The long rains have arrived in Kibwezi Forest, the forest drawing significant storms, so Kibwezi forest has received more than most places within the Tsavo ecosystem. At first the orphans were reluctant to get their bodies wet amidst the thick damp vegetation, instead choosing to walk along the drier paths! However, they soon celebrated the delicious new green shoots and abundant lilies that sprouted with the arrival of rain, and before long were feasting on the thick growth of grass as well. Numerous small mud baths were also created by the rain, along with moist soil in which to slip and slide and plaster on their bodies every day to condition their skin. Some of the babies, such as Lima Lima and Zongoloni, have retained a habit they picked up in their Nursery days - hiding their heads under their Keepers’ umbrellas when heavy rain falls.
The rain has also prompted the resident pythons of Kibwezi forest to exit their waterlogged hide-outs. Although not a threat to our orphans, the Keepers have remained diligent to ensure that the orphans do not accidentally tread on one, something that Lima Lima nearly did as she followed a path towards the end of the month! On this occasion the other orphans were more observant so there were no incidents. Amphibians have been numerous during the wet season, sharing the orphans’ mudbath, and of course Umani Springs is known for its magnificent and abundant butterflies which were also are out in full force, providing great entertainment particularly for Zongoloni and Lima Lima! Visible white butterflies that fly around in great clouds always galvanise the orphans into action. A particularly amusing incident for the Keepers took place on the 13th when Zongoloni and Lima Lima rallied the entire herd into an attack on the unwitting butterflies, kicking, slipping and sliding in the process!
Lima Lima continues to be designated Leader by the two de facto Matriarchs of the orphaned herd, Murara and Sonje, who prefer to bring up the rear due to their compromised hind legs that impede them from walking faster than the others. This leadership role also allows greedy Lima Lima to be first in line for the milk feeding sessions, much to the annoyance of some of her friends such as Quanza. Early on in the month this same hearty appetite of Lima Lima prompted her to scheme about how to snatch some bails of lucerne straight from the store! She, and her roommate Quanza, dragged the bails along the ground, when they were too heavy for them to carry, creating a scene of chaos as all the orphans rushed in to snatch their share! The keepers had to defuse the situation by pushing a wheelbarrow of lucerne around to try and separate the warring orphans!
Despite her greedy nature, Lima Lima is the most diligent protector of her human family of Keepers, invariably reacting to some threatening scent which has been undetected by the humans. On the 17th she immediately alerted her keepers to a group of buffalo and 2 large Elephant Bulls who were approaching. Sonje is the devoted Mini-Matriarch of the group, ever ready to impart comfort when needed, especially to her favourite little boy Ziwa, whom she also protects from older boisterous boys such as Faraja and Jasiri, sometimes with the help of Murera as well. Jasiri seems to be trying to gain some level of independence recently, often walking on his own and choosing to browse away from the others in the herd. Perhaps he is trying to separate himself from the control of the females of the herd, despite still being dependant on the security of the stockades and his human family of Keepers. He remains best friends with his wrestling partner, Faraja, and never goes anywhere without him.
The friendship between Sonje and Ngasha also seems to be blossoming as she can often be heard rumbling to him inviting him to browse alongside her. This is a source of jealousy for Ziwa who thinks he should be the only little boy cared for by Sonje. He is prone to pushing Ngasha away from Sonje, enlisting the help of Murera at such times. Zongoloni’s behaviour has been unpredictable this month; sometimes behaving well and at other times her mood can change in a split second. During these bouts irritation she is unfriendly towards the other babies, especially Ziwa and Ngasha who get pushed around. However, at other times she is friendly towards them all!
Wild elephants are still approaching the orphans on occasions but shy away when they see the Keepers. However, we know that this will change in time as it has at both the other Tsavo Relocation Units where our Keepers can stand amidst herds of Ex Orphans, their dependent charges and wild elephants as well. On the 6th a wild herd with a very young baby closely followed the orphans for quite a while, so closely in fact that the young baby became disorientated and started following Quanza instead of its own mother! The mother quickly came to retrieve her baby and keep it under the security of her own belly. The orphans themselves are becoming more confident and bolder when approached by wild friends as well, especially Lima Lima and Zongoloni, but less so in the case of Quanza and Murera, who remain a little more reticent at such times. The 11th found the orphans in a jovial mood, running around and trumpeting loudly, so much so that their wild friends in the Chyulu Hills heard and responded to their calls. The communication continued until Murera decided that enough was enough and that it was time to leave for the bush, ever wary of losing any of her babies to a wild herd.