In view of what is taking place in terms of poaching in and around the Tsavo National Park, it was a huge relief when Emily, and most of her unit, including her own calf and that of Edie, returned to the Stockades, having been absent for a long time. Several of the bulls of her unit were missing, namely Burra, Solango and Siria, but perhaps they have attached themselves to older bulls, or separated from the female unit when adult bulls came to monitor adolescent females who are approaching the age when they could fall pregnant. Big Boy Laikipia, the largest Ex Orphan Bull within Emily’s unit turned up alone on the 12th which was followed by the appearance of Emily’s group on the 14th and a very joyful reunion with all the Keeper Dependent Youngsters when she went round touching each one in turn, and rumbling to them. Ndara, who has been recuperating from 3 poisoned arrow wounds, one of which was in a foot which left her so lame that she has had to be an invalid for many months, returning to sleep in her erstwhile Enclosure whilst handicapped and as such a target for the Tsavo lions, and either spending time feeding alone nearby, or accompanying the Keeper Dependent Youngsters browsing around Mazinga Hill. Ndara has been returning to her erstwhile Enclosure at night whilst she has been handicapped, and as such a target for the Tsavo lions. She was not at the Stockade compound when Emily first turned up on the 14th.
But she was there when Emily’s group came again on the 27th when they were clearly delighted to see her again and spent a long time comforting and rumbling to her, touching her foot with their trunks, clearly delighted to know that she had survived the poachers’ wicked attempt on her life. Similarly, Laikipia paid her special attention during his earlier visit to the Stockades. Witnessing such events, no-one can be left in any doubt about the very human nature of Elephants, and how caring they are of those they know and love.
For the first time Ndara spent a night away from her enclosure on the 29th, the day the Juniors enjoyed time with a wild herd who happened to be browsing up Mazinga Hill, and so enjoyed this interaction that they never bothered to come down for their noon milk feed and a mudbath that day, returning only in the evening. Ndara obviously joined up with this friendly herd, who is quite obviously known to the Juniors. She came to the Stockades early the next morning (30th) when she took Shimba off to browse alongside her, leaving the other Juniors to head off into the main Park in an entirely different direction. (Shimba later left Ndara to join his Junior peers) but Ndara returned to the Stockades in the evening, where she waited until Emily turned up, and she was reunited with Emily’s group. She the left along with them - a very happy story to counter all the grim news, and one that again confirms the mysteries of elephant communication – that Elephants are “just like us, but only better than us!”
It has been a challenging month for the Keeper Dependent Juniors, many of whom remain milk dependent still. Their month has focused on finding enough browse around and up Mazinga Hill, heading off to a noon mudbath either at the Stockades or at the artificial wallow in the main Park, fun and games at the wallow, then browsing their way back in the evenings. Interaction between the Juniors encapsulates the usual competitive nature and rivalries for dominance amongst the young bulls, (mainly how they are rated amongst their male peers, just like human boys) the caring and disciplinary role of the Older Females, competition amongst smaller elephants to be “the favourite” of an older female, opportunistic behaviour to take advantage of one in a compromising situation etc., etc. Panda and Emsaya are the two smallest female elephants at the Voi Rehab facility, Lesanju the main Matriarch, and Wasessa subservient and younger than Lesanju, although larger in size. Lesanju enjoys the backing of her best friend, Lempaute and is ably assisted in her Matriachal role by Kenia, and to a lesser extent, Ndii, both caring “would-be” runner-up Matriarchs.
When one knows the individual players intimately, and followed their progress daily through the Nursery from early infancy, the dynamics and personal relationships, likes and dislikes etc., are all essentially human traits, as is the tendency to bare a grudge and settle the score. Our orphans have taught Science a great deal about their species, and overcome the “anthropomorphic block” that has inhibited Scientific understanding of the Elephant Psyche for so long. The best Elephant Behaviouralists are those that undertook the study of Elephants with an open mind and no pre-conceived opinions, and added the Phd bit later!