During the month of May the orphans went about their business and regular routines as normal. Starting out early in the morning, consuming their milk and supplements, then on out to the field to browse, until eventually ending up at the water hole around noon, to wallow. This was followed by more browsing in the afternoon and a stroll back to the stockade for their evening milk and bed. The climate at the Voi Stockade was varied, ranging from hot sunny days to cloudy, cold days, sometimes so chilly that the orphans didn’t dare venture into the nippy mud bath waters!
Early on in May, Laikipia visited the stockade a great deal. He seems to have a taste for copra cakes and dairy cubes, thoroughly enjoying joining up with the little ones to feed on the supplements. Usually he came alone but on one occasion he brought along two of his friends, Irima and Morani. Laikipia being gentle, is very accommodating when engaging with the younger orphans, allowing them to sniff, touch and play with him. Emily and her group also made appearances throughout the month, often with big wild bulls in tow. These majestic giants tower over the smaller ex-orphans but everyone seems comfortable with each other, browsing, drinking and wallowing as one. That said, Lolokwe, Laikipia and Irima made sure they gave one of the big bulls, with massive tusks, space when he came to drink at the stockade trough. Icholta, Seraa and Ndara also popped in and out of the stockade. Elephants were not the only visitors this month, Aruba the ex-orphan kudu and her babies grazed nearby on two separate occasions. She has two babies now, but her last born is very shy and kept herself hidden.
The orphans took part in a variety of activities including, wrestling, mimic mounting, soil dusting, scratching, wallowing and strength games. Some of the more sensible orphans had to intervene the wrestling matches ensuring everyone was behaving! Mimic mounting was a favourite past time for Rombo, Taveta, Lolokwe, Morani and Tassia, their objects of affections included Mweya, Panda, Kenia and Kihari. Many of the orphans enjoyed showing off their scratching skills, especially Sinya, Mudanda, Kivuko, Mbirikani and Dabassa, with Ishaq-B being the most impressive of all! During mud bath time, wallowing antics from Lesanju, Naipoki, Wasessa, Taveta and Layoni kept the keepers entertained. It was lovely to see Sinya enjoying a rare moment in the water hole too. Ndii also amused the keepers by rolling around in an erosion trench! Rombo and Mzima took much pride in showing their growing strength to the smaller female elephants and tried hard to impress them all month!
Lesanju, as always proved a vigilant leader, making sure that everyone was ready before either heading off to browse or make their way to either the water hole or stockade. With the help of Lempaute and Sinya she was able to keep a careful eye on the wild herds, moving the gang away from the big groups if necessary. But it was lovely to see some interaction between the wild elephants and both the ex-orphans and orphans. Many wild herds, including tiny babies came to drink at the stockade water hole. These wild babies caused much excitement amongst the orphans and on more than one occasion the babies were subject to ‘attempted kidnapping’ from the orphans! Wasessa also showed herself to be a reliable, loved and adored budding matriarch. Mudanda continues to be her ‘baby’ but both Ndii and Kivuko insisted she share her love with them too! It was wonderful to see many of the older girls looking after Mudanda, helping her down slippery rocks and mothering her, though Wasessa didn’t seem to really enjoy the extra attention given to Mudanda.
Other activities towards the end of the month included a rescue of a male orphan elephant calf and a school trip. The calf had been spotted on the boundary of the Salt Lick and Lualeni Ranch. It had a very badly wounded back leg so a rescue team was assembled and the calf was subsequently air lifted to the Nairobi Nursery for treatment and care. The group of school children came through the trust community programme, visiting the orphan elephants on the evening of the 30th. The children thoroughly enjoyed viewing these humble creatures and it is hoped that an important message was passed on to the students.
Generally, May was a month full of cheerful, happy moments for the orphans at the Voi Stockade. Each morning they left their stockades with enthusiasm, eagerly anticipating a fun-filled, action packed day ahead. There was a great deal of socializing and interaction at the mud bath, watering troughs and even out at the browsing fields. That said, there were quiet, tranquil moments too, with the elephants secure in the knowledge that they are in the safe hands of experienced DSWT keepers.