The Keepers at our Voi stockades were delighted when on the 8th February 2019, out of nowhere, nine year old Mbirikani arrived at the stockade compound just before seven in the evening.
In May 2018, Mbirikani and Ajali joined up with a wild herd at the baobab water hole, and before the Keepers eyes they walked off with the wild herd across the savannah. Despite the Keepers best efforts, they could not trace them, and it seemed they had decided to accompany this elephant herd who had accepted them into the wild. Over the next few days we continued to search by air as well, just in case they had been deposited by the wild herd further afield, but we never managed to spot them.
So it has been nearly a year since we last saw Mbirikani, and we can only speculate as to why she decided to return. Perhaps the wild herd had wandered far that day in search of good pasture, and Mbirikani and Ajali had no way of returning home even if they had wanted to. Perhaps with the recent rains the same wild herd returned to their browsing grounds in the Park, so close to Mbirikani's old home, and upon recognising the area, Mbirikani decided to pay us a visit.
We feel the herd did return to the area as only a couple of days later on the 10th, Ajali came to the mud bath area in the afternoon as well! He remained much more reserved and did not want to socialise with the orphans and the Keepers. He chose to stay with Mbirikani for a few hours, and then he wandered off back into the Park, with Mbirikani choosing to stay behind.
The night she returned, Mbirikani stayed in the stockade compound and in the morning, accompanied the milk dependent orphans out to browse, and this is what she has continued to do every day this month so far. Mbirikani browses and interacts with the milk-dependent orphans all day, before returning to the stockade compound with them in the afternoon.
She does not sleep in the stockades, but chooses to sleep in the compound, until the orphans come out in the morning again. Needless to say, matriarch Kenia is not as overjoyed to see Mbirikani return. She views her as a threat to her matriarchal status and keeps pushing Mbirikani away.
We are not sure how long Mbirikani will choose to remain close to home with us and the milk dependent orphans, but we are just happy to see her looking so healthy and well and flourishing despite the horrendous injury she suffered which caused her to be orphaned in the first place.
She was discovered in the Chyulu Hills in July 2013, with a cable snare embedded deep into her front right leg, a wound that cut right to the bone and took many months of careful treatment and rehabilitation to get her back to perfect health. She is a wonderful gentle female who still carries the scare, with a slightly fatter lower ankle than the other, but she has obviously not forgotten those who worked so hard to save her life.