There were tolerable temperatures this month in the Kibwezi forest - sometimes hot and sunny which meant that our albino boys, Faraja and Jasiri, had to frequently douse themselves in a protective layer of mud, but when it was cool and windy they raced from their stockades in the morning to collect the acacia seed pods blown to the ground during the night. This helps little boys such as Mwashoti and Alamaya who cannot reach the branches of the trees yet and if the seeds have not fallen they have to wait for a compliant older friend such as Lima Lima to pull a branch down for them. Lima Lima is a very caring little girl who looks out for the younger babies in a thoughtful way. On an occasion when she saw Alamaya about to follow Ngasha up Umani Hill, she prevented him from doing so, knowing that Ngasha can at times be rough with the youngsters. However, such caring can sometimes land her in trouble, for instance when the Keepers had to intervene to prevent her from charging at an unpredictable group of buffaloes one day.
Sonje and Murera (the little Matriarchs of this herd) are still of course doting of the babies, making a beeline for their stockades first thing every morning to greet them. Their special baby of the herd before Mwashoti and Alamaya arrived in May was Ziwa, who is still prone to acts of jealousy due to his favoured status being usurped by the new arrivals, tending to take this out on little Mwashoti in particular. However when he pushes Mwashoti from the protection of the Matriarchs, the Keepers are quick to discipline him, intolerant of behaviour that might further injure his compromised leg. Both the newcomer young boys have settled down well at Umani. Alamaya continues to relish the company of his Keepers to whom he is incredibly attached, enjoying nothing more in the evenings than to be able to suckle on their fingers, when he closes his eyes in content and becomes drowsy having returned to his Stockade for the night.
Despite demonstrating their more dominant status, Faraja and Jasiri are still dependent on their human family for comfort and security too; at times still behaving as they did when little in the Nursery, waiting for the Keepers to lead them out into the forest, too hesitant to go on their own. Quanza, who tends to be shy, has been gaining in confidence and while still shying away from the wild herds, she enjoys browsing with Mwashoti and Alamaya, much to the surprise of the Keepers.
Wild elephants have been coming closer to the orphans and their stockades over the last few months. However, Murera still wants to protect her herd from being hijacked by these wild herds and is disapproving of such interactions, even though they are encouraged by the Keepers as a necessary step to their successful reintegration back into the wild system. These wild herds have become much bolder, and one day the orphans emerged from their Stockades to find a herd of elephants feasting on the lucerne the Keepers laid out for the orphans in the morning! On another occasion the orphans managed to fully interact with a wild herd and play with their wild babies of similar age, which was wonderful.
Like the big wild bull who befriended the Ithumba orphans, whom we named Rafiki, and who introduced them to wild herds, there appears to be a wild Bull eager to do the same for the Umani orphans, who has been named Ndugu (the Swahili word for brother). Everyone was quite taken aback, including the Keepers who gathered around Murera and Sonje (the largest orphans in the herd) the first time he boldly made his presence known. At first the Keepers thought the bull was the one known as Osama, who has been troublesome in the past, but it turned out not to be him. Over time this wild Bull has socialised with the orphaned herd on a number of occasions, just as Rafiki had all those years before – that story is found here: https://www.sheldrickwildlifetrust.org/updates/updates.asp?ID=161. Such wild interaction is crucial for the successful rehabilitation of the orphans, since it encourages other wild herds to do the same and get to know and accept the orphans.