The Voi Unit Dependent Orphans and their Keepers found themselves in a serious situation on the 29th when they were ambushed on the western slopes of Mazinga hill by 7 very aggressive lions, who chased off the men and surrounded the elephants, attempting to isolate one from the main group. The Keepers raced back to the Stockades and rushed back by vehicle, fortunately arriving in time to avert a tragedy. Using the vehicle they managed to chase off the lions but both men and elephants alike were left very shaken since the Tsavo lions are a very real threat and are quite used to targeting young elephants who lack the protection of several adults. They are also not averse to having the odd human as well!
Due to the failure of adequate rain in April and May, and the early onset of another dry season, the Voi Dependent Orphans, like those at Ithumba, have benefited from supplements of Lucerne, Copra Cake and Dairy cubes. Sadly, the Voi Ex Orphan unit has been conspicuous by their absence this month, obviously having moved further afield along with most of the resident wild elephants of the area. That said, the orphans have had a few encounters with wild elephants during the month, one wild herd having emptied their drinking bins on the l7th. Another small wild herd was encountered as the orphans were returning to the Stockades during the evening of the 8th, when the orphans tried to engage a wild youngster in play, but were prevented from doing so by the wild calf’s Big Sister. A wild cow and her 2 calves came to drink at the Stockades during the late evening of the 23rd but the orphans were already in for the night. The next day the orphans met a wild herd who were on their way to Middle Mudbath to drink as the orphans were in the process of leaving, but the wild elephants were thirsty so the interaction was brief.
Searching for sufficient browse within Keeper walking distance of Mazinga hill dominates the days of the Junior dependent orphans during the dry seasons. Chief Hill Climber, Shimba led the herd to the very top of Mazinga hill on the 28th, where they found some succulent browse at he summit which proved sufficient to keep most of the orphans up the hill all day, even foregoing their noon milk feed. The Keepers had to call them back in the evening. Fun and games take place at the noon milk and mudbath venues, which this month has alternated between the artificial Middle Mudbath in the main Park, and the wallow at the Stockades whenever a school visit is scheduled. At such times the elephants enjoy playing to the gallery, particularly Taveta and Tassia who engage one another in a shoving match, cheered on by the human audience! Competition as to who will lead the column each day is another much sought after privilege. Emsaya who was vying with Rombo for the lead role on the 1st found herself deliberately thwarted by Tassia who held her back using his trunk so that his friend Rombo could take the lead, again illustrating elephant forethought! Tassia features prominently and is a main player in this month’s Diary. Hitherto he has always been subservient to Taveta, but seemingly his wrestling skills have improved to enable him to get topsides of Taveta with whom he has always been very competitive. Meanwhile, older boys Shimba and Mzima are also competitive but also firm friends, Shimba ever eager to initiate his favourite game which is Hide and Seek. Unhappily during one such game which took place on the 27th, he fell headlong into Mzima having tripped over a rock but very fortunately managed to escape injury along with retribution from Mzima who obviously understood that this time it was accidental and not deliberate! Rombo, Dabassa and Layoni remain firm friends, having been close during their Nursery time, with Layoni eager to be able to spend time close to Big Girl Wasessa whose favourite “baby” is Emsaya. Emsaya is very possessive of her favourite status, and guards it jealously, as she did on the 25th when Layoni managed to snatch some time near Wasessa in the mudbath. Sinya, along with Lesanju (the main Matriarch) and impish Lempaute is another Big Girl who favours Kivuko. Kivuko came in extremely emaciated and weak, but has since recovered sufficiently to be up to chasing off warthogs and their piglets awaiting a turn in the Middle Mudbath. On another occasion an old Bull Buffalo was not so easily deterred by Kenia, who arrived at the scene ahead of the others to find the old buffalo lying in the mudbath. She did her best but he refused to budge for just one young elephant, so Kenia had to wait for reinforcements to expel the inruder! Lempaute is as mischievous as ever, enjoying irritating Sinya by persisting in snatching Lucerne out of Sinya’s mouth until Sinya was forced to move elsewhere in order to feed in peace.
Shimba and Mzima besides being firm friends, are also regular sparring partners, their bouts eagerly monitored by the younger boys – Dabassa, Rombo, and Layoni, as well as by Taveta and Tassia. Testing their strength against one another is the favourite pastime of young Elephant males, but something that is discouraged by the females unless the contestants are very evenly matched both in age and body size.
It is very rewarding that Ndara’s arrowed foot is improving steadily but surely. Although she still walks with a limp, she is up to moving further from her Stockade enclosure than previously, returning voluntarily and in her own time. She enjoyed fraternizing with a visiting wild cow and her calves who came to drink at the Stockades one evening and also enjoys the company of the Juniors before they leave in the mornings and also when they return in the evenings. Her human family – the Keepers – keep her well fed with cut browse and supplements and protected at night, with food and water on hand, Ndara is indeed a lot luckier than her wild peers nowadays when all elephants are under threat of being killed for their ivory, fuelled by the demand of the uncaring human masses of the Far East and especially in China.