It has been an action-packed month for the Voi Keeper Dependent unit, who have enjoyed a great deal of attention from Emily’s Ex Orphan herd in the habit of turning up on most days, either all together, or in Splinter Groups to partake of the Supplements handed out for the Juniors each morning. Ndara, now healed from the poisoned arrow wounds, is back as one of them. The Ex Orphans are all very interested in the progress of Shimba, who is still recovering from his lion mauling, Big Boy Lolokwe making a special solo journey just to check up on him. Should the Juniors already have left by the time the Ex Orphans arrive, any hand-out leftovers are eagerly hoovered up and, if they are lucky, even a fresh batch provided! Previously the Ex Orphans have missed meeting up with little Panda who has been elsewhere browsing with her little zebra during their visits. However, they met her on the 3rd when Mweya, Sweet Sally and Thoma were eager to take possession of her, and since then always try and seek her out. Panda has formed a close bond of friendship with Shimba as well as her little orphaned zebra companion “Aruba”.
Shimba’s lion wounds are practically healed now, but the earhole of the damaged ear appears to have closed, and this may necessitate surgical intervention later. He and Panda remain browsing around the Stockades rather than risk venturing further afield with the others. Along with the smaller Keeper Dependent Juniors such as Layoni, Dabassa, Rombo Kivuko, Tassia, Kenia and Ndii the two are fed their share of supplements ahead of the second sitting of older orphans, Lesanju, Lempaute, Wasessa, Sinya, Taveta, and Mzima who are inclined to become overly pushy at such times. It is indeed impressive that a Keeper standing between the two groups manages to control them with just the wagging of a finger, since any one of them could easily shove the Keeper aside to access what they regard as a special treat, yet they respect the authority of the Keeper, even when grown Ex Orphans!
Lesanju is never happy to share her “family” of Keeper Dependent orphans with the Ex Orphans, or other wild elephants for that matter, for fear of the “baby-snatching syndrome” common to female elephants from a disrupted family background. She is always eager to try and steer her group away if she possibly can, taking them to browse high up Mazinga Hill should there be many wild elephant herds in the area or should she spot the approach of the Ex Orphans anxious to make contact with them out in the bush! That said, the Juniors, including her, have thoroughly enjoyed the company of a friendly wild herd on two occasions this month, when they were even reluctant to leave them until darkness prompted their return. This, in spite of Wasessa doing her utmost to urge them away earlier.
The Ex Orphans are often accompanying by Big Wild Bulls during Stockade visits. The Juniors, and particularly the boys, are very much in awe of such Big Boys, one of whom came with Ex Orphan Sweet Sally, and keeping his distance, paced impatiently up and down awaiting her return, at the same time visibly astounded that Sally and the Ex Orphans were so friendly with what he viewed as the human Arch Enemy! Another visiting Big Bull paid particular attention to Edie’s baby, little “Ella”, laying a huge trunk lovingly over the baby’s back while Ex Orphan Irima was at hand to assist Sweet Sally as she tried to prevent Emily’s baby, Eve, from again jumping into the Stockade waterhole, something she did the day she was brought back as a newborn to meet the Keepers! Lolokwe, another of the Orphan Big Boys who came back alone to check on Shimba often seeks out the Juniors as they are browsing out in the bush. Morani is another Ex Orphan Big Boy who is usually with Emily’s group, sometimes the only one of the Big Boys, all of whom are becoming more independent of the female herd. The Diaries constantly illustrate the caring nature of the Bulls, even of wild Bull Strangers who are always caring and gentle towards the babies, something that cannot be said of all human males!
Of Emily’s group Icholta, Thoma, Sweet Sally and Mweya, Nannies to the wild-born calves of both Emily and Edie, are most obsessed with the Juniors, focusing always on Panda, who is still smaller than their two wild-born charges. Icholta is another who is especially fond of the Juniors, peeling off from Emily’s group to come and join the Juniors at their noon mudbath, her unexpected arrival initially startling them but calming them with a soft low rumble before jumping in to join them. Both the Voi and Ithumba daily Diaries illustrate very clearly that all the Orphans look upon one another as part of an extended family, those living wild returning to familiarize themselves, and welcome Keeper Dependent orphan newcomers into their extended family.
Wasessa, who originally chose Tassia as her favourite, is again restoring to him that special status now that Emsaya has been absorbed into a wild elephant herd following the orphans’ night out after the scary thunderstorm of a couple of months back. While Lesanju is undoubtedly the main Matriarch of the Juniors, assisted by her close friend Lempaute and big girl Wasessa, this month Sinya has been allowed to test her Matriarchal skills. The biggest boy of the Keeper dependent group is Mzima, who has been missing testing his Pushing skills against his best friend Shimba and who is becoming somewhat restless as a result. Strength Testing is the main preoccupation of all the smaller Junior boys, who often separate from the girls in order to avoid disruption of their game. One instance of this was on the 15th when Rombo and Dabassa separated from the main herd to engage one another behind a huge boulder on the slopes of Mazinga Hill. On this occasion their bout was disturbed, not by one of the girls, but by a piercing elephant scream which sent them fleeing. In fact, the origin of the scream was Taveta being chased off by Wasessa for pushing Tassia, so they need not have worried, even though the scream also brought Lesanju to investigate the cause of such confusion. Dabassa and Layoni are likewise very competitive not only during Pushing Bouts, but also as to which of them should lead the Junior herd either back home in the evenings, a privilege normally enjoyed by either Kivuko, Kenia or Ndii.