Tsavo is magnificent at the moment with abundant vegetation, elephants celebrating the green season and all the waterholes throughout the region filled to the brim. It seemed the perfect timing to move precious Mbegu, with best friends Ndotto and Lasayen, soon to be followed by Godoma, Murit and Ngilai.
This band of best friends from the nursery are heading to our Voi relocation unit where we presently have 20 dependent orphans, most of them female! The baby boom in Voi fairly soon is going to be spectacular!
As is usually the case, practicing entering into the elephant moving truck began two weeks earlier to ensure that everything ran smoothly on the day. Initially Mbegu was skeptical, but with the temptation of her much loved Lucerne pellets she simply couldn’t resist, and soon all three were going inside the truck with no trouble at all.
The chosen day was Monday the 21st May, and so it was, in the early hours the team prepared themselves and the elephants were led into the moving truck under muted light hung in the trees to aid proceedings. Mbegu paused briefly but was soon followed by Lasayen and then Ndotto and within minutes all three were safely locked in with the heavy wooden doors closed behind them. Two Keepers travelled in the back with the three to keep them calm and to attend to their needs with bottles of milk and rehydration salts at the ready.
The entourage was safely away before 3.30 am headed down the Nairobi Mombasa road to Voi some 325kms distance. They made a few stops along the way to replenish freshly cut greens, but other than that it was as a very straight forward journey. Excellent time was made and before 9.00am they rolled into the Voi stockade compound with the Voi Keepers eagerly awaiting their new charges. Not too far away there were 20 dependent orphans aware that something was up this day as they hung around in the vicinity too. It took some maneuvering to get the truck lined up with the off loading ramp but once it was and the three doors lowered, wide eyed babies were revealed, with Mbegu the most eager to disembark. With fresh milk on hand all three walked out with mouths open waiting to have yet another bottle.
By now the gang of twenty were piling up at the spring gate eager to get to the new arrivals with Kenia straining to meet the babies, so the moment they had finished their milk the spring gates were opened and Kenia was the first to rush to the three, showering them with attention followed by Ndii, Kihari and Naipoki. It was a wonderfully warm greeting but all quite daunting for little Lasayen, Ndotto and Mbegu! Mbegu seemed the most confused, used to being the big girl where she just came from, now having to adapt to being one of the little ones again! Lasayen was getting heaps of attention given his small size and Ndotto appeared the most comfortable of the three! Some more pellets were given to the youngsters before the whole group headed into the park accompanied by their happy Keepers who were thrilled to have some new babies in their herd.
What was clear from the outset was that these three newcomers were going to be most welcomed and cosseted members having found themselves in a veritable paradise this May. Wild herbs growing everywhere with the heady smell of wild sage permeating the air and white ipomea creepers stretched for as far as the eye could see. It was so pretty with butterflies everywhere, birds busy nesting, bees and bumblebees harvesting pollen, and all animals seemingly replete.
The midday mudbath that the orphans were heading to on this day was frequented by a wild elephant herd of some 25 individuals as the orphans approached - the first wild elephants that our three babies would have seen since infancy! While the wild herd had their fill the unruly mob of adolescent elephants raced down the hill walking briskly with ears outstretched anticipating the playtime that lay ahead. The wild herd took their cue to move a short distance away leaving the waterhole to the boisterous youngsters to enjoy. Leading the herd were the Keepers, followed by Mbegu, Ndotto and Lasayen with their new family of twenty eagerly following!
What was a marvel to witness was Ndotto in the center of the mudbath action with masses of others surrounding him, thrashing around and loving every minute. One could be forgiven for thinking he had been there for years as he appeared so happy and comfortable in his new surroundings. Mbegu and Lasayen on the other hand seemed a little clingier, staying close to the Keepers that accompanied them from Nairobi but venturing to the water’s edge to fling mud sucked up into their trunks against their sides and over their backs. They didn’t seem to have the same confidence Ndotto had to pile into the center of the proceedings.
Later the herd of now 23 peeled off to feed in the hip high grass and wild sage carpeted in creepers, and the whole scene looked like our three Nairobi babies had found utopia! They could not get enough of the delicious ipomea creeper ripping up ribbons of it and stuffing it in their mouths! We feel sure they are extremely ready for their new home, with all the stimulation and fun that will unfold in the days and months to come, and delicious tasty greens thankfully plentiful this year as a result of the extraordinary rains that fell in this area throughout March and April and into May. By the end of their first day Mbegu was interacting very comfortably with the other older orphans and Lasayen was taking his lead from his best friend Ndotto!