Keepers' Diaries, April 2020

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Umani Springs Reintegration Unit

Alamaya’s head-strong ways is keeping the Keepers on their toes these days. He can be obstinate sometimes yelling out in protest when he doesn’t want to do something. At least the Keepers have the matriarchs to help them, and Sonje is always on hand to discipline him and helpfully pushes him into cooperation, rumbling her disapproval when she sees Alamaya disobeying his Keepers. She is also there to protect him however, especially from the other bulls like Ziwa who try to keep Alamaya in his place. While Alamaya is out to prove how tough he is within the herd, this can land him in hot water with the other bulls who are bigger than him! Alamaya is an impressively big boy and is going to grow into a huge adult in time.

Alamaya is determined to act like the big boy in the Nursery though, and is happy to lead the orphans out to the forest in the morning. He uses every opportunity to prove his strength so as not to be underrated by the orphans, so even a simple pushing game with Quanza means he will push back with all his might until Quanza gets the message and walks away. His compensation in this regard are probably as a result of him being a eunuch, brutally mauled by hyenas when orphaned.

We were happy to see Sonje’s old bull-friend Osama back this month, having last seen him in December. Back in 2016 when Osama first appeared on the scene, he was very aggressive towards the Keepers and only interested in socialising with Sonje on his own. His aggression would send the Keepers fleeing for cover and the other orphans walking around a bit confused and dazed that their matriarch was cavorting with such an aggressive a rowdy bull. Osama is very much a changed Bachelor now and is very polite and gentle around the orphans and even the Keepers. He doesn’t seem to mind their presence at all now. We saw Osama a few times this month, but we were surprised to find that Sonje no longer had any interest in him – perhaps he had been away too long! We also met good-natured wild bull ‘Ndugu’ this month as well, who was keen to join up with the Umani herd. The wild bull whose name means ‘brother’ is so friendly he even helps the Keepers shepherd the herd through the forest which is quite funny; it was due to this habit of his that the Keepers decided to call him Ndugu.

Mwashoti and Alamaya were very young when they first came across Osama, having only just moved to the Umani Unit from the Nairobi Nursery that year in May; to see them now in his presence it is heart-warming as they enjoy their time in his presence. There is no doubt Alamaya is still dwarfed by Osama’s shadow! But due to his ever-growing confidence the little bull walked right up to Osama to invite him to a pushing game one day! We couldn’t believe our eyes, but luckily Osama was very friendly and handled Alamaya kindly, inviting him to browse beside him instead.

Mwashoti is eager to learn everything from his older peers. One day we watched him following Ngasha around everywhere, picking up tips about life outside the stockades at night. Ziwa, Zongoloni, Faraja and Ngasha who have earned the name ‘the night club boy’ are aptly named although it is the lady in their midst that calls the shots. We think Zongoloni has been tasked with keeping order in the absence of the older girls since Sonje and Murera are still very much anchored by the babies. They are aptly names as their nights are full of festivities and they can be herd bellowing and trumpeting and cavorting in the night, clearly having a marvelous time. They still like to come back to be with the orphans and Keepers during the day, and despite being more independent, they can’t forget their friends. They know the independent group will most likely come to the midday bottle feed and they have bottles of supplements prepared for them just in case they arrive. Even in the evening, Ziwa, Zongoloni, Faraja and Ngasha will often return to the stockades with the rest of the orphans for snacks, before walking back out of the compound and out into the forest for the night.

Shukuru was looking a little tired this month and the Keepers devoted a lot of time and attention to her, much to the dismay of Mwashoti who is used to being showered in affection by the Keepers as the cosseted baby boy. Alamaya is always surprisingly friendly to Shukuru, much to her disbelief, which proves that he can be a gentle bull when he wants to be. She has been unwell again and taken a dip but we hope with the special attention she has received she will be on the mend again.  

April 2020 day to day

01 Apr

Osama, the wild bull elephant and Sonje’s boyfriend, made up his mind and decided to visit the Umani herd today, to drop in and say hello to Sonje after a long time away. All the orphans welcomed him very happily. Osama showed the Keepers he didn’t have any problem with them, and that he just wanted to feel a part of the Umani herd today. Sonje however, didn’t seem to be bothered by Osama’s presence or the least bit interested in the poor chap! She kept walking away, leaving Zongoloni and Ziwa to host the wild bull and keep him feeling welcome among the herd. Sonje walked off far away from Osama, perhaps annoyed or indifferent after having not seen him for so long! Ziwa and Zongoloni were the friendliest with Osama and were happy to stay close to him. Osama was very polite and well-behaved with the Keepers this time as well, having in the past been a bit bolshie with them, and everyone had a lovely day as the Keepers guided elephants around the forest. Shukuru looked tired today, and the Keepers focused all their attention on her. 

Osama comes to see the orphans

Sonje having a drink at the waterhole

Osama with the orphans