Keepers' Diaries, January 2020

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Umani Springs Reintegration Unit

Our four orphans Zongoloni, Ngasha, Ziwa and Faraja still like to spend their nights out in the forest and even if they return with the other Umani babies they rush out of the stockades once they have their milk bottles so they can go cavorting off into the forest and carry on with their night time adventures. 

They used to return most mornings to see the Keepers and the other orphans, and partake in the lucerne feeding as well, but as the month progressed this was not always the case, and they started to prefer to meet up with the other babies once they were already out in the forest browsing, or keeping perfect time by meeting up for the 11 o’clock mud bath feed.  Regardless, most days, they like to join up with their still dependent friends. 

The Keepers refer to these four orphans as the ‘teenagers’ or the ‘night clubbers’, because they stay out all night and the Keepers can sometimes hear them messing about and crashing around in the bushes having a really fun time. Zongoloni is the only female but is also clearly the ring-leader; when she is not with them they seem rather lost without her. Sometimes, because they are increasingly independent and boisterous with it, when the four orphans do return in the morning they can be a little unruly; one morning they wanted the pellets all to themselves making it difficult for any of the others to get a look in. Murera will forever remain their matriarch however and she only needs to take a few steps towards any of those misbehaving and they run away knowing they have over stepped the mark. Sometimes Lima Lima, Quanza and Shukuru need to relinquish being the leaders as well and allow the most independent bulls like Ziwa and Faraja to lead the herd out in the morning.  

Being in a herd has its benefits still too, and one day when the Umani orphans made their way to a waterhole close to where they had been browsing they came across Ngasha who was seemingly become bogged down in the thick gloopy mud where wild elephants like to wallow as well. Murera saw that Ngasha was in trouble and went to help him, pulling him by the trunk while he got his feet and set himself free. The Umani herd are always happy to see Ziwa and the others whenever they choose to join the rest of the group during the day, and seem to miss them slightly. Shukuru still keeps her distance from the older bulls, even when they return, as she doesn’t want to become embroiled in any of their boisterous games and risk hurting herself.

Lima Lima is still the most avaricious orphan among the Umani herd! This it seems will never change. In the morning she scoops up more pellets than she can eat in one go with her trunk and several times she has been witnessed running after the vehicle carrying the noon milk bottles to be first to the feeding, including once this month. Her greediness can back-fire however, like the one morning this month she was so busy trying to steal lucerne from the store that she missed the fact the Keepers had already laid it all out for the orphans, and by the time she realised it was almost all gone! The Keepers remain very forgiving of her greedy ways, as she is also the most attentive, caring and loving – she will always stay close to the Keepers to protect them if she senses wild elephants or other wild animals like buffalos around, and the Keepers love her in return, unconditionally. 

Alamaya and Mwashoti are still the ‘babies’ of the herd, despite being bigger than Shukuru and despite the difference in age, having reaped the benefit of living in the Kibwezi forest for a number of years and feasting on its lush vegetation, or suffering the health issues that Shukuru has been plagued with over the years. Being so cosseted by Sonje and Murera, the Umani matriarchs means that Mwashoti can act a bit spoilt sometimes. He can push some of the older orphans like Lima Lima and Zongoloni without a second thought, and the matriarchs will still never punish him, but only move him away. He can be quite jealous of their attention as well, like Ziwa once was, and he doesn’t like anyone else to be close to ‘his’ adopted mothers.

Quanza seemed to crave a bit of peace and quiet this month. She was actually very active in helping to ‘mother’ the herd this month, checking on an orphan when they yelled out or attending to any of the others when they seemed in need, but then one day she seemed to have had enough and decided to separate herself from the rest of the group to go and browse on her own. Jasiri saw that Quanza was lagging behind and went to join her but she moved away from him, leaving Jasiri to understand that she wanted to be on her own.  He moved on and re-joined the group leaving Quanza to browse in peace and solitude.  

January 2020 day to day

01 Jan

As the orphans made their way out of their stockades Lima Lima began to lead them to the Umani Springs. Shukuru, however, had a different idea and began to lead some of the orphans towards the Umani Hills, and didn’t bother to stop at the Springs for a drink of water. Murera opted to stay with Lima Lima. 

At the midday feeding time, the Keepers had laid out the orphans’ milk bottles eagerly waiting the orphans' arrival. Lima Lima, Alamaya and Shukuru were the first to come running in for their bottles. Shukuru was given her share of milk by the Keepers while Lima Lima picked up her own bottles from the ground and downed her milk in a matter of seconds.  

Later that afternoon, as the boys were charging around and causing more mischief, Shukuru and Mwashoti seemed eager for some peace and quiet and decided to move away where they could browse near one another. 

Lima Lima picking up her milk bottle

Alamaya having his milk

Mwashoti browsing