Sadly, the long expected rains have all but failed throughout the whole of Tsavo this year, so the orphans, and all wildlife, especially the elephants, face another very grueling dry season unless unseasonal rain relieves the situation. Nevertheless the Voi orphans have made the most of what little sporadic rain did green up the pasture briefly.
It is very gratifying that Ndara’s arrow wounds are healing well. She can now move outside of her hospital enclosure, and enjoys browsing around the Stockade compound, putting herself back in for the night. She also enjoys the company of the Juniors who spend time with her each morning and evening on their way out to browse during the day, and when they return in the evenings.
Emily and Edie, their respective wild-born babies and their Ex orphan unit joined the Keeper Dependent orphans at noon on the 3rd . the Juniors were anxious to play with the two babies, Eve and Ella, but their protective Nannies (on this occasion Icholta and Sweet Sally) would have none of it! A while later Big Boy Lolokwe made his debut, but his sudden appearance scared the Youngsters, all of whom took to their heels. Lolokwe, anxious to reassure them, began to follow, but this simply made them run faster and further, so he gave up and mingled instead with the Senior Ex orphan herd.
Icholta, whom the Keepers believe to be heavily pregnant, came to join the Juniors at the foot of Mazinga hill on the 7th when Dabassa and Shimba took more than usual interest in her genitalia - possibly and indication that the birth of her baby is imminent. Later she went moved to the stockades for a drink where she enjoyed a handout of Copra Cake before returning to renew contact with the Senior Ex Orphan group.
An exciting event took place on the 14th. As the orphans were approaching their mudbath venue, a 4 – 5 year old female elephant ran out of a passing wild herd, instantly joining the orphans amidst great excitement. The Keepers believed this to be Orphan Shira, but not having seen her for several years, were not at first absolutely sure. However, the newcomer mingled happily with the orphans, but appeared wary of the Keepers after living as a wild elephant for several years. Shira spent only a short time in the Nairobi Nursery before being upgraded to the Voi Unit and joined the wild herd soon after that, so she has never become very familiar with the human surrogate family. Lesanju and Sinya were not best pleased by her unexpected return, obviously fearing that being older, she might usurp their Leadership role. Shira walked back to the Stockades with the orphans, as of old, and went in without hesitation, careful to keep in the midst of the others to be shielded from the Keepers. A few days later she actually knocked a Keeper down and a few days after that decided to rejoin the wild herd who, again, just happened to be passing nearby and who welcomed her return very enthusiastically. They went with her to Middle Mudbath venue, where they took a brief wallow before moving off in the direction of the Voi River. This was a welcome relief to the Keepers who were also now somewhat wary of the new, now much more wild, Shira! One youngster within the wild herd gave her a particularly enthusiastic welcome.
Mpenzi and her two wild-born calves (Asante and Mzuri) were spotted browsing happily along the Pipeline road below the Voi Safari Lodge. All appeared in fine fettle.
The dynamics amongst the Keeper Dependent Group are always interesting, the boys vying with one another for dominance in Pushing Matches, and Tassia employing a premeditated tactic to get one over his arch rival, Taveta. He ambushed Taveta unexpectedly as he was climbing up Mazinga hill pushing him to tumble down amidst bounders and rocks, so the Keepers rushed to the rescue, as Tassia wisely took evasive action fearing retribution! Unusually, this appears not to have immediately happened, because the two enjoyed friendly interaction at the mudbath not long afterwards but perhaps Taveta is merely biding his time, because Elephants Never Forget! Sinya tried unsuccessfully to contest Lesanju’s Leadership role, while Layoni has learnt how to hold his bottle of milk himself, snatching it from the hands of the Keeper to run off and down it apart from all the others who, in turn, might try to snatch it! Dabassa, Rombo and Layoni are well established within the Voi unit now, Dabassa and Rombo still best friends while Mzima and Shimba are also good friends, but also rivals when it comes to testing strength in Pushing Bouts.
The mudwallow hour always involves all sorts of pranks and interactions, sitting on one another, submerging themselves with trunks up like periscopes and rough and tumbles that often deter the smaller members of the gang such as Emsaya, who prefers to bathe away from the action. Wasessa objected to Kenia paying too much attention to Emsaya, her favourite, and moved in to stake possession Emsaya having usurped the place of Tassia as Wasessa favourite. Kivuko is gaining weight and is a friendly member of the Junior group.
Layoni and Dabassa took a great interest in some ground bird eggs they happened upon, but were steered away in case the elephants kicked the eggs and broke them. It has, however, been the search for browse that has occupied most days this month, several times involving a climb up the steep incline to the top of Mazinga Hill where there are obviously succulent plants. At such times those at the top (usually the boys) are in no hurry to come down, even missing their noon milk feed, and on one occasion returning well after dark and only because the Keepers went to call them down. The boys are obviously becoming more independent.
The orphans often browse amongst the friendly herd of impalas with which they are familiar, and also enjoy playing chasing games with the antelopes, but are un-nerved when the herd ram gives his guttural rutting call! In all, it has been a happy month for the Voi Unit and all our orphans remain still in good nick. Lucerne and Dairy Cubes will be in situ to supplement their browse as the dry season tightens its grip.