Keepers' Diaries, January 2018

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Umani Springs Reintegration Unit

We have noticed some shifting dynamics in the orphan herd of late. Murera is eight years old now and growing up, showing more individualistic behaviour and preferring to browse alone, away from the herd on some occasions. She wanders and lags behind, showing less interest on being dependent on her milk formula or the protection of the keepers, responding less and less when they call her, focusing on her own whims.

Despite Murera’s attachment to the youngsters in the herd, she is certainly becoming more independent. She does not show much interest in the wild elephants unlike six year old Sonje who has developed a particular friendship with a wild bull and seeks him out to spend time with him in the bush. She is not yet of mating age but they seem to enjoy each other’s company all the same and he follows her back to the stockades in the evening as well; he is a very gentle bull and is good with the orphans and has certainly become use to the presence of the Keepers.

In fact, there are so many wild elephant in the Kibwezi Forest at the moment the orphans seem to be socialising with them on an almost daily basis! They meet them out browsing and the wild elephants visit the stockade for water as well. The orphans are especially excited when the herds have young babies as well, especially Lima Lima. Murera and Quanza remain hesitant of these wild interactions and stand back as Sonje and the other bulls in the herd integrate with them more. The wild elephants are approaching the orphans more and more, becoming used to the unique relationship they have with their Keepers. Some wild bulls that approached Zongoloni and Faraja were kind enough to engage the young bull in a pushing game and not use their entire strength, as the little bull was tiny in comparison! Ziwa joined in on the game but even with both their combined strength, they were no match for the large bulls, who were kind enough to engage them in social lessons!

It has been cloudy this month, quite unusual for the month of February, and although it has not rained it has been cool enough that the orphans preferred not to mud bath on a number of occasions. On hot days they seemed to make up for lost time and wallowed to their hearts content. One day they got so thick with mud that the Keepers had trouble telling them apart, and had to call out their names one by one to see who would come. The cooler weather has also brought Murera, Sonje and, to a lesser extent Mwashoti, difficulty with their compromised limbs. In the morning they wake up very stiff and have to walk around for a few hours to warm up their legs and improve their circulation before they can comfortably keep up with the others; they are always fine after a couple of hours though, and can continue with the days’ patrol quite normally.

While Murera is showing signs of wanting to become independent soon, the boys in the herd are also trying to prove their age. We have noticed the biggest change in Ziwa, who is becoming more defiant and independent as well, even towards the matriarchs Murera and Sonje. Ziwa tries to lead the orphans in a different direction to the females as if to show he can be boss as well, but the others are obviously not as keen to follow him and in the end he is always brought into line by Murera. One day Jasiri, Faraja and Ziwa moved away from the females and when Lima Lima tried to follow them too, they rumbled to their fellow bull Ngasha and they all walked away at high speed, preventing her from joining them. The young bulls even try to show off their dominance with the wild herds as well, and the Keepers could not help but laugh one day when watching little Jasiri trying to mount an adult female, who easily rid herself of him every time!

January 2018 day to day

01 Jan

It was a happy new year to all orphans celebrating with their keepers in the forests. At midday bottle feeding Lima Lima brought in Alamaya and Mwashoti for their bottles and the lovely keepers gave them some tasty acacia pods to eat as well; their favourite! The orphans were so happy to receive the pods but greedy Lima Lima kept asking for more for herself, forgetting the young babies Mwashoti with Alamaya who were just waiting patiently to be given some by the keepers. Murera and Sonje stopped all babies questioning where they wanted to visit that day, but there were some rumbles of complaint from the boys who were not convinced with their opinion. Murera wanted to have the final say, and she and Sonje made the decision on which direction they were going to take. In the end, naughty mini matriarch Lima Lima and Zongoloni decided to take another route with the other boys as well, leaving Murera and Sonje with Mwashoti alone under the tree. The others wanted to walk further you see but these three have bad legs and did not want to take the route they took.

Playful orphans in the morning

Ziwa taking grass out of Quanza's mouth

Orphan browsing