Keepers' Diaries, August 2023

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Umani Springs Reintegration Unit

The month began with an adorable display of Mwana’s bravery. In the morning, a troop of baboons came through, intent upon stealing the orphans’ lucerne pellets. Baby Mwana couldn’t stand for this brazen thievery and stood firm, protecting her territory. (Never mind that she is too small to eat pellets yet – she was protecting them on behalf of her beloved herd!) She charged at the baboons, trumpeting for effect, but she was heavily outnumbered. Still, the tiny elephant stood firm. When a big male baboon decided to challenge her, Kiasa and Enkesha knew it was time to intervene and chased the primates away. 

Banishing baboons became the highlight of Mwana’s month. First thing in the morning, the cheeky calf would start trumpeting and charging at the baboons, with her little ears flared. She always had reinforcements: Her mother, Murera, and team of nannies stood by, in case the baboons toed the line. While Mwana’s efforts had little effect, the primates always disappeared into the trees when the bigger elephants got involved. Still, Mwana thought they scattered because of her. She loved to do a little victory dance at the base of the trees, practising her trumpeting.

Mwashoti and Alamaya are age-mates and generally peace-loving. While they have been close friends for a long time, they don’t play pushing games with each other. Thus, the Keepers were surprised to see them engaging in a long sparring match one day. Observing the older bulls, Kiombo and Maktao — who, by contrast, are constantly sparring — felt inspired to start their own pushing match.

It must be said that Lima Lima is a bit of a gossip. She has an insatiable curiosity and compulsively investigates any sign of intrigue or drama. However, this comes in useful: She is often the first to inform the Keepers of hidden wildlife or approaching elephant herds. We were reminded of this one day, when she and Faraja led the orphan herd to the Chyulu region. Suddenly, Lima Lima turned on her heel and ran back to the Keepers. She was warning them about a herd of wild elephants, who were approaching from the opposite direction. Because she raised the alarm, the Keepers were able to move away with plenty of time to spare.

Quanza is also starting to really come into her own. She has always been more of a background player – given her traumatic rescue story, we can understand why she tends to be shy and wary — but that’s starting to change. On the day that Lima Lima warned the Keepers of the approaching elephants, Quanza acted as her deputy. When Amali and Kapei got confused and tried to join the wild herd, the older girl swept in to collect them. She quickly ushered the pair back to the dependent herd, sparing the Keepers from the difficult task of separating them from wild elephants. 

We were treated to a mid-month visit from Ziwa. As usual, he was in the company of his adopted wild family. He arrived later in the morning, after all the pellets had been finished. Reverting to a young, petulant version of himself, he stood at the gate and pleaded with the Keepers to distribute some extra treats.

Amali and Kapei continue to be our favourite pair of quarrelsome siblings. They love each other, but they also drive each other crazy! In the mornings, they race to the lucerne pellet corner. Kapei gets very competitive, pulling Amali’s tail and pushing her if he feels she has a winning advantage. Luckily, Amali’s honorary ‘big brother’ Mwashoti is always standing by to defend her. We have also noticed that the older girls — who historically showed little interest in Amali — have started sticking up for her. Everyone seems to realise that Kapei needs to learn his manners.

We have also noticed that Amali and Kapei have started playing with Mwana more and more. They have formed a baby trio, banding together for energetic dust baths and mud wallows. Mwana is Umani’s presiding mermaid; she will always splash into the water, even on chilly days when everyone else eschews a swim. 

Sonje remains a dedicated leader of the Umani herd, but since Murera gave birth to Mwana, she seems very interested in having a baby of her own. Sonje spends much more time with wild bulls and is more welcoming to their advances than she used to be. We wonder if she might already be pregnant.

It’s getting very dry, which means lots of wildlife have been circling into the perennially lush Kibwezi Forest. The area is always bustling with activity — elephants, buffalos, leopards, zebras, and all manner of antelope converge upon the bubbling Umani Springs. Poor Amali has a real grudge against zebras and runs away whenever she sees one! If Mwashoti isn’t around, she seeks protection from Quanza, Lima Lima, Sonje, or Murera.  

26th August was a big day for our Umani family: After great consideration, we relocated Ngasha to our Ithumba Reintegration Unit. Ngasha never quite learned his manners, and as he grew bigger, he became too rowdy for our small herd in the Kibwezi Forest. Only Jasiri could keep him in line, but now that Jasiri is living wild, we couldn’t rely on his disciplining presence. We believe that Tsavo will be a better place for Ngasha, with its vast spaces and large populations of bulls. There, surrounded by so many older mentors, we feel sure that he will learn to respect other elephants.

While Ngasha’s move was bittersweet for the Keepers, the orphans were unanimously celebratory once they realised that he had departed the Kibwezi Forest. That day, everyone enjoyed an unusually long, uninterrupted mud bath, savouring the lack of disruptions that Ngasha usually brought with him. 

Kiasa and Enkesha may be two of the younger members of our Umani family, but Mwana has really given them a chance to shine. They are very serious little nannies and are loath to share their beloved baby with the older females. They also give Murera a much-needed break. Mwana is a greedy feeder — as baby elephants are wont to be — and keeps Murera up late with her nursing demands. During the day, Enkesha and Kiasa swoop in to look after Mwana, allowing mum some rest and relaxation.

The month ended with a very sweet moment. Lima Lima and Zongoloni heard Mwana yelling and rushed over to check on her. They soon found the cause of the ruckus: The baby was with Kiasa, who was trying to teach her how to trumpet!

August 2023 day to day

01 Aug

Amali found a spot next to Kapei at the pellet corner, but he would not let her eat in peace. He started pulling her tail and shoving her. Amali moved to the water trough, and Mwashoti followed her, putting his trunk over her back to comfort her. Amali felt happy with Mwashoti’s protection, so she went back to get some pellets.

A troop of baboons came through; they wanted to get pellets before the orphans finished all the food. Mwana decided she was going to protect the pellets from the baboons. She stood firm, protecting her territory. She charged at the baboons, trumpeting, but she was heavily outnumbered. One of the big males decided to challenge Mwana, but Kiasa and Enkesha quickly stepped in and chased the baboons away. Everyone was impressed with Mwana’s bravery.

The orphan herd moved out to the Kenzili area to browse for the day. They came back to their usual milk feeding clearing ready for their bottles. After their bottles, Amali and Mwashoti went to test the water for a mud bath. Kiasa, Enkesha, and Mwana were not interested. The water turned out to be too cold, so Mwashoti and Amali walked over to the dust pile instead. The others joined in for a dust bath. Then the whole herd walked towards the Chyulu area for more browsing and an afternoon rest in the shade.