Keepers' Diaries, December 2023

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Umani Springs Reintegration Unit

The month began with Maktao cleverly forcing games upon his best friend. In the morning, ever so innocently, he wrapped his trunk around Kiombo’s tail and pulled hard. This was a clever tactic to offend Kiombo, so that he would react and start pushing Maktao. However, the plan did not pan out and Kiombo diligently ignored him. He was not ready to play.

The orphans often unite around their common enemy: the dastardly baboons! One morning, little Amali showed Mwana her best baboon banishing tactics, while the other nannies pursued them in earnest. Alamaya and Mwashoti, perhaps feeling some pressure as the older boys, offered loud trumpets to keep the larger baboons away from the babies. Meanwhile, Sonje, Lima Lima, and Zongoloni brought up the rear. 

In fact, there was lots of wild animal drama this month. Following a successful baboon babishment, the orphans continued into the hills, where they encountered several buffalos in a deep slumber. Sonje and Lima Lima tried to wake them up by charging and trumpeting, but one older buffalo continued to sleep. Eventually, they gave up their mission and let him rest in peace.

It rained a lot this month, much to the chagrin of some of the elephants. One morning, heavy rain on the rooftops interrupted the orphans’ sleep. Kiasa kept jumping on the walls, trying to reach Mwana, as she heard that the baby was also uncomfortable with the clatter. While Kiasa worried about the baby, Murera was unconcerned — she knows that Mwana needs to get used to such disruptions. 

However, the situation escalated when Enkesha also began pulling at her gate, attempting to get to the baby. In the end, the Keepers let everyone out much earlier than usual, so they could be together and stop fretting. Ex-orphans Lima Lima and Quanza arrived first thing and immediately circled around Mwana, jealous of all the time that Enkesha and Kiasa had already spent with her that morning. 

On 6th December, Jasiri and Ziwa joined the orphans. We wondered why Ziwa wasn't with his usual wild herd — but after a few minutes, his adopted family arrived and demanded that he leave with them. Ziwa was still greeting his human-elephant family when the matriarch of his group, an old female, warned that he must join them or be left behind. Ziwa, loyal to his herd, left the orphans and joined his wild companions.

Although she is living wild, Zongoloni remains very linked to the Umani herd. She is particularly devoted to baby Mwana. One morning, Enkesha, Kiombo, and Amali were playing on the hills with the young girl, while Zongoloni vigilantly stood guard. When Mwana sneezed out dust, Zongoloni rushed over in a flurry, thinking someone had pushed her — a very diligent nanny!

The lush Kibwezi Forest is an oasis for all manner of creatures. One afternoon, crested crane birds were in the swamp where the orphans were busy browsing. The birds took flight when they saw the elephants heading towards them — but Lima Lima and Kiombo unwittingly browsed next to their hiding place. Lima Lima found three eggs in a nest, but luckily, she stepped over the eggs and didn't crush them.

While most orphans her age have long given up milk, Murera is stalwartly committed to her bottle feeds — but that might be changing! Surprising all of us, she decided to forgo her milk bottle one afternoon. Little Amali took advantage of the situation and got an extra bottle. Although Mwana does not get bottles (she nurses from her mother, after all) she always likes to join the orphans as they get fed. Because Murera stayed behind, Amali chaperoned Mwana until everyone reconvened. 

Kapei, our spoiled little bull, is trying to become a leader. One afternoon, he took off into the bushes, hoping the other orphans would follow his lead. Unfortunately, only Maktao joined him. Kapei turned back when he realised none of the larger group was following him.

Lima Lima is largely living wild, but she wants the best of both worlds! She arrived a bit late one morning and came barreling in, afraid she had missed things. All her drama was for naught, as the orphans were just emerging from their bedrooms. She was welcomed with big rumbles and trumpeting from the entire herd. A few minutes later, Quanza also came tearing out of the thick bushes. She went straight to Amali, who was scratching herself on a small stick. Quanza patiently waited for Amali to finish scratching before they walked together. 

2023 will stand out as the year Amali came into her own. We are so proud of this young girl and how far she has come! One day, the morning’s peace was cut short when buffaloes invaded the bushes where the elephants were browsing. Kapei started running, and the others followed suit. With the help of calm, cool, and collected Enkesha, the Keepers managed to restore calm. Amali, acting like a big sister to Mwana, remained loyal and protective amidst the scary situation. Putting her own fears aside, she ensured Mwana's safety during the commotion.

Kiasa is so clever. One afternoon, Amali and Kiasa got distracted in a game and found themselves left behind. When Kiasa realised that the herd had moved on without them, she blew a single trumpet to signal their location to Sonje and the others. The response was a trumpet from the hill, guiding the girls in the right direction. 

Kapei, Kapei, Kapei. He is growing into a young bull who doesn't always respect his elders. This month, he attempted to push Kiombo, but Kiombo retaliated with a push, reminding Kapei that strength and respect are earned, not simply claimed. Maktao, who is good friends with Kiombo, came over and stood over Kapei, perhaps emphasising the point that he needed to learn some manners.

In honour of Christmas Day, the Keepers organised a special treat for the orphan herd: extra milk bottles and lucerne pellets. The elephants were surprised and delighted to receive such an unexpected feast! 

Kiombo is starting to consider his independence, but it is a gradual process that cannot be rushed. One evening, Mwashoti attempted to lead him out in the forest for the night. Kiombo wanted to test his adolescent independence, but as the night got darker, he became afraid and decided to turn home. When he ambled into the stockades, all the dependent orphans issued a chorus of rumbles, asking where he had been and why he was arriving so late. Lima Lima was not quite ready to give up and came back to see if Kiombo had changed his mind. Alas, Kiombo was already in his room.

The month ended with a difficult but necessary lesson between mother and daughter. Mwana accidentally hurt Murera while nursing, pulling too hard on her breast. To teach her a lesson, Murera blocked her from any more milk, which caused Mwana to yell in displeasure. All her nannies rushed over in a flash, only to find Murera completely unperturbed by her daughter’s tantrum. Enkesha took Mwana away, but the little girl was in a real huff. After a short while, she returned to Murera and continued nursing — but this time, she was much better behaved. Sometimes, hard lessons must be learned.

December 2023 day to day

01 Dec

Faraja returned home today after a very long stay away from the orphan herd. Even the other orphans were unaware of where Faraja had been. He moved into the herd very silently from the bushes, surprising the Keepers with his arrival. The place he came from remained unknown to everyone. 

Murera observed Faraja attempting to get close to baby Mwana and Amali. Murera was uncomfortable with this, and as luck had it, her usual support team of nannies was not around. The clever mother rumbled to call her daughter back to her side. Upon hearing Murera’s call, Mwana moved over to her, followed closely by Amali, who was dutifully serving as the baby's security. Usual nannies Enkesha and Kiasa had left Amali in charge, as they climbed to the top of the hills for more browsing in the Kenzili area.

Maktao began the usual playing games by holding Kiombo’s tail. This was a clever tactic to offend Kiombo, so that he would turn around to start pushing Maktao — Maktao was very ready, waiting for him. However, the plan did not pan out and Kiombo diligently ignored him. He was not ready to play.

Faraja browsing

Murera and Mwana browsing

Amali striking a pose