The rescue at Thabangunji in Tsavo of little 6 week old “Shimba” whose mother was translocated from the Shimba Hills National Reserve, and subsequently died, is one of the stories from the Voi Orphans this month. He was actually rescued on 1st october by our Voi Keepers, who had been alerted by a KWS Research Officer that an orphaned baby had been spotted near the body of its dead mother by a Road team working in the area. The mother elephant, who had died the previous day only had a small portion of her trunk left, the rest obviously having been severed by a wire snare, and although the trunk had subsequently healed, it obviously inhibited her capability to feed. Weakened by these injuries, as well as having recently given birth, the trauma of translocation from Shimba proved too much for her. The baby bull she left is about 6 weeks old, and has been named “Shimba”.
He was spotted by our Keepers coming down from the Yatta escarpment, and eventually found resting under a tree. Thirsty, and all alone in a hostile environment, he was delighted to see the Keepers, rushing towards them swinging his trunk from side to side with happiness, and quietly following them to the waiting vehicle. He had to pass by his dead mother en route, and knelt down to try and suckle her, desperately trying to rouse her by climbing onto her, but he enjoyed a long drink of rehydration and water, plus a small mudbath that the Keepers made for him, before being loaded, driven to Lugards Falls Airstrip and collected by the Rescue Plane sent from Nairobi.
There have been only light showers of rain during the month, and at infrequent intervals, so the drought has yet to break, even though the main Tsavo rains are due to start in mid October. We pray that they will not fail again, but at least what little has fallen has brought on a green flush that is being greatly enjoyed by all. Emily has visited the group on three occasions this month, bringing Ilingwezi with her on the 4th. On the 13th she was again with Ilingwezi and also Uaso, and they all spent some time with the orphans. Emily and Ilingwezi then left, but Uaso remained to entertain the youngsters, which he did right royally. Uaso has become a hot favourite, all the young males eager to be as close as possible to him, hero-worshipping him as a Big Boy role model. Only Edie would rather not have his sexual advances, since he singles her out for “mounting” practice.
Emily and Ilingwezi came again to drink at the Stockades on the 25th, and then headed to the Voi River and have obviously been elsewhere for the remainder of the month.
It was very gratifying to see Mpenzi again for the first time since her newborn baby was killed by lions below the Lodge. She is back with Lissa and Lissa’s two wild-born calves, looking happy and settled, so Lissa’s young family have obviously helped her overcome her loss. We pray that next time round, she will be wise enough to remain with Lissa during parturition so that the newborn will have the protection of another elephant, or better still, more than just one. Lissa, and her family, Mpenzi and 2 large wild bulls once more appeared to spend time with our orphans on the 10th, and accompanied them back to the Stockades in the evening, where the two Bulls peeled off. Lissa’s group, including Mpenzi and Uaso were back to spend time with our orphans when Uaso entertained the youngsters again in the mudbath, while others spent time playing with Lissa’s two babies, whom they know very well. Uaso remained with the orphans after Lissa and her family had left, and when he decided to leave to join them, took Sosian with him back up Mazinga Hill where Lissa and her family were feeding. Sosian came back late that day, clocking in only at 8 p.m., long after all the others had settled down for the night. He was let in to join them.
Uaso again joined the orphans on the 18th, and provided them with a great deal of fun and satisfaction. Again Sosian, this time along with Mukwaju, left with him when he set off back to Lissa’s group up the hill, but turned back. The next day Uaso was at the Stockades to greet the orphans the moment they were let out, and remained with them until 3 p.m., once more providing a lot of fun at the noon mudbath.
Mweiga, who is very much better, is now able to climb Mazinga Hill along with the others, where the vegetation benefits from run-off from the rocks. She keeps pace with the others now, although avoids over exuberant games, and even rolls around in the damp earth and mud, something she would never do before.
Our elephants have enjoyed contact with wild groups this month. On the 8th they met 2 large cows with a calf and 3 teenagers and it was none other than Mweiga, accompanied by Laikipia, who initiated contact when all the others hung back. Once they had broken the ice, the others joined in heartily, and the wild cow obliged them all by lying down in the mudbath, with Mweiga and Laikipia sandwiched in between while Solango entertained her calf. Later Laikipia challenged one of the teenagers but Burra butted in, interrupting the game.
On the 15th the Voi orphans made contact with a large Cow who was very possessive of her small calf, denying them access. However, a teenaged bull who was with her was more accommodating and lay down so that Morani and Thoma could lie alongside her, resting their heads on his belly.
On the 7th, sadly a dead calf was reported near the Irima waterhole below the Voi Safari Lodge. The Keepers went to investigate and concluded that the calf had probably been hit by a speeding vehicle, since blood was oozing from the mouth, trunk and anus. Then on the 23rd a lone calf was reported near one of the Tented Camps on the Galana river, so our Keepers were sent to investigate. However, this youngster was far too big for them to capture (about 6 – 8 years old) and could have been another translocation candidate who had become separated from his herd, since he had been hanging around the camp for sometime. He appeared in reasonable condition, and had not been seen since, so we hope that he has found his herd again and not fallen victim to predators.
On the 17th a wild bull broke through the Electric Fence and gained access to the Staff Compound. The fence was lowered, and the orphans were brought along, so that he could accompany them and be shown the way out without panicing. However, before the fence could be repaired, and the power restored, he was back again, so the same tactics had to be repeated, and proved successful.
Because what little rain has fallen has brought on a green flush, and filled some of the natural water pans, it has been a happy, restful and playful month for the Voi Group, who have not had to wander too far to fill their bellies. Mazinga Hill still seems a favourite place, and Mukwaju remains the best mountaineer, always eager to lead the ascent. Laikipia and Burra usually lead the group home, with Solango now a contender for this privileged position.