This festive month, the babies were given a Christmas and New Year treat by the keepers who had thoughtfully set aside some of their favourite acacia seed pods that had fallen earlier to be enjoyed on these two special occasions. Only Alamaya and Mwashoti were given a treat of an extra milk bottle on New Year’s Eve, but all the babies had their favourite acacia seed pods. On Christmas Day Lima Lima and Quanza were not paying attention at first and were not aware of the treats being handed out to the others, but the Keepers made sure to keep some in their pockets especially for the two girls.
Situated in the shadow of the Chyulu Hills, Kibwezi Forest received ample rain over the past month and as such there was a profusion of insects throughout the forest for the many birds, but the elephants had to be sprayed with insect repellent to spare them being too bothered, to the approval of Murera and Sonje but not quite to Lima Lima and Quanza who objected, Quanza kicking out at the keepers to try and stop the spraying process whilst little boys Alamaya and Mwashoti remained calm, standing quietly as the Keepers sprayed them to protect them from the biting insects.
Since DSWT fenced the Kibwezi Forest in order to protect it and the Umani Spring from illegal activities and established a monitoring base there, the wildlife has returned; buffaloes, bush bucks, birdlife and, most importantly, the wild elephants during the dry season have all recognized that Kibwezi forest is now a safe refuge with abundant food and permanent water. Our orphans are now encountering wild elephants more and more on a daily basis and are becoming bolder approaching the wild elephants as well. Murera remains slightly more reticent, wary of the other elephants taking ‘her’ babies from her, but the others are more sociable when it comes to the wild herds. One day at the end of the month even Matriarch Sonje, together with Lima Lima, began to interact with a herd of wild elephants in the forest, although Murera declined. The Keepers were also happy to see the big wild bull ‘Ndugu’ a couple of times this month, who has always been inquisitive of the orphans and ventures closer, giving the lead to other elephants to do the same; although he still remains wary of our Keepers. Other wild elephants approach the orphans’ Night Stockades at Umani under cover of darkness, and are greeted raucously by the orphans who are often anxious to join them. One night the Keepers were surprised to hear gates banging loudly, and found that greedy girl Lima Lima had managed to open her Stockade door and had meandered over to the lucerne store, happily munching away and dropping bails onto the floor as she did so! However, knowing that this was out of bounds, when she saw the keepers approaching, she ran back to her pen where Zongoloni was desperately trying to keep out of the way avoiding becoming embroiled in the naughty deed, the rest of the orphans rumbling deeply, seemingly reprimanding Lima Lima for her bad behaviour! Lima Lima’s greediness knows no bounds! One day she ran to the pickup bringing the milk for the midday feed and tried to grab a bottle from the back before the vehicle had even stopped, and on another occasion, during a heavy rainstorm which saw the others sheltering under trees, she insisted on having her milk despite the lashing rain!
Abundant browse at Umani has enabled the little boys to put on a lot of weight since the dry season. Alamaya and Mwashoti look rounded and fat and it is amusing to see little Alamaya trying to still hide under the Keepers’ umbrellas to shelter from the rain! Alamaya likes to test his strength against Zongoloni from time to time rather than the older boys who tend be overly boisterous for him. Zongoloni seems to understand that he needs practice to harness such skills and puts him through his paces, although never too roughly. She obviously wants him to be able to stand up for himself against the older boys. Alamaya is wise not to take on the bigger boys who are a tough bunch, but for Ziwa who has been getting on with the little ones of late. Young bulls Jasiri, Faraja and Ngasha are constantly pushing, shoving and wrestling, or else chasing unsuspecting bush bucks through the forest. The rain always adds a bit of flare to such games when the ground becomes slippery and the boys slip around in the mud whilst wrestling. One day Ngasha slipped, which made him an easy target for Jasiri who began to climb on him as he struggled to get up, with Ziwa becoming involved as well. At this point, the females usually step in and Zongoloni came over to chase the naughty boys away so that Ngasha could get to his feet. One day, big boy Jasiri crossed the line by daring to try and climb on Murera; something she would not stand for! She roughly pushed him down hard to discipline him, and was aided by Sonje in doing so. In fact, bulls Faraja and Ngasha actually came over to help Jasiri get to his feet and followed him to the bushes where they consoled him with a gentle pushing game!