Intermittent rain showers have kept the vegetation around Mazinga Hill green for our Orphans this month, who have enjoyed drinking and wallowing in rainfilled puddles, sometimes browsing the base of Mazinga Hill, and at other times climbing up to seek out tasty shoots sprouting in between the rocks. Sadly, the rescue of a lone calf with a bad leg on Galana Ranch was unsuccessful, for the calf in question was about 7 years old and far too strong and aggressive for our Keepers to subdue. They stood by awaiting the arrival of the Vet attached to the Trust’s Tsavo Veterinary Unit only to be told later that the Vet had another emergency call and could not come so the rescue team returned empty handed. The wounded calf who had an arrow still imbedded in its leg, has not been seen again.
On the l8th our Orphans enjoyed a visit from all the Ex Orphans under the Matriarchal leadership of Emily, Irima and Mweya the front-runners who turned up first, followed later by Emily and the rest of the Ex Orphaned herd. Whilst Lesanju always enjoys greeting them, she is nevertheless wary of them enticing members of her unit away. On this occasion the Ex Orphans followed and joined the Juniors out in the bush later, where they browsed together happily until it was time for the milk dependent babies to head off to the milk venue and the others to the Big Waterhole for a wallow at noon. Whilst together, Shimba struck up a strong friendship with Big Boy Morani, the two feeding side by side, and Morani opting to remain with Shimba even after Emily led the rest of her group away. Icholta and Thoma, both exceedingly fond of the Juniors, spent their time doing the rounds to check up on each and every one, touching them lovingly with their trunks and when Emily left, Icholta remained behind until the Juniors headed to the Mudbath and milk venue. Then both she and Morani left in the direction taken by Emily while Shimba ambled off to join his peers at the wallow.
The Juniors have also enjoyed interaction with wild Elephants this month - on the 8th when they met a wild Matriarch with a very small calf who warned them off, confronting them with outspread ears and a low rumble. They took the hint and gave this family a wide berth! But on the 11th they were joined by a young wild bull, who turned up un-noticed until the orphans detected his presence through scent, raising their trunks to do so. He wanted to fraternize but became aggressive when he spotted the Keepers, charging towards them. The orphans quickly surrounded their Keepers to protect them after which the wild bull left, looking over his shoulder as he went, perplexed as to why any elephants would want to protect what he viewed as “the enemy”!
On the 12th the Orphans met a friendly wild herd amongst whom they browsed until the Juniors heard the milk truck, and this triggered a stampede which startled the wild elephants who took off with tails aloft, leaving Lesanju and the Senior Orphans wondering what the fuss was all about! On the 20th the Orphans enjoyed browsing with a very friendly wild Matriarch, her two daughters, (each of whom had a young calf afoot), and a young bull of about 8 years of age. The Orphans spent the better half of the day with this friendly family.
On the 25th the Orphans joined another friendly wild herd after the mudbath and spent 3 hours browsing amongst them far from their usual feeding grounds. They enjoyed this immensely, the Keepers keeping a safe distance from the herd in order not to spoil the party for the Orphans. The Orphans again met up with this friendly wild herd on the 27th even further afield, and remained with them until about 4 p.m., even foregoing their noon milk feed. The Keepers had to call them to return in the evening. The Orphans tried to establish contact again with this herd the next day, but failed to meet up with them, but nevertheless they enjoyed feeding in their newfound browsing area.
The smallest member of Lesanju’s unit is little Panda, who had earlier shown signs of being unwell, but who has apparently improved enormously following a change in milk and a course of injectible penicillin. During her convalescence she has struck up a friendship with the orphaned zebra foal named “Lualeni” who is being reared by the Keepers, and Panda enjoys browsing with Lualeni, happy to be apart from the pushy antics of the Big Boys who enjoy endless sparring matches. Wasessa remains obsessed with Emsaya, her favourite calf, but becomes pushy and very greedy over the supplements, so she has her share away from the others. Lesanju and Lempaute remain best friends who share the Matriarchal role and are always there for one another, as are Kenia and Ndii, while Tassia and Taveta are also close, as are Mzima and Shimba. Younger boys Layoni and Dabassa enjoy challenging their bigger peers to Pushing Games, and Rombo and Kivuko, who have long had an axe to grind, seem to have buried the hatchet this month and have been playing together amicably, much to the Keepers’ amazement! Kivuko, who is tuskless, makes up for being unarmed by being extra “naughty”, and who can blame her, surrounded by so many bigger peers armed with sharp barbs! Every day is filled with incidents, Pushing Games, Tests of Strength, yells for help from the vanquished to which the older females always respond. In all, it has been a very happy month for the Voi Unit Orphans, all of whom have been making the best of the green browse brought on by recent rain, even though, so far, the rains have not been overly abundant around the Voi area.