclosed, touching them through the bars and rumbling loving greetings. On the 9th Lolokwe came to join the youngsters’ mudbath, and left with Uaso and the following day the two bulls came to drink at the Stockades together, and left together. Emily’s group and that of Natumi have spent days all together, but then separated again meeting up with Thoma’s group at the mudbath, when the wild group of Eleanor’s friend, Catherine and her family, also came to join them, having been with Emily’s group earlier on. No doubt, when one of the wild adult Matriarchs, (such as Catherine or Naomi), are with the ex orphans, both Emily and Natumi have to concede their Matriarchal status.
The youngsters (Thoma’s group) have seen much more of Natumi’s group this month than that of Emily who have been independent longer and are comfortable going further from home. On the 13th Natumi came with Lolokwe and Mukwaju to escort the babies out, (when Mukwaju was tempted to remain with them). They were there again on the 15th, and came along with Emily’s group on the 17th (when they again came to drink at the Stockades and did the greeting rounds), there at dawn on the l9th and 20th, (without Emily) and arrived to join the youngsters at the mudbath on the 22nd. On the 27th the wild Matriarch Naomi took Natumi’s group off after they had seen the youngsters to bed and on the 28th Natumi was back early in the morning to escort the youngsters out into the bush. Meanwhile, Edie had chosen to remain with the youngsters as their Matriarch, but on the 29th she left with Natumi’s group and by month-end had not returned to make contact, so Natumi obviously needed some female company, and Thoma has then had a chance to come into her own!
The Voi Unit are, once again, in the throes of an extremely tough dry season, exacerbated by fires on the Ndara and Irima plains, lit by arsonists, one of whom was arrested. The weather has alternated between hot and cold days, which is unusual at this time of the year, and the country is reverting to semi desert conditions rapidly. Mweiga has improved and is a little stronger, but still very skinny not having put on much weight despite her supplemented rations. However, she keeps pace better with the others, and can get up from a recumbent position unaided now.