On the l3th June Laikipia, Salama & Lolokwe went off with Uaso, who has been a regular visitor to the younger Voi orphans, and were taken to join Emily’s unit who have spent the entire month away from base with a wild herd. Lolokwe then returned alone to join Natumi’s now independent unit. Meanwhile, Natumi recruited an older female into her group who remained with them for several days. Edie has been assigned the duty of Matriarch to the youngsters, who are still enclosed in the Stockades at night and she has voluntarily chosen to remain with them throughout the month, spending nights with them back in the Stockade in order to be at hand to escort them out in the morning. This month, either Natumi’s group, often accompanied by Uaso have also been turning up at the Stockades regularly, to escort the youngsters out, or else joining up with them somewhere out in the bush. There have only been a few days during the month when Natumi and her group have not joined the youngsters, something that has apparently left Edie somewhat frustrated, since Edie, looks upon herself as the youngsters’ Leader, and resents having to stand down for Natumi. Similarly, Natumi resents the presence of Uaso who has been more or less a regular intruder into her unit and who takes charge. The dynamics of elephant social behaviour closely mirrors that of us humans!
Mweiga, although much improved, is still very slow, and normally trails the other elephants within Edie’s group, happy to walk slowly with a Keeper and in the company of the baby Kudu, Rukinga, and the young Zebra mare, Serena. Rukinga and Serena keep a distance from the others, who enjoy giving them a chase, and on one occasion chased the two right back to the Stockades, where they took shelter within the electric fence. Edie deliberately sometimes leads the youngsters out very slowly, giving Mweiga a chance to keep pace with them, which is very touching.
The reappearance of Ndume, after a very long absence spanning well over a year, has been a highlight of this month. He and a wild bull friend joined the orphans on the 25th, inspecting Natumi’s reproductive apparatus closely, before moving on. On that occasion Uaso just happened not to be present, although hardly a day passes when he does not show up, either first thing in the morning, occasionally alone, or meets the youngsters out in the bush, joining them for the mudwallow, and escorting them back home, either with or without Natumi’s group.
The dry season now takes hold, and the April/May rains have all but failed in Tsavo, so the orphans face another tough challenging dry season ahead. We are fortunate that the October, November rains were substantial, and that the country around the Voi Stockades remained tinged with green up until the beginning of the month. Also that June, July and August are cool months for East Africa, which allows the orphans more foraging time.