During the height of the dry season, the Voi orphans have concentrated on feeding in order to benefit from the best remaining vegetation, prior to the onset of another dry season. During very dry conditions the dependent orphans receive a healthy supplementary supply of Lucerne and copra cake in addition to their milk feeds, as they, accompanied by their Keepers are unable to traverse huge distances in search of food. However, their body condition remains good despite such testing conditions.
The month began with our Voi keepers receiving a report about an orphaned elephant calf sighted near the DSWT funded Dida Harea borehole on the southern plains of Tsavo East. The Voi team of Keepers immediately travelled to the scene to rescue the baby before returning to the Voi air strip to await the arrival from Nairobi of the Rescue Plane to airlift the female calf to the Nairobi Nursery for intensive care. This little baby has since been named Mara Moja, (the Swahili word for “right now” after her rescue on the 1st of the month.)
After her adventure with a wild elephant herd and her ordeal with a lion the previous month, orphan Embu continues to improve daily both physically and psychologically. She loves rolling around in the soft piles of soil at the stockades in order to get a good dusting, but the Keepers keep a close eye on her to ensure that her wounds are not compromised. Her body condition definitely deteriorated following her trauma, and her wounds have been slow to heal, but she has been regaining confidence, evident by the fact that she leads the Voi dependent orphans out to browse on occasions.
On the 4th of June Kenya Wildlife Service Senior Warden, Mr. Wambua, whilst on patrol sighted a female orphaned baby elephant heading towards the Kanderi swamp water troughs. This orphan elephant calf was extremely thin and dehydrated suggesting that she had been on her own and without her mother’s milk for a considerable time. Mr. Wambua observed the calf for a long time in order to be fully satisfied that she was, indeed, abandoned, after which he immediately alerted the DSWT Voi Keepers. She was rescued and held overnight at the stockades in Voi, but was so weak that she continually collapsed despite everyone’s best efforts, and intensive veterinary care from Dr. Poghon. Sadly, ‘Deri’ as she was later named, died shortly after her arrival at the Nairobi Nursery, her rescue sadly having come too late. The fate of the mothers of both these calves rescued this month has not been confirmed, since no carcasses have been found within the vicinity of their rescue which renders the reason for them being orphaned, puzzling. Tsavo is, however, gripped by worryingly dry conditions which for abandoned orphans is extremely life threatening since they lose body condition without their mother’s milk rapidly, despite being over a year old.
On the 8th the Keepers and the dependant elephants were happy to see Ex Orphan Lesanju and the other members of her herd which included Taveta, Sinya, Lempaute, Mzima, Kivuko and Dabassa, back at the stockade for the first time in a while, all looking happy and well. Their skin colour was grey rather than the colour of the red laterite soil found around much of Tsavo’s southern area, suggesting that they must have travelled further afield.
Araba continues to be the much loved baby of the Voi Orphaned Unit, with Kenia keeping a close eye on her, protecting her from the advances of mini-matriarchs such as Mashariki and Suswa who would love to steal her for themselves. As a result of being the cossetted favourite, Araba is prone to jealousy when Kenia pays attention to other little orphans such as Mudanda! Thankfully, however, since there are many loving females in the group, Mudanda is far from being deprived of love and care from the others.
Panda’s great friend, Ex Orphan Taveta, is still a daily visitor to the stockades, especially in the mornings when the copra cake and lucerne is distributed by the keepers. Some evenings Taveta even tries to sneak into Panda’s stockade, but is told by the keepers that he is now a big boy and should be outside of the stockades with his wild friends and the Ex-Orphan herds. During this month the orphans have had plenty of opportunity to mingle with the wild elephants. One day a single wild elephant cow and her six-year-old calf came browsing close to the orphans, the wild calf easily mingling in amongst the orphans whilst feeding, while her mother seemed happy for her baby to play with this strange motley bunch of babies along with their Human Minders. Kenia and Ndii followed the wild elephant calf everywhere, seemingly both curious and possibly a bit dubious about the intention of their new friend and her mother, and not without good reason because when they decided to leave the orphan group, they tried to take Araba with them! However, Kenia, Lentili together with Panda followed the wild cow and rescued precious Araba, before heading back to the stockade in the early evening hours.
On the 24th Tassia arrived alone at the Stockades in the middle of the night having disappeared with a wild herd for a while. The Keepers were awoken by his arrival as he was welcomed by loud greetings from the dependent babies, who were rumbling with delight. Everyone was comforted to see him again and still in such good condition. Tassia then left the stockade after taking water but hung around for more than half an hour before leaving. The following morning he returned, along with his great friend Taveta, who had been absent for the past three days.
This month the orphans encountered a wild elephant herd, which was recognised as the herd that had taken and later abandoned Embu a few weeks earlier. Embu immediately recognised them and moved towards them giving them warm trunk touches. Two wild elephant calves also recognised Embu and tried once again to encourage her to follow them and leave the Voi orphaned herd behind. Embu seemed not to have learnt her lesson as she moved off with them once again but Ndii and Naipoki were quick to see the danger and swiftly cornered her and pushed her back towards the safety of the Voi orphans, doing the work for the Keepers to ensure that she remained safely within their dependent herd.
Towards the end of the month the vehicle carrying the elephants milk arrived at the water hole at noon where the keepers were surprised by a pride of six big lions who were using the water hole to ambush and hunt unsuspecting animals coming to drink water. Plans were swiftly adjusted and the orphan’s milk was ferried to where the elephants were still browsing instead, with their drinking water getting moved to the stockade water trough, far from the risk of the notorious Tsavo lions.
Ngulia the zebra, who is now completely weaned off milk, is a well-loved member of the Voi orphaned family and has become a self- appointed foster mother to Salla the orphan baby Oryx. They love to play together in the mornings after being let out of their night stables, chasing each other around with boundless energy. Whilst zebra Ngulia enjoys her playtime, Jamuhuri, the buffalo and the two orphaned baby elands, Kore and Tawi, are disappointed to be left behind as they try to join in but sadly find that they are not fast enough to keep up.