Keepers' Diaries, January 2019

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Umani Springs Reintegration Unit

The orphans were able to socialise with many wild elephants this month, although the orphaned bulls in the herd were doing a good job of nearly ruining these encounters by being too rough and exuberant. On numerous occasions the orphans had to leave because Faraja and Jasiri were being too pushy, or Ngasha nudged one of the bulls or pulled their tails. 

They were often just playing, but they need to learn more about social boundaries and etiquette with the wild herds it seems. In general, the dependent bulls Faraja, Jasiri, Ngasha and even Ziwa are becoming much more confident and independent of the others, happy to walk off without the company of the other females or the Keepers in order to browse on their own, and when the Keepers call them, sometimes they do not respond. Perhaps the day is approaching when the older dependent bulls will slowly start to move away from the confines of stockades at night, and become partially independent. This is all a completely natural progression, something we have experienced numerous times before, and this process of becoming more independent is driven by the individual when the time is right for them. We, as their human family, remain here as a constant for them until such time as they feel they can move away and spend more time in the company of wild herds; this is gradual and all part of growing up.

This month the orphans managed to interact with some of the female herds with their youngsters too. Zongoloni and Quanza were always particularly well behaved and social, savouring those opportunities. One day Murera, Sonje and Ziwa came across some wild elephant dung while returning home and the scent of the wild elephants led them down a different path in an effort to find their wild friends. They interacted with the female herd for a while before returning home to join their friends for the night of their own free will.  

Murera and Sonje seem to be going off their milk bottles as they are big girls now and shouldn’t really be on milk, but we have been indulging them. Mwashoti and Alamaya have been reduced to one bottle of milk every feed as they too are growing big now. They appeared slightly confused by this turn of events, and went to try and pick up another bottle after finishing their first. The Keepers wondered if Murera and Lima Lima were comforting the young boys as they remained near them while browsing, almost as though they were ushering them into the next stage of being a teenager.

Lima Lima kept us entertained this month as usual with her greedy behaviour. One day she ran after the milk vehicle as it drove past in order to be the first one to have her bottle, pulling them out of the pick-up before the Keepers were even ready! Another morning she was very naughty and stole bales of lucerne from the store, dropping and scattering them all over the place in her haste. Jasiri and Ziwa blocked her escape route but this meant Lima Lima only held the bale aloft and made even more mess as she dropped her prize everywhere. When she realized the game was up she tried to hide from Murera who was ready to discipline her for being so naughty, and the Keepers too, as she knew she would get a telling off from them as well.

Poor Lima Lima got a fright one day when she was pulling some branches down and inadvertently disturbed a bee’s hive in the process! Elephants do not like bees but Lima Lima is a very clever girl and she ran straight to a nearby waterhole, submerging herself in the water which prevented the bees from stinging her, and they soon dispersed and disappeared. 

Shukuru continues to only improve at her new home and is looking in much better condition. She still prefers to keep herself to herself when it comes to mud and dust bathing mindful of the rambunctious boys in the group. She is often first to the feeding point so she can enjoy both of these activities in peace, without any roughhousing from the older boys or Alamaya, who can occasionally feel jealous of Shukuru and act out. Shukuru always notices however, and is very discrete and quietly gets up without a fuss and moves away.

January 2019 day to day

01 Jan

In the early hours of the morning, Sonje and Shukuru began to lead the orphans out into the forest but Ngasha and Ziwa seemed reluctant to follow her and went in their own direction. Sonje, followed by Shukuru, Murera and Mwashoti, kept going on their path. 

Whilst out in the bush, Murera seemed to call out to the other orphans by loudly rumbling; only Alamaya and Lima Lima came over to see what was happening. When the orphans were down at the waterhole for their midday bottles of milk, some bush bucks began to walk towards the water but were met by Ziwa who was reluctant to let them through causing them to eventually run away. Ziwa and Ngasha seemed to be left guarding the waterhole. 

Shukuru scratching her bottom

Quanza busy browsing

Orphans dustbathing