Keepers' Diaries, January 2017

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Umani Springs Reintegration Unit

Lima Lima is such a funny little girl and entertains us no end with her funny antics. Whilst out in the forest she never seems to shy away from wild animals but instead wants to scare them, one exception to this being a leopard. There was one up in the trees above the stockade one night and she made such a fuss until the keepers came out to see what the problem was, and scare it away from the compound area so it wouldn’t bother her and the little boys Alamaya and Mwashoti anymore. On any other day she scares the Crested Cranes from their perch in the trees, at other times chasing baboons or monkeys from collecting the acacia seed-pods, and, of course, chasing butterflies is always a favourite diversion. She is still the greediest elephant within the group, running whenever the keepers call the orphans in case they have a special treat in hand, and even managing to sneak around the Keepers whenever they are trying to feed the two youngest boys first. Recently she has been sharing Leadership of the little boys, Alamaya and Mwashoti, with the older Matriarchs, and although the little boys are still under the overall care of the older Matriarchs, Murera and Sonje, these two seem to be less fiercely protective of them nowadays. Sometimes the little boys can be found in the company of some of the other orphans rather than the females and, in fact, one day when poor tail-less Alamaya was struggling with biting Tsetse flies and was unable to swish them away using a tail, it was young bull Ziwa who came to his aid.

Lima Lima is such a funny little girl and entertains us no end with her funny antics. Whilst out in the forest she never seems to shy away from wild animals but instead wants to scare them, one exception to this being a leopard. There was one up in the trees above the stockade one night and she made such a fuss until the keepers came out to see what the problem was, and scare it away from the compound area so it wouldn’t bother her and the little boys Alamaya and Mwashoti anymore. On any other day she scares the Crested Cranes from their perch in the trees, at other times chasing baboons or monkeys from collecting the acacia seed-pods, and, of course, chasing butterflies is always a favourite diversion. She is still the greediest elephant within the group, running whenever the keepers call the orphans in case they have a special treat in hand, and even managing to sneak around the Keepers whenever they are trying to feed the two youngest boys first. Recently she has been sharing Leadership of the little boys, Alamaya and Mwashoti, with the older Matriarchs, and although the little boys are still under the overall care of the older Matriarchs, Murera and Sonje, these two seem to be less fiercely protective of them nowadays. Sometimes the little boys can be found in the company of some of the other orphans rather than the females and, in fact, one day when poor tail-less Alamaya was struggling with biting Tsetse flies and was unable to swish them away using a tail, it was young bull Ziwa who came to his aid.

Big boys Jasiri, Faraja and Ngasha continue to be the boisterous four and five year olds, who spend a lot of time wrestling with one another. The older girls, Zongoloni, Quanza, Lima Lima and Sonje always try to separate the boys when such bouts become a bit too heated and tiresome! Such wrestling matches are usually initiated by one of the boys threatening to pull the tail of another, particularly in the case of Jasiri who is an inveterate tail-grabber, or else is always trying to mount the others back as a sign of dominance. Despite this usual display of dominance, all the orphans continue to look out for one another; for instance, waiting for the albino boys Faraja and Jasiri to catch up having had to pause under shade during long hot walks.

All of the orphans are beginning to become more independent and confident about being out in the forest. One day Zongoloni plucked up the courage to go into the forest alone without her friends, but she was soon deterred by the trumpeting of wild elephants, and decided that she was actually not quite ready to leave the company of either her orphan or human family just yet. Towards the end of the month the orphans were beginning to interact more frequently with the wild elephants. Instead of running away whenever wild elephant herds approach, now they are not as timid as they used to be. Matriarchs Murera and Sonje are slowly becoming more forgiving of the proximity of wild elephants as well. For instance, the juniors take their cue from the Ex Orphans and wild elephants both at Voi and Ithumba. We have watched Murera and Sonje copying some of the wild elephants by trying to push down trees etc. The orphan Matriarchs then try to teach such skills to Alamaya and Mwashoti who are not yet strong enough to oblige.

We are delighted with each step our orphans take on the long and gradual process of reintegration back into the wild system. Having lost their mothers and families in tragic circumstances, it is gratifying to watch them healing psychologically, particularly those at Umani, many of whom have been left maimed and handicapped, but who, nevertheless, will one day be able to live wild once more.

January 2017 day to day

01 Jan

After the early bottle feeding at six o’clock in the morning, the babies ran to the elephants loading bay walls for a scratching session. They all enjoyed scratching their bottoms and necks against the rough surface. Mwashoti turned to charge at Alamaya, blowing his trunk and trumpeting loudly. Alamaya however was not scared of Mwashoti’s trumpeting, and continued with his browsing activities picking up leaves and putting them in his mouth. Mwashoti took his frustration at being ignored out on the nearby bushes and when he got tired of kicking them he tried to mount on Sonje who was busy scratching her belly on the ground. Mwashoti took this as an invitation to play and tried to climb her, something which did not bother Sonje in the slightest as he is one of the baby boys.

The orphans enjoying a scratching session

Mwashoti charging

Alamaya browsing

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