The Voi area remained much drier than other parts of Tsavo, receiving comparatively little rainfall. As a result, a number of wild elephants frequented the mud bath used by the orphans after their midday milk bottles. Many came with tiny babies in tow, much to the delight of our Voi girls. They know they have to curb their enthusiasm when playing with these young visitors, as the protective nannies and siblings will chase them away if they become over-enthusiastic.
This intrigue works both ways. One day, a teenage wild bull excitedly joined the orphans in the mud bath and spent a long time sparring with Panda and Tundani. He even followed the herd when they left the waterhole, joining them for a browsing session before returning to his family.
Once again, our Keepers had to keep a keen eye on little Pika Pika, who tends to wander off with wild herds as they drift back across the grasslands. We’re not sure if she actually wants to follow these elephants, or she is simply lost in thought as she follows them. However, it is as if her wild friends understand that Pika Pika doesn’t belong with them quite yet, and they always allow the Keepers to fetch her without incident.
Ndii is still fiercely protective over Pika Pika. While nothing so dramatic occurred as last month’s incident, when she bit Ishaq-B’s tail in a fit of jealous rage, she sometimes has trouble keeping her temper in check: One day, Ndii charged into the mud bath when she saw Pika Pika playing with Mbegu and pulled her close to her side. Kenia, who is the matriarch, is really the only one who can claim Pika Pika’s presence over Ndii.
Ivia the buffalo’s unusual friendship with the orphans continues. He plays occasionally with Ngilai, who was his original friend, but Ndotto now has his full attention. While everyone else wallows in the mud or enjoys a dust bath, Ivia and Ndotto are embroiled in spirited sparring matches. In fact, they get too animated for some of our visitors’ liking: One day, a wild matriarch took umbrage to their over-enthusiastic game and charged at them until they stopped. If Ivia ever feels like sitting out a game, the elephants try to engage Cheza the buffalo instead, but she remains too ladylike for such antics.
With Ndotto having commandeered much of Ivia’s attention, we have seen a new friendship flourishing between Ngilai and Tagwa. This is very encouraging for our little Tagwa, who can be quite reserved. Ngilai is always coming up with new games to play with her. It was fun to watch them engage in a version of hide-and-seek from behind a tree.
Tagwa, Tamiyoi and Sagala remain very close friends. It is often this trio — or just Sagala on her own — who lead the herd out to browse in the morning. While some of the orphans like to play in the compound after the milk feed, Sagala is eager to get everyone out into the park as soon as possible. We understood this keenly one morning, just as Mudanda and Mashariki started playing on a pile of soil. Sagala trumpeted loudly to signal that it was time to get a move on, and all the orphans dutifully followed her lead. This is actually quite a prudent instinct, as it is very dry and the orphans need all the browsing time they can get. Kenia, the overall matriarch of Voi, also understands the need to maximize browsing. One morning, Ndii was rolling around on the ground when Kenia walked up to her for a moment. She must have made her intentions clear, because Ndii quickly got to her feet and joined the others in the park.
Tundani has his own morning ritual. Perhaps because he is the oldest bull in the Voi herd at the moment, he savours peace and quiet in the early hours. He usually picks up a bunch of lucerne grass and takes it off to his own corner beside the fenceline. This allows him to enjoy his snack, without disruptions from the rambunctious babies. When he’s finished with his lucerne, he simply comes back for more before retreating to his little sanctuary again.