The long drought that has enveloped N.E. Kenya, and encompassed Tsavo, has continued, and hence the daily priority for the Voi Group has been the search for sufficient food, over and above the supplements that are provided for them in the evenings once they return to the Stockades. Most gratifying is that all of them remain in good condition, and even Mweiga’s physical condition has improved dramatically, so much so that she can now keep pace with the others, and sometimes even leads the group and participates in the thick of the mudbath activities amongst the others, something that hitherto she has always been reluctant to risk for fear of being knocked over. It was a red letter day when she came second in a race to the milk venue, involving Solango, Burra and Morani!
Emily has been a regular visitor at the Stockades this month, turning up in the afternoon, and waiting to greet the orphans when they return in the evenings. She has been coming alone, without Aitong, Sally, Tsavo and Ilingwezi, and was at the Stockades during the evenings of the 8th, 9th, 14th, 15th, 17th and 21st, when the Keepers, fearing that she might have ‘lost’ the others, escorted her round the hill to meet up with Aitong. We are pretty confident that Emily knows exactly where her group is at all times, and that her presence can simply be explained by the fact that she also wants to still keep in touch with the still dependent orphans whom she looks upon as part of her “family”. On the 11th she turned up in the morning, and accompanied the orphans to their feeding area around Mazinga Hill where they met up with a wild cow, her teenaged calf and her smaller baby, whom Laikipia and Solango kept on following, thereby incurring the irritation of the mother, who sent them packing! In their hasty retreat they inadvertently bumped into Mweiga, knocking her over, and in response to her bellow, Emily was there in a flash to help her to her feet again and ensure that she was alright. Soon afterwards that day, Emily left the orphans and the wild unit, and the Keepers were surprised that none of the orphans made any attempt to follow her, nor did she expect them to. On the 20th Emily was seen up the hill, and returned to the stockades for a drink at 3 p.m. where she hung around waiting for the return of the orphans and met them at the Spring Gates treated to a highly charged greeting. Emily came to the Stockade again, this time with Ilingwezi, during the evening of the 28th, but did not stay long. The Keepers report that she and her group, namely Aitong, Sally, Tsavo and Ilingwezi are all also still in good condition, none of them showing signs of malnutrition despite the ongoing drought.
On the 23rd, the orphans were joined by three cows, one teenager and a small calf at their mudbath and drinking bins. This wild group shared the drinking water provided in the bins with our elephants, but became unphased by the presence nearby of the Keepers, so left before enjoying the mudbath. However, this group was a unit that was obviously well known to our elephants and they were comfortable to be amongst them. There was another wild contact on the 26th when the orphans met a wild herd on their way to the mudbath.
Lolokwe has taken to emptying one of the bins to make his own private mudbath on days when the weather is not conducive to going into the bigger puddle, and each mudbath is usually followed by competition to be first at a nearby anthill against which to rub wet bodies and get them plastered with red earth. Burra is good at digging up earth using his tusks, prevented from retreating from this chore by Loisaba immediately behind him! Loisaba, who is very possessive of two of her favourites, namely Morani and Ndara, was at odds with Natumi when she paid Morani too much attention, and whilst so occupied, Edie moved in to take Ndara from her side! However, Loisaba regained possession of both in the end.
Encounters with other species this month involve giving 6 lions a wide berth, chasing two squirrels round the Stockades, sharing their water bins with a herd of zebra and passing near four giraffe and the big herd of buffalo, whom they encounter regularly around Mazinga Hill. The little zebra orphan, named Serena, was a focus of interest for Emily during one of her visits, and enjoys watching the antics of the orphans each morning, though careful to make sure that she does not get chased by being behind the electric wire! She and the baby kudu (Rukinga) are close companions, and entertained the Keepers to an amazing game of chase on the 30th each passing the other as they raced from their Stable at the back of the Stockades, to the Staff Canteen, and back. All in all it has been a happy, month for our Voi elephant family, each day filled with interesting little very human incidents involving one another, and every morning greeted with unbridled joy, playfulness and happiness. Therein surely lies an important example of elephant wisdom and something that is very African – in other words, live for the day and take tomorrow as it comes!