The onset of rain in the Southern Section of Tsavo East National Park relieved what had been a prolonged and very tough drought period, exacerbated by wild fires that burnt most of the vegetation on the Irima and Ndara plains and around the Voi Stockades, forcing the elephants, our orphans included, further afield. The rain also saw the return of some of Emily’s Unit. Tsavo, Mweya, Sweet Sally, and Morani visited the Stockades again after a very long absence, as did Edie, and Lissa with part of her family. Sweet Sally Tsavo and Morani were again spotted below the Voi Safari Lodge, this time with Aitong, later on in the month, when it was noticed that Mweya was limping heavily, her left back leg swollen and obviously very painful. The Keepers led her back to the Stockades for attention, where she was treated by Dr. David Ndeereh from our Mobile Veterinary Unit. Thereafter she remained close to the Stockades presenting herself daily for treatment on the foot until the wound, which had probably been inflicted by a stick splinter, had healed completely. She was then able to return to the bush and the orphaned “family” in good health once more. It is, indeed, very touching that she permitted the Keepers and the Vet to treat her sore foot without sedation, testimony to the implicit trust and faith she had in the human family to help her heal. It is comforting to know that the orphaned elephants know where to come for help whenever needed.
The 60 Minutes News Programme is a very prestigious slot in the United States, attracting some 30 million viewers each night. Our Orphans were featured in this Programme 3 years ago, and now that all the Voi Unit orphans are Keeper independent and living perfectly normal wild elephant lives amongst their wild peers, the Programme organizers decided it was time for an update. They were particularly interested in trying to catch up with “Emily” who was the Matriarch of the Voi orphans and the star of their previous show, so they spent several days in Tsavo towards the end of the month. Accompanied by Joseph Sauni and Keeper Julius, all of whom can identify all the Voi orphans just by appearance, they were scouring the bush for Emily when they came across instead orphan Mpenzi with a brand new baby. We were delighted to get this news, as were they in terms of their new film, for Mpenzi lost her firstborn to a pride of lions two years ago, when she gave birth alone without the protection of other elephants just below the Voi Safari Lodge. Having learnt a lesson the hard way, this time round, she was with Lissa and her three wild-born offspring, as well as 12 year old Uaso plus some wild elephant friends, all of whom were being very protective of the new baby. Mpenzi was the “Nannie” to Lissa’s three wild-born calves, and this time round Lissa repaid her handsomely by acting as a protective “midwife” ably assisted by curious 12 year old Uaso who spends a lot of time with Lissa’s group, as well as that of Emily and/or Natumi. 60 Minutes got very touching footage of Mpenzi’s new baby, who has been named “Asante” (the Swahili word for “thanks”). We all give thanks for this very happy event in Mpenzi’s life – an orphan reared from the age of just l year who was found and rounded up by the Voi Unit orphans who escorted her back into the fold when Eleanor was the Voi Unit’s elephant Matriarch.
The Voi Keepers have had a busy month searching for the Voi Unit orphans, but have not managed to catch up with Emily and some of the others who must be with her. We suspect that Emily could also be preoccupied perhaps with a new baby of her own. However, during their outings they saw quite a lot of the wild dogs who have been in the vicinity of late, and replete lazy lions, who have had easy pickings during the height of the drought when herbivores are easily ambushed at the few sources of permanent water, and are weakened by having to walk long distances in search of food that is sparse.
Mkuki and Chia, the two orphaned baby kudus currently at the Voi Stockades are both thriving and in good health.