Although the Orphans’ Stockades at both Ithumba and Umani have experienced good rain, our Voi Stockades have yet to benefit from a good amount of rainfall, although there were a few scattered showers throughout the month. However, cloudy weather conditions presented favourable browsing conditions for the orphans, but sadly the few scattered showers proved insufficient to promote either much re-growth or fill the dried waterholes. Hence our Water Bowser continued to have to top up these drinking places, not only for our own orphans but also for the other wild elephants and resident wildlife as well. The orphans have continued to frequent the waterhole as part of their daily routine due to the lack of rain, and have thus had the opportunity to intermingle with a number of wild herds. Whilst emptying water one day the Bowser (Trailer) tipped over onto its side into a trench, and although it was not seriously damaged, its different position intrigued Lesanju who went over to inspect it, swiftly followed by Mzima who even tried to lift it with his tusks as if to assist the keepers in righting it!
A heavy rainstorm throughout the night on the 17th was a blessing to all and the elephants came out of their stockades the following morning in sheer delight at the wet, soft ground. Slightly chillier days in the wake of the storm left the orphans less inclined to swim in the cold waterhole and they could often be observed perching instead on the rim, as if pondering the actual temperature within! Some such as Ndii and Mbirikani who are more tolerant of cold temperatures took the opportunity to revel having the mudbath all to themselves.
Our older orphans, namely Lesanju, Wasessa, Lempaute and Sinya continue to oversee those younger such as Mudanda, Ndoria, and Bada. They monitor their every move, and come to their rescue or instil discipline when needed. On a day when Ndii was trying to steal milk from Naipoki as she was drinking, gurgling screams of protest drew the immediate attention of Sinya, Lesanju and Lempaute all of whom came to her rescue. Wasessa in particular continues to shield her two adopted babies, Bada and Mudanda, lavishing on them as much attention as possible, and even offering an ear for them to suckle. Layoni and Dabassa continue their wrestling matches in order to establish their position in the ‘bull hirarchy’ amongst the junior herd. A touching friendship has developed between Kivuko and Ndoria, the former watching over Ndoria like a “Nanny” when Wasessa is more occupied with young Bada and Mudanda. Kenia’s health which suffered a slight relapse following the initial course of medication now thankfully continues to improve. Mzima remains quite independent sometimes browsing on his own apart from the others for a couple of hours. Tundani, Nelion and Lentili happily settled in Voi remain a close group, Tundani and Nelion are best fiends still.
We were delighted on the 25th November when, from the direction of the Voi River and over the brow of Msinga Hill, strode a wild herd which turned out to be Emily’s entire Ex-Orphan herd who had not been seen for the past 5months or so, included amongst them Emily’s two wild- born babies, Eve and Emma, as well as Edie and her two offspring, Ella and Eden. After a closer inspection of the herd, the Keepers were thrilled to find that our very own Sweet Sally also had a newborn calf in tow – a wonderful gift for both Thanks- Giving and Christmas rolled into one for which we could ever have wished. Not only were all the Ex-Orphans fit and well, but one of our own had successfully given birth to her first calf so soon after the wonderful news recently received regarding Ex-Orphan Wendi and her new baby, Wiva, at Ithumba. Sweet Sally’s new baby was named “Safi” – the Kiswahili word for ‘unblemished’. He was a boisterous baby boy who was lovingly pampered by all the other wild born babies of the herd as well as the adults, and is already showing signs of being a forceful character! One of 3 wild Bull Elephants who often follow Emily’s herd is particularly attentive of the little one and we believe could be Safi’s Dad!
For a few days Lesanju protectively guarded the milk dependant herd in order to try and and avoid contact with Emily’s large Ex-Orphan group, always reluctant in case she loses one to Emily’s herd. Upon leaving the Night Stockades she often gives Msinga Hill a wide berth in order to avoid bumping into Emily’s group, although this did take place on the 27th of the month.
Another significant happening this month was the arrival of a male newcomer at the tender of age of just 1 ½ weeks old. The calf was found bogged in a deep seepage from the Mzima-Mombasa pipeline and its presence was reported by KWS to our Keepers at the Voi stockade. The Keepers managed to extract the young male calf using ropes after which he was transported to the Voi Stockades there to await the arrival of the Rescue Team from Nairobi that afternoon, after which he was safely flown back to the Nairobi Nursery. Exhausted following his ordeal, the newcomer instantly fell asleep as soon as he was loaded onto the truck, but water and the opportunity to meet Araba upon arriving at the Stockades soon revived him and he responded well to the Keepers. We named him Korongo – the Swahili word for a ditch –reflecting the hole with steep sides in which he was found. That very same day the KWS Excavator with fuel donated by DSWT came to flatten those treacherous steep sides so that they no longer could pose a threat to other young elephants and others.
Araba continues to do well and has slowly become more accepting of her new situation and human family of Keepers. By the 30th of the month she was able to come out of her stockade and mix freely with the other orphans. Immediately Ndii took charge of the newest arrival, and escorted her to the Stockade Water hole for a bath under the watchful eye of Mudanda who was slightly jealous and tried to push Araba away a couple of times. We are so grateful that the fate of this young elephant has taken a positive turn and hope that she continues to progress well amidst her new family. Araba lost her mother to a poisoned arrow.
“Ngulia”, the orphaned Zebra, has been up to all sorts of mischief at the Stockades this month, irritating the elephants whilst they feed and displaying intolerance towards” Kore”, the orphaned baby Eland, even going so far as trying to block the Keepers from feeding the young Eland milk! However, after a couple of weeks Ngulia decided to drop this act and embrace the Eland as a new young friend at the Stockade Compound, much to the delight of Kore who was happy to run around with the Zebra. They have become inseperable now. On the 29th the Voi unit received another addition to their stockade menagerie in the form of a baby Coke’s Hartebeest, just one week old. Brought by the KWS rangers having been found in a village at Kasigau, she was named after that place and the people who rescued him after finding her alone, and is doing well in the company of the inquisitive Ngulia, and Kore.
Our Voi dependent orphans are thriving and their individual tales are recounted through the pages of the Keepers daily entries.