Umani Springs Reintegration Unit
It must be said that Kapei is turning into a very spoiled boy. The Keepers have noticed that he enjoys testing Sonje and Quanza’s affections. Oftentimes, he rumbles for no reason at all, just to see if they will check on him. He likes to feel special!
Although she has been embraced by the entire Umani herd, Amali has not captured the hearts of the older girls in the same way that Kapei has. When she rumbles, Quanza and Sonje do not scramble to help her. Instead, it is Maktao and Mwashoti who rush to the little girl’s side. Truth be told, Amali doesn’t really need the support; she is such a confident, self-sufficient young girl. She is a very good swimmer and is usually the first one into the mud bath and the last one out.
Amali does not seem to mind playing second fiddle to Kapei, but Kiombo certainly does! One afternoon, the orphans were rushing out of Ngasha’s way and in the commotion, Kapei got knocked over by Kiombo. We were not sure whether it was an accident or if Kiombo took the opportunity to push Kapei in retaliation. Kapei is now Sonje’s favourite, much to Kiombo’s chagrin.
We had a very upsetting incident on 3rd December. Shaka, one of our new drought rescues, bolted when she was let out of her stockade. She had always been flighty, but had calmed down sufficiently in recent weeks. On this day, however, something sent her running into the forest. The Keepers spent several days looking for her, and even the orphans appeared to join the search party, but she clearly did not wish to be found. Fortunately, Shaka is on the older side and conditions are good in the forest. We hope she rejoins the herd, but in the meantime, she will have plenty of food, protection, and friends in the Kibwezi Forest.
There’s something about Sonje! Wild bulls find her irresistible. One morning, a junior bull was waiting outside the stockades. While he mingled with the entire herd, he was singularly focused on Sonje. He proceeded to shadow her for the entire day and even tried to join her in the stockades that evening. When the Keepers thwarted his attempts to enter the compound, he left, visibly upset to be excluded.
Another day, our famous flirt Lima Lima brought a new wild bull into the mix. Based on how familiar they were with each other, this was not their first meeting. Kapei went to say hello, assuming he was an old friend, but the bull was confused by his boldness and greeted him with a warning kick. After putting the little boy in his place, the wild bull refocused his attention on Sonje. No one can resist her charms.
Every day, the Keepers take photos of their little charges. Kapei is used to this, but one day, he was simply not in the mood. Whenever they approached with the camera, he hid his face beneath Sonje’s tummy or behind Quanza. Kiasa also helped Kapei remain incognito by picking up branches and blocking the Keepers’ view. Apparently, he did not want his photo taken!
Jasiri is the only one who can keep Ngasha in line. They had a big fight earlier this month, which we hoped would force Ngasha to accept Jasiri as the dominant bull. Peace lasted for a little while, but it wasn’t long before Ngasha was up to his old tricks again. When Jasiri and Faraja are around, the orphans are happy and relaxed, especially Murera, and Sonje. We wish Ngasha would take cues from these ‘gentlemen bulls.’
Lima Lima is our ‘fix-it girl’ — there is no problem too big or too small for this clever elephant. Thus, no one was surprised when she found a way to teach Ngasha a lesson. During the mud bath, the big bull was being a menace and climbing all over her. At first, Lima Lima stood still and strong, lulling him into a false sense of victory. Then, she made a sudden dive to the side, which sent Ngasha toppling over. Until Ngasha learns his manners, these tricks will help keep him in line.
Sometimes, the littlest things cause the biggest dramas. Two crane birds have taken up residence in the area. They love a particular patch by the waterhole, which is flush with grasshoppers and other yummy insects. Despite the fact that they are familiar faces, Alamaya does not appreciate their presence. One afternoon, he called Mwashoti over to help him chase the birds away. Kiasa and Kiombo thought this looked like a fun game and decided to join in. The victory went to the crane birds, who flew a short distance away, just out of reach of the orphans.
We got a few good rain storms this month, which were very welcomed. During one nighttime storm, Amali started trumpeting, which set Kapei off, too. Kapei’s screaming got the older girls all worried. Quanza started charging around, trying to get into the same stockade as her beloved boy. Worried that she might break down the dividers, the Keepers put Kapei and Quanza together. Peace restored, everyone slept a bit more soundly.
Funnily enough, daytime storms cause zero drama. By contrast, the orphans seem to relish every raindrop. At first, Amali tried to hide in her stockade whenever it rained, but then Kapei showed her that storms actually create opportunities for lots of fun. Now, the pair have a grand old time slopping around in the mud.
On the morning of the 13th, we received the incredible news that runaway baby Shaka had been spotted along the road to the Umani Hills. The Keepers rushed to the scene, hoping to bring her home. They could hear her running through the bush, but it was impenetrably thick and she disappeared.
They had a breakthrough later that afternoon, when they caught a glimpse of Shaka running deeper into the forest. She is clearly terrified of humans, which indicates that she suffered serious trauma before she was rescued. The Keepers equipped themselves with a bucket full of milk and some lucerne pellets, but still she refused to approach. It seems Shaka is doing well on her own and does not want to be part of the orphan herd. We will continue to keep an eye on her and try to help her.
The next day, our old friend Ziwa made an appearance. It was a fly-by visit; his adopted wild family evidently had places to go, elephants to see. They only stopped long enough for Ziwa to say hello and make a fuss over the new babies, then they called away. The orphans begged him to stay longer, but he didn’t want to be left by his new family.
One hot afternoon, the babies persuaded Sonje and Quanza to take them to the waterhole. As Kapei tested the water temperature with his trunk, a crocodile slipped into the pool from the opposite bank. This sent Kapei and Amali into a tizzy. While Quanza and Enkesha ensured that the crocodile remained in the water, Lima Lima relocated the orphan herd to a safer waterhole. It was wonderful to see how adeptly the girls handled the situation.
Just like us, elephants have good days and bad days. One morning, Murera woke up with a grumpy mood. She stood under a tree, a bit separate from the other orphans, so she could relax in peace. Mwashoti made his way over to join her, unaware that she wanted to be left alone. They had a conversation that appeared to anger Murera, for she sent poor Mwashoti crashing through the bushes, trumpeting in dismay. He only stopped when Alamaya came over and calmed him down. After that incident, Sonje and Quanza kept the other orphans away from Murera for the day, giving the moody girl her space.
Just like parents, the Keepers worry about Ngasha’s bad behaviour, but we are seeing glimmers of improvement. Late this month, some big bulls joined Ngasha at the mud bath. The Keepers were curious to see if he would misbehave, but instead, he respectfully moved off to the side in order to give the older elephants right of way. One of the bulls followed him, and they proceeded to dig for minerals together. It was striking to see how tiny Ngasha looked compared to his wild friend. Hopefully, these interactions help our wayward boy learn his manners.