The death of 5 year old Dida during the early hours of the 10th March, though not entirely unexpected, was nevertheless no less painful for all who had nurtured and loved her since her arrival in the Nursery at the tender age of just one month. As soon as she had died, the Keepers quietly removed her body so as not to overly distress her friends when daylight came.
Having graduated from the Nursery to the Voi Rehabilitation Unit in May 2010, she never grew as she should, remaining so stunted that she could have been mistaken for the calf of one of the larger elephants who were, in fact, younger or of a similar age. The post-mortem undertaken on her body verified what we suspected - a defective heart, but also damaged lungs that lacked the capacity to sustain the health of a growing elephant. When major body organs fail, and do not respond to medication, there is not much we can do about it, other than give the invalid lots of loving t.l.c. during life and a peaceful and comfortable end surrounded by love. Ourselves, the Keepers and Dida’s 3,000 foster-parents were deeply saddened at her passing and will miss her, but can take comfort knowing that she enriched the lives of so many followers all over the world and at least was granted some life, which was happy, free, and among friends who empathized with her and went out of their way to care for her at all times.
All the other orphans had always been extremely attentive to ailing Dida, caressing and comforting her, and protecting her from being accidentally knocked by rambunctious boys. Kenia and Ndii were her special Carers in life but it has been Lesanju who seems to have missed her most. All searched for her for several days, but then seemed to have accepted that she was gone. However, Lesanju undertook another very thorough search of the Stockade compound on the l9th, which continued after all the others had left for the bush. She followed them slowly and sadly, a lot later.
Aside from the loss of Dida, it has been a somewhat uneventful month for the Voi Unit, the boys enjoying their usual strength testing tussles, especially Tassia and Taveta, who seem to have a longstanding score to settle. Mzima and Shimba are main sparring partners with Dabassa, Rombo and Layoni reluctant to engage the bigger boys, although Rombo is more adventurous in this respect. Emsaya remains Wasessa’s favourite, often joined by her best friend Kivuko.
Of the Ex Orphans, only Solango and Burra met up with the Keeper Dependent group out in the bush on the 2nd, greeted warmly by the touch of many small trunks. The two Big Boys spent some time browsing amongst the Juniors before heading to the Stockades for a drink at the water trough, and a handout of supplements. Burra and Solango are best friends. It was Burra who escorted Solango back to the Stockades when he broke his back leg last year.
The other Ex Orphans have been conspicuous by their absence this month, including Siria, who was a frequent visitor last month. All are obviously further afield with the wild herds where browse is more plentiful. The only encounter with a wild herd was on the l8th, as the orphans were approaching their noon mudbath and Wasessa took Emsaya to join them. The two enjoyed time with them at the mudbath until the wild elephants began heading off towards the Voi river. The two orphans then returned to meet up with their peers, and with them had a second mudbath that day.
Light showers of rain broke out towards the end of the month, relieving the heat of the hot dry season and causing a welcome diversion for the orphans, who enjoyed playing in rain puddles and rolling in fresh mud. On two occasions they entertained schoolchildren who were treated to a visit to the Park in the Trust’s bus as part of our Community Outreach Programme. By and large, however, feeding has been the paramount activity of the Voi orphans this month, often climbing up Mazinga Hill to seek out fresh greens, Mzima, Shimba and Ndii being the best climbers.