Keepers' Diaries, January 2021

Select your unit:

Umani Springs Reintegration Unit

There were all sorts of shenanigans at the Umani Unit this month. Not only was the impish Lima Lima up to her usual tricks, stealing hay bales and umbrellas from the Keepers just to initiate a playful game of chase, but Ngasha and Alamaya, once part of the more independent herd of orphans referred to as the ‘night-clubbers’ seemed to take a break from that group to spend more time with the Umani herd instead, bringing with them all sorts of recently acquired bad habits as well. We will never fully know why they chose to return, perhaps life out with fully-grown wild bulls to contend with was still too much for these young bulls to grapple with, or perhaps Zongoloni sent them back to the matriarchs and the Keepers for some discipline.

We sense this might have been the case as Ngasha returned having picked up some very bad habits of trying to mount the females in the herd, namely Sonje, Murera and Lima Lima. Of course this was always unwelcome and disrupted the herd dynamics, for the girls would get upset and run away, troubled at having to leave Luggard behind, and leaving the Keepers to reprimand Ngasha for his bad behaviour. When he turned his attention to Enkesha as well and was bullying her by trying to mount on her all the time, the Keepers and matriarchs really stepped in and Ngasha would be severely told off for his misconduct. He would often feel very embarrassed by his actions, and hide his face in the bushes, and as a result would behave very well for the rest of the day. The same could be said of Alamaya, and he was usually on his best behaviour around the matriarchs as he knew he would be severely scolded for any disobedience.

After spending several nights away Zongoloni and the other night-clubbers, Ziwa, Faraja and Jasiri returned to the Umani herd around the 23rd of the month. The Umani herd had been dealing with Ngasha and his naughty behaviour for some time so they were relieved to see Zongoloni too. There were loud happy trumpets from Quanza and Sonje who welcomed their old friends, and the Keepers noted how big Faraja and Ziwa looked and were delighted to see them looking so strong and healthy. After a couple of days altogether, the other night-clubbers started to drift away back into the forest, but Zongoloni remained behind, and we can only imagine this was because she knew the older boys would be okay, and it was Murera and Sonje who needed a helping hand with the wayward Ngasha! She stayed with the Umani herd for the rest of the month, and was even the happy recipient of a milk bottle or two sometimes as well. At first she requested a milk bottle at feeding times, seeing as she had returned to the Umani herd she evidently saw this as her right, and the Keepers obliged in order to get a good look at the wound on her back which had been inflicted by another elephants tusk last month. Satisfied that it was healing well, the Keepers didn’t give Zongoloni any more milk bottles; having been weaned of them sometime back she certainly didn’t need milk anymore. At first Zongoloni seemed very annoyed but then she soon accepted it. 

The happiest to see Zongoloni back close to home was obviously Enkesha. Since Enkesha moved to Umani last year these two elephants have become incredibly close, which is very heart-warming, and perhaps Zongoloni even chose to stay with the Umani herd because she didn’t want Ngasha harassing her little Enkesha. Every reunion between Enkesha and Zongoloni is enchanting to behold; Enkesha will rush up to Zongoloni whenever she sees her approaching, and Zongoloni reciprocates by enveloping Enkesha with her trunk and rumbling affectionately. Should Zongoloni ever start to walk off further into the forest Enkesha has been tempted to follow her a couple of times, but the Keepers always call her back as she certainly isn’t ready yet, so Zongoloni chooses to stay with the dependent herd too.

Shukuru has been keeping her distance from the naughty Alamaya and Ngasha since their return, and will slow her walking pace in order to avoid them. However on the whole she is looking very well at the moment and seems to be gaining confidence all the time. She has always been a very quiet elephant, so we know that whenever she trumpets something very exciting must be afoot! When she came across a kaleidoscope of butterflies one day she let out one of the loudest trumpets we have ever heard from her, and she started to chase the butterflies all over the forest. The excitement attracted Lima Lima and together the two girls had such fun blowing at the butterflies with their trunks and tearing around after them. Tired from all the excitement Shukuru even had to lie down for a nap that afternoon.

Of course the matriarchs in the herd always make sure to keep Luggard away from any boisterous activity too. This is the most cosseted little baby we have ever known. At the beginning of the month it seemed even Enkesha was starting to get a little jealous of all the attention he was getting, but she always has Shukuru who is very dedicated to her, and towards the end of the month she had her favourite Zongoloni too. Quanza has proven to be a very capable nanny of Luggard too, and Sonje is very happy to leave Luggard in any of the other females company now they have all proven themselves to be proficient at looking after the young boy. One day when Ngasha was acting up, Quanza and Lima Lima moved to be closer to Sonje and Murera, and they all surrounded Luggard in a protective circle. All you could see was Luggard’s little head between the legs of the all the older girls. Quanza is still very fond of quiet Shukuru too, and if she ever sees the young girl browsing on her own, she will move over to accompany her.

Mwashoti, despite the presence and potential bad influence of the naughty boys this month, was quite well-behaved for the most part, and any bad behaviour towards Enkesha was quickly quashed by the older females. One day Ngasha managed to convince Mwashoti to join him out in the forest for the day, and the two boys snuck off so that Ngasha could introduce Mwashoti to his new wild friends. Mwashoti spent the entire day out with wild friends, but in the evening he was happy to return to the stockades. He finished his milk bottles in seconds and retired to his room and fell asleep almost immediately, evidently tired from the excitement of his day out with wild herds. This was his only sojourn with wild friends and he stayed very much ensconced in the Umani herd for the rest of the month.

January 2021 day to day

01 Jan

After the midday milk feed all the orphans indulged in a leisurely mud bath. Once done, all the Keepers and the orphans decided to take a break from the heat by resting under some nearby acacia trees. Everyone one was relaxing except Lima Lima; she raised her trunk, sniffing the air, alerting the Keepers that perhaps a wild animal was nearby.

She enlisted Mwashoti to be her second in command and both took off towards the forest to investigate further, where they found a lone wild bull. A few minutes later, Mwashoti was spotted being chased away by this wild bull. Mwashoti returned to where the Keepers were with the Umani herd, but there was no sign of Lima Lima. It seemed as though the wild bull was interested only in the females in the Umani herd. Lima Lima stayed in the forest for almost two hours.

In the evening when the Umani herd was making their way home and we saw Lima Lima emerge from the forest and join us on the walk back to the stockades; boys or no boys, this greedy girl wasn’t going to miss out on her milk bottle! The wild bull wasn’t too far behind but maintained a safe distance. The orphans settled into their evening routine as the wild bull watched from outside the shut gates. He waited there for a while but then joined our night-clubbers for the rest of the night.

Shukuru getting ready to dust

Playful orphans

Mwashoti and Enkesha hugging