Umani Springs Reintegration Unit
August began with a happy reunion when Zongoloni and Lima Lima brought all the ‘nightclubbers’ home, with the exception of Ziwa, who remained with his new wild herd. The Keepers were happy to see a full house, with all the independent and dependent orphans mingling together.
True to form, however, mischievous Zongoloni couldn't resist pushing the envelope. While the Keepers ate their lunch, she took the opportunity to spirit away with the babies. A search ensued, which only ended when Ngasha pushed one of the babies, causing it to scream and reveal their location. For once, there was a benefit to Ngasha’s bullying ways!
Really, Zongoloni is only interested in kidnapping her beloved Kiasa. Quanza knows this and has become very protective. When she sees Zongoloni approaching, Quanza positions herself between the two, physically barricading Kiasa from the older girl. In time, Kiasa will be ready to join Zongoloni in the wild, but she is still very young and relies on the Keepers’ care and protection.
Drama between Ngasha and the other ‘nightclubber’ boys has dominated this year. Ngasha remains stubbornly entrenched in a feud with Faraja, although we have no idea how or why it started. One day, the Keepers witnessed him walking closely behind Faraja, trying to antagonise him into a pushing match. Faraja was aware of his plan, so he prudently joined forces with Jasiri. Ngasha knew better than to challenge Jasiri, who is the only bull who will stand up to him, so he moved off in another direction.
Although Ziwa has fully embraced a wild life, he still visits from time to time. One afternoon, Ngasha ran into him in the Kenzili area. Ziwa recognised Ngasha, who was obliviously absorbed in his browsing, and walked right up to him. Ngasha was flustered to find a wild bull approaching him like an old friend. Just before he ran away in a tizzy, it finally clicked that the mystery elephant was none other than Ziwa!
The lush Kibwezi Forest isn’t immune to the ripple effects of the drought. Thanks to the Umani Springs, the forest still has plenty of food, which has brought an influx of wild animals to the area. Interestingly, the difficult times have created bonds that transcend species; even antelopes and baboons now walk along together as friends. The baboons climb up the acacia trees and drop pods for the antelope below. Alamaya objects to this partnership, purely because he thinks he should have first pick of all the acacia pods. He has decided he is now in charge of shaking the trees to dislodge the pods, which all the orphans then enjoy.
The acacia pods have become a source of contention for some. One afternoon, Kiombo and Maktao started fighting over these tasty treats. Kiombo had found a big stash, which Maktao coveted. A spirited pushing match ensued, as the young bulls battled for possession of the pods. Sonje was disappointed to see such behaviour, but by the time she came over to intervene, the fight had evolved and they were now arguing over lucerne. It was all so silly, as there is plenty to go around for everyone.
You would think they would be above such antics, but even the older orphans covet food. One morning, Lima Lima and Mwashoti snuck back into the stockade compound and made a beeline for the lucerne store. By the time a Keeper discovered them, Lima Lima had already stolen a bale. Mwashoti had a guilty conscience and made himself scarce when he saw the Keeper approaching, as if he didn’t want to be associated with Lima Lima’s lawless heist.
As is typical of growing bulls, Maktao and Kiombo are always playing and showing off. They usually stage their pushing matches in front of the Keepers. They love an audience, but they know that the older girls are unimpressed by their bullish antics.
We witnessed a funny moment one morning, as the orphans were heading into the forest. Murera was bringing up the rear, as usual, when she encountered a tortoise. She must have thought it was just another rock in the path, because she innocently tapped it with her foot. This caused the frightened tortoise to make a noise — but ironically, it was Murera who was the most scared! She charged off into the bushes, trumpeting up a storm. Mwashoti, who is very protective of Murera, came running over with some other orphans in tow.
The night of 18th August was full of animal noises: There were hyenas screaming, followed by baboons barking, and finally wild elephants trumpeting from the direction of Umani Springs. Although they were safely tucked in their stockades, the orphans were upset by the commotion. Murera and Sonje worried that something was afoot and urgently alerted the Keepers by pushing on their gates. Maktao pulled down the gate between his and Enkesha’s bedrooms, so they could huddle together. The Keepers carefully inspected the stockades and found nothing in the immediate area, although they too felt tension in the air. Even the nightclubbers came home and spent the night camped outside the stockades. We never did discover the source of the discord.
On one particularly hot afternoon, the Keepers found some wild elephants and buffalos gathered at a waterhole. Kiasa was so desperate to cool down she pushed her way through the buffaloes — only to find herself surrounded and very much out of her depth! She cried loudly to Zongoloni, who then gathered the other orphans for reinforcements. Working together, the whole herd scared off the crowding buffaloes. The Keepers were impressed by how the orphans stepped up in solidarity to help one of their own.
The month ended with a spot of drama. Unsurprisingly, Ngasha was the source. He suffered a humiliating defeat when he tried to mount Zongoloni, who moved away before he could even lift his front legs onto her. This caused him to fall backwards, spraining a leg in the process. He theatrically limped over to the Keepers, as if to show them his injury and ask for help. It wasn’t a serious injury, so they gave him some medicine and sent him on his way. Ngasha made a big show of limping around, but didn’t receive much sympathy from the other orphans, as they know he put this upon himself!