The Southern end of Tsavo National Park where the Voi Unit is based has been very dry indeed, and without the same quantity of browse as is readily available in the north, our older orphans, particularly Emily, Aitong and Sweet Sally are beginning to show signs of a dramatic loss in condition. This is also noticeable in many of the wild elephants, some of whom are also beginning to look very thin. Emily soon learnt that the supplementation of barley, bran and Coconut copra cake available for her at the stockade whenever she happened to call was a welcome relief so she has taken to returning on a daily basis to have her fill. However, for some reason (obviously social) Aitong, along with Sweet Sally, chose to stay away for the first three weeks of this month in the company of ex orphan Mpenzi, now successfully integrated into the wild community and a Nannie to Lissa’s two wild born calves. We wonder whether this could be because Aitong is heavily pregnant and her time close? Perhaps, and time will tell. When she and Sally finally did return, Aitong was looking emaciated but fortunately she, too, soon got the message that drought rations were available and has recently been returning on a regular basis. Since then her condition has improved dramatically. Strangely enough Sweet Sally did not appear to have been affected by the dry season to the same extent, but Aitong has always had a round-shouldered and angular appearance, even at the best of times and being on the lean side accentuates this characteristic.
Every time the younger Voi orphans meet up with Emily and Aitong they are visibly delighted. However, in their absence Natumi takes over the leadership role, ably assisted by Icholta. This month the orphans have spent a lot of time feeding up Mazinga hill at the back of the Night Stockades in search of food, and this has occupied much of their daily routine this month. The mud bath usually presents the opportunity to meet the wild elephants, and the Voi unit has had a number of these encounters, besides interaction involving warthogs, buffaloes and other wild Park inhabitants. The bonds of friendship with some individuals of the wild units are obvious and our orphans are very well tolerated by both the female units and the wild bulls. However, as with humans, some of our orphans are more out going than others and socialize more easily, whilst others are shy and more retiring. Mweiga still enjoys her two very attentive best friends and helpers Mweya and Sosian, both envisaged by us as unlikely candidates, but their commitment to Mweiga is quite beautiful to watch. When the others clamber up the slopes of Mazinga hill and the going gets tough for Mweiga, these two remain behind to keep her company and ensure that she is safe, or remain by her side when she can climb no further, a perpetual reminder to us humans of just how compassionate and caring elephants are of family and friends.