Keepers' Diaries, April 2022

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Umani Springs Reintegration Unit

Our ‘nightclubbers’ are now largely independent. In fact, Ziwa has turned fully wild. When the Keepers see him out with wild herds and call to him, he just waves his trunk at them — acknowledging them, but not joining them.

However, the other nightclubbers remain more attached to the dependent herd. On 1st April, Jasiri and Zongoloni visited for the first time in several weeks. Before the Keepers saw them, Lima Lima got wind of their arrival and ran off to find them. She acted as the receptionist, welcoming the two friends at the entrance and leading them back to the orphan herd. Ngasha made a speedy exit, as he knew he could not have fun when his main rival Jasiri was on the scene.

One elephant is not happy about Zongoloni’s increased independence. We are referring, of course, to Kiasa. Kiasa is never ready to walk away from Zongoloni, as she is always worried that her older friend will disappear again. One day, Kiasa blocked Maktao and Kiombo from spending time with Zongoloni, because she wanted her all to herself.

Jasiri and Faraja have lots of wild friends and like to bring them home to introduce them to the dependent orphans. When they returned after an absence of quite some time, Enkesha and Kiasa trumpeted with happiness. However, they did not realise that the boys had several wild friends in tow. Lima Lima, Zongoloni, and Quanza raised their trunks when they caught the scent of the wild bulls, as they wanted to know who was hiding in the bushes. As usual, Lima Lima walked over for a closer look. A huge bull with tusks longer than body size emerged. It seems that the boys have been making some impressive friends!

We received lots of wild elephant visitors this month. There is a drought going on around the country and it has even affected the Chyulu area. The Umani Springs remains one of the only places in the area where there is still water. All the animals are now mingling together to take advantage of the springs, from buffalos to bushbucks to elephants. 

A long time ago, Sonje had a boyfriend called Osama. He left, as bulls do, but we believe they made an agreement to meet up again one day. On 12th April, Osama finally reappeared in the company of the nightclubbers, who treated him as if he was a king. Sonje was at the gate of the stockades with Kiombo and the other babies, unaware that Osama had returned. When she realised it was him, she approached and they moved out to the bushes together. Osama began chasing Sonje, and it became obvious to the Keepers that she was in season.

A hectic few days ensued. To give Sonje a break from such amorous pursuits, the Keepers closed the orphans back in the stockades. Osama remained outside, waiting for his beloved Sonje. The next day, he made a beeline for her and they mated not far from the stockades. We hope to see a baby for Sonje in 22 months’ time!

Still, Sonje’s romantic escapades were not done. Osama continued courting her, until an even larger bull arrived on the scene. Osama was chased away by the newcomer, which left him embarrassed and defeated. Sonje had no choice but to accept that Osama had been beaten and remain with the new bull. At one point, there were four bulls wooing Sonje. All stood guard over Sonje, hoping that the biggest bull would get bored and leave. Ngasha and Jasiri were also unhappy, as they felt they had failed in their duty to project Sonje.

On the way home, the Keepers devised a plan to get Sonje back into the stockades. They knew that Kiasa and Kiombo were missing the older girl and that she was tiring of all the attention. The moment the bulls left Sonje’s side for a short browsing session, the Keepers whisked her into the stockades and closed the gate. The orphans welcomed their girl back with lots of happy trumpeting noises and everyone enjoyed a peaceful night together.

We also had more tranquil wild visitors. One morning, Lima Lima and Mwashoti were delighted when some wild elephants and their tiny babies joined them at the waterhole. A tiny baby even left his mother and followed Lima Lima over to where Mwashoti was standing. Funnily, Mwashoti seemed scared of the baby and kept moving away from him. Lima Lima, on the other hand, played with the baby under the careful supervision of his mother and nannies. Faraja and Alamaya went to have a look at the baby, but the wild herd moved very quickly to stop them from getting close. They were happy for Lima Lima to spend time with him, but the big boys were a step too far.

Enkesha is still young, but she is very eager to be a matriarch. One day, she had no one to lead, so she wrangled Maktao, Kiombo and Kiasa and moved them away from where Zongoloni, Lima Lima, and Sonje were looking after the bigger group of orphans. She wanted to prove her leadership qualifications and get some experience, too. When Kiombo, who is best friends with Sonje, saw that Enkesha was trying to separate them, he circled back and hid behind Sonje. This caused all the babies to go back to the main herd. In the end, it was only Maktao who remained with Enkesha.

On 23rd April, we welcomed a little rain in the early hours of the morning. Kiombo, Enkesha, Maktao, and Kiasa refused to leave the shelter of their stockades, as they did not want to be rained on. The Keepers fed them their milk bottles and waited for the rain to stop. When Murera bravely emerged from her shelter, Enkesha and Maktao decided to follow her. This forced all the babies to head out into the rain, where their friends were already feasting on lucerne pellets.

She may be a quiet leader, but Murera is a matriarch through and through. Every morning, she inspects the rooms of all the babies, as if to make sure everyone got a good night’s sleep. Again in the evenings, she checks on everyone, especially Maktao and Enkesha, who are in their own stockade block. She needs to know that they are safely in their rooms. We also believe that she likes to have a quick catch-up on everyone’s day.

April 2022 day to day

01 Apr

Jasiri and Zongoloni visited for the first time in a couple of weeks, they appeared in the company of a wild herd. Before the Keepers saw the boys Lima Lima had heard the loud rumbles of the bulls and gone running off to find them. Lima Lima acted as the receptionist, welcoming the two boys at the entrance, and leading them back to the orphan herd. The wild elephants followed suspiciously; they were unsure of the presence of the keepers/humans. 

Ngasha was not happy to see that Jasiri was happily integrated back into the orphan herd, as Jasiri always protects the orphans from Ngasha’s pushing games and bullying. Ngasha knew that now the big boy was back he would have to leave the herd in peace. 

Zongoloni browsed peacefully with Kiasa and Mwashoti, they moved slowly along the Umani Hills. Murera, Sonje and Kiombo stayed browsing at the bottom of the Umani Hills.