Voi Reintegration Unit
Save for a few scattered showers, rain again evaded us this month. The Voi herd diligently focused on browsing throughout the day, as elephants must if they are to fill their bellies during these sparse times. However, the orphans remained lively and optimistic.
One morning, our matriarch Mbegu sauntered around the corner looking very pleased with herself. She had managed to break a branch from the acacia tree and was happily munching away on her spoils. Ndotto tried to steal some of her tasty prize, but Mbegu quickly ran off with the branch in her mouth. He got his revenge later that afternoon, as Mbegu settled for a nap. Seeing her eyes closing, Ndotto ran over and started pestering her, effectively ruining her peace and quiet.
We are so proud of Mudanda’s continued transformation. Once standoffish and a bit harsh, she has become such an empathetic, nurturing elephant. We saw this one afternoon, after Ndotto intercepted a game that Rorogoi was playing with Pika Pika. Realising that Rorogoi felt embarrassed to be excluded from her own game, Mudanda dashed over to her friend and invited her to a pushing match of their own.
Sagala, Tamiyoi, and Godoma are obsessed with wild babies. Whenever the Voi herd receives wild visitors, the girls promptly scan for any tiny calves in their midst. This is often an uphill task, as nannies and siblings are notoriously possessive of their youngsters. To circumvent this protective force, the girls sometimes pretend they are drinking alongside visiting herds, but really they are just waiting for a window of opportunity to play with the babies!
Godoma may not be frightened of the wrath of possessive nannies and siblings, but she is very scared of heights! One morning, she tried to take a shortcut from the terraces by climbing down, as many of the orphans do. After several brave attempts, fear won out and she just walked the long way down.
Ngilai remains best friends with Emoli, his adopted little brother and favourite sparring mate. However, his heart belongs to Tagwa. He is absolutely in love with her. Sometimes, he even snubbed the mud bath in the hopes of spending one-on-one time with his girlfriend.
Although the orphans mainly focused on businesslike browsing this month, some days were more energetic than others. One morning, it was all systems go after the milk and lucerne pellet feeding, as if everyone had woken up with barrels of energy. Even our quieter orphans, such as Lasayen, Embu, and Murit, enjoyed the occasional raucous game.
After more than a year living wild with an elephant herd, Tahri seems happy to be home. She is certainly in no rush to resume her wild adventures. One afternoon, Tahri noticed a wild elephant browsing atop Mzinga Hill and went up to join her. However, the moment she heard the milk truck approaching, she abandoned her pursuit and returned to the orphan herd. For now, she is enjoying all the creature comforts that come with being a dependent orphan — and who can blame her!
On 15th June, we welcomed another old friend back into the fold. Ex-orphan Nguvu, who has been living wild for quite some time now, paid us a visit. He spent a long time chatting with the orphans before venturing off into Tsavo with his new family. He and Suswa spent a lot of time together, perhaps catching up on everything that has passed since his last appearance. It was wonderful to see Nguvu looking so well, and we were very touched that he introduced us to his new, wild family.
The following day was also noteworthy, because it marked little Juni’s first day out with the orphan herd. Rescued last month, she came to us in a terrible state. Drought victims are always an uphill challenge, but Juni has recovered well. She was an old pro out with the orphans, as if she had done the whole routine hundreds of times before.
The junior girls have decided that Lemeki and Thamana are no longer exciting, because Mudanda has adopted them and rarely grants the others access. Instead, they set their sights on Juni, who is also a young baby. This led to a turf war between Tagwa and Sagala, both of whom want to claim the youngster as their own. One morning, Tagwa was busy preventing Juni from interacting with Sagala, but Sagala managed to stand with her back just touching the little girl, ensuring that her presence was still felt!
With Juni on the scene, Pika Pika and Thamana are feeling a bit dethroned. One several occasions, the Keepers spotted Pika Pika shoving Juni away from ‘her’ big sister, Arruba. Thamana is the worst offender and seems very jealous that Juni has usurped him as the youngest member of the herd. Whenever she comes close to him, he rudely pushes her away. Fortunately, Juni has no shortage of doting friends to keep her company.
True to form, Lemeki is too focused on herself to be trifled by the addition of another youngster. She is so smart and crafty. After a morning milk feed, the Keepers spotted Lemeki sneaking through an open gate. She circled around the back of the stockades and made her way over to the parked truck. She knows this truck delivers bottles to the baobab feeding area each afternoon and seemed to think it is a vending machine, always fully stocked! She was very disappointed when she discovered it did not have a bounty of extra milk bottles ready for the taking!
Ndotto plays such a pivotal role in the Voi herd. The Keepers often say he is a life-changer to many of his friends. Earlier this year, he transformed Mudanda by bringing her out of her shell. Now, he has set his sights on Lemeki. Throughout the month, the Keepers saw him singling out the younger girl for sparring matches. He clearly wanted to pass on a crucial message to Lemeki that she doesn’t always have to stick so close to Thamana and avoid socialising with the rest of the herd. As the weeks progressed, Lemeki became more confident leaving Thamana’s side and joining the other orphans for games. We believe that Ndotto’s efforts to get her outside her comfort zone are working!