The forest has dried out significantly and the days are extremely hot, however the shade of the forest canopy helps enormously. The mud baths and soft earth dust baths are priority for the elephants with Sonje our swimming star. The resident terrapins and baby crocs who like to inhabit the dry season watering points have a turbulent time at this time of year, as aside from the orphans the resident wild elephants, and the buffalos are also converging on the permanent mud baths. The Umani springs are not used for wallowing as they are too deep with some very large crocodiles residing in them, so while the wildlife love to drink the crystal clear water; they refrain from wallowing in them.
The beautiful Chyulu Hills National Park abuts our Kibwezi Forest concession area comprising of 20,000 acres, where the Umani orphans reside, and the mist forests of the Chyulus is an important dry season range for many animals, particularly elephants. They can free range between the Kibwezi forest and the National Park with only an invisible boundary separating the two. For the wildlife the ecosystem is one. The springs complement by providing a reliable permanent water source in an otherwise water-less region, as the water sinks through the various porous layers of the Chyulu hills lava and comes out in springs a good distance away, Umani Springs and Mzima Springs being good examples.
The call of a vociferous leopard kept the orphans and Keepers awake on the 4th of August, and the orphans appeared unsettled still by the next morning, despite the leopard unable to pose any harm to them, they demonstrated that they are very much babies still, needing the reassurance and comfort from their night Keepers to help settle and calm them. The following day they were confronted by a huge python in search of water. This time the Keepers were more unnerved than the elephants, and gave the snake a wide birth directing the orphans elsewhere.
There is no doubt that the Umani Matriarchs Sonje and Murera miss little Balguda hugely when he was whisked away to Nairobi to receive treatment when his health deteriorated. Thankfully he is getting stronger and doing well back at the Nursery. He is not forgotten at Umani, but Zongoloni and Ziwa find themselves now lavished in the attention they missed for awhile by these older two who were simply gaga about Balguda. Little Ziwa is doing so well having made a total recovery despite being so ill last year, literally days away from dying. Saving him has been a huge achievement and most satisfying and he is rewarding us daily with his happy antics. Jasiri and Faraja the two Amboseli albino elephants are as fat as ticks, and full of nonsense, aided by Ngasha. These bulls are supervised by the more sensible girls of the group with most important decisions made by Murera and Sonje, and Zongoloni, Quanza and Lima Lima are happily immersed in their wild habitat. Lima Lima is extremely attached to the Keepers and acts as the go between, ensuring the Keepers safety at all times from any dangers that lurk in the bush. She is a greedy little elephant always hatching a plan to try to get an extra milk bottle at feed time. Quanza who suffered such trauma when her family was ruthlessly gunned down and their ivory hacked out by poachers, has never forgotten this horror. She is not as warm towards humans as many of our orphans, but this is totally understandable and we have always respected her space and never pushed. She has come a long way however and has emotionally healed, with total trust for her Keepers.
Our orphans often encounter bush buck while walking in the forest, and the population is increasing as the Kibwezi Forest is so totally protected with no illegal activities reported for years. When they dash across the paths, bulleting out of bushes when disturbed and bounding through the undergrowth this does at times unnerve the orphans. One day they encountered a baby buffalo with its Mum enjoying the salt lick. Jasiri decided to charge and chase the baby, happy to tackle anything smaller than himself to bolster up his self-esteem!
The wild elephant herds have been visiting the orphans often at night, happy to engage with their little elephant friends, but also in search of the fresh water in their water trough, and enjoying their left over Lucerne. Night times are filled with trumpets and rumbles as the orphans engage with their wild friends. All the details relating to individuals and many more stories can be read through the Keepers daily dairy entries for August.