“Kimana”, was transferred to Voi from the Nairobi Nursery on the 12th May 2010, having become progressively weaker for some weeks, obviously suffering from a chronic condition that needed further investigation. He died suddenly on the l7th October, seemingly having given up the will to live. He obviously missed Kenia and Ndii sorely, and at the other end they, and all the other orphans, missed him sorely as well, especially as during the night following his departure, the lions were roaring close by, leaving the orphans even more unsettled the next day.
The autopsy on Kimana’s body revealed one unusually enlarged heart ventricle and very enlarged lymph nodes which have been taken off for further testing. We should get the results in a couple more weeks time. Kimana’s death was a severe blow to us all, for he was dearly loved. He had never grown as he should and at the end of his life was half the size of others of his age and even though his was a short life, it was nevertheless a happy one, for he was never without an outpouring of love both from his devoted Keepers and his special elephant friends Kenia and Ndii. Latterly, Lesanju and Lempaute paid him extra special attention, keeping close beside him, laying their trunks lovingly across his back to comfort him, and Lesanju restricting the pace of the group to keep him company at all times. This was another reason to bring him back to Nairobi, because he was slowing them all up and inhibiting their ability to feed at a time when this was important for them all.
The dry season in Southern Tsavo is always very harsh now that grassland has replaced the previous thicket scrub cover. When the grass and herbs dry out, the elephants have to search hard to find sufficient browse, which is why a lot of the elephants head out of the Park to the nearby ranches and hills where there is more browse. Included amongst these, sadly, are our Voi Ex orphans. Emily’s Unit has spent almost the entire month away, only returning to the Voi Stockades once at the beginning of the month. However, ex orphaned Kudus, Aruba and Mkuki returned one evening, both looking in fine form, Mkuki with beautiful spiral horns. Both are now living wild, but always recognize their Keepers whenever they happen to meet up out in the bush.
Lesanju’s group of Keeper Dependent orphans have met up with wild herds and mingled with them on only a couple of occasions this month, because most of the wild elephants are not within their beat, and they have also been taken inside the Headquarter fenceline where there is more food, to browse. A cow elephant and her family, who are regular visitors to the Voi Stockade water trough, came once to drink there but after the orphans were already in for the night.
Tassia, as Wasessa’s chosen “favourite” enjoys her close attention and protection. Whenever he bellows and is in trouble with one of the others, Wasessa moves in rapidly to sort things out, always of course in Tassia’s favour! Siria and Mzima are close, but also competitive, Siria envious whenever Mzima is occupied with either Taveta or Shimba. Lempaute remains the mischievous member of the Unit, very close to Lesanju with whom she has grown up. She can be guaranteed to always entertain any human visitors with special tricks, this month charming a group of local School Children with her antics, which prompted Siria to try the same technique to get attention. The orphans have enjoyed extra rations towards the end of the month to help them through the dry season. They have a hand-out of Dairy Cubes and Copra Cake each morning before they head out to browse. Besides browsing inside the fence, Mzima decided to lead them up Mazinga hill on one occasion, where they found a lot of tasty herbs in amongst the rocks. They all remain in good condition and are coping well with the challenges of the dry season. Milk feeds and mudbath time are the highlights of the day, the mudbath now an artificial one created for them out in the bush, with drinking and wallowing water trucked in. The milk is driven out to the mudbath venue, and Mzima keeps an ear out for the sound of the engine, racing ahead of the others to be first to get his bottles.
Dida and Sinya are not overly keen on water, and unless it is very hot, prefer a dust-bath instead, with Mzima, Siria, Tassia and Taveta the main wallowers in the group. Lesanju is proving an able Matriarch of the group, assisted by Wasessa and Sinya. She moves in to separate warring parties and is quick to comfort and reassure those that need it. The Voi Unit is a very happy little herd of growing elephants, self sufficient with only Siria eager to try and follow any wild herds they happen to spot during their foraging travels. He and Wasessa are the most outgoing, having been orphaned old enough themselves to remember their previous wild existence.