Keepers' Diaries, January 2023

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Umani Springs Reintegration Unit

As is the case with most spoiled babies, Kapei is getting a bit too big for his britches. He knows that he can get away with anything, and he has no qualms about using his favoured position to his advantage. He began the new year with a determined quest to wrangle an extra milk bottle. After realising that the Keepers were not going to give it to him, he decided to steal one from Amali. The Keepers were quick to get the bottle off Kapei, but he started shouting, which sent the older girls running to his defence — never mind that he was the instigator!

A less confident calf might be upset by her peer receiving all the adoration of the older females, but not Amali. She has a treasured friend in the big, gentle bull Mwashoti. Mwashoti is very dedicated to his little friend and abandons his nightclubber friends in order to be at the stockades early in the morning to collect her. 

When she is not hanging out with Mwashoti, Amali is content to do her own thing. She has lots of hobbies, from chasing butterflies to swimming. The Keepers marvel at her swimming skills; she is always the first into the mud bath and the last out. They are enchanted by this self-sufficient, self-assured little girl. 

While Sonje, Quanza, Lima Lima, and Zongoloni are obsessed with Kapei, Murera seems to find him tiresome. She prefers the quiet Amali to the demanding Kapei. We witnessed a lovely moment between them this month. After walking for many kilometres in very hot sun, Amali was eager to cool off in the mud bath. Mwashoti and Murera walked with her to the water, then tested its temperature before allowing her to enter. Murera rumbled to Amali that it was safe, and both she and Mwashoti stood sentry while the little girl splashed to her heart’s content.

Ngasha gives off the impression that he is tough, but the big bull is all bluster. One day, he was walking along Kenzili Road when he heard some wild dogs. He turned to Alamaya for reassurance, but his friend was equally nervous. When the dogs ran across the path, some distance ahead. Ngasha got a terrible fright and trumpeted at the top of his lungs. Later, he joined the orphan herd at mud bath, eager to be around friends and away from the scary wild dogs.

January 7th was a very big occasion, because it was the night that Quanza decided to go wild! She usually leads the orphans back to the stockades, but this evening, she was reluctant to leave a wild bull who had linked up with the herd. While Quanza socialised with her new friend, Enkesha, Kiasa, Sonje, and Lima Lima made sure the other orphans were home and happy. Later in the evening the Keepers heard Quanza trumpeting outside the stockades. They opened the gate for her, but she disappeared back into the bush, clearly communicating that she was ready to be a nightclubber. Still, the Keepers appreciated that she checked in before continuing her night out in the forest.

Two days later, we had a visit from our ‘Lone Ranger,’ Ziwa. As has become his habit, he appeared with his adopted wild family for a brief catch-up. They returned a few times throughout the month, much to everyone’s delight. 

Kapei is known as the drama king, but Amali also has her diva moments! One morning, she wanted to sleep in and resolutely remained in her stockade. When the Keepers tried to coax her out, she charged at them, then finally exited in a huff.

Kiombo and Maktao are good friends who are also eager to establish dominance. Most days begin with a pushing match, and they occasionally resort to dirty tactics. One day, things got a bit too serious when Kiombo grabbed Maktao’s tail and Maktao retaliated by pulling Kiombo’s trunk. Fortunately, sensible Enkesha and Quanza were standing by to restore the peace.

Enkesha usually tries to keep the peace, but even she isn’t above the occasional tussle. One afternoon, she and Kiombo had a disagreement over a small stick. Enkesha found it first and rightly assumed ‘finders, keepers,’ but Kiombo had other ideas. A spirited tug-of-war ensued, until Quanza solved the debate by taking the stick away from both of them.

Mid-month, we were treated to a visit from the nightclubbers. Zongoloni, Faraja, and Jasiri joined the orphan herd in the Chyulu area. Everyone was happy to see the group, as they had been away for some time. Our scout Lima Lima helped Sonje find Zongoloni, impressing us as always with her sixth sense as to where all her friends are. Murera was particularly delighted to see her old friend, Faraja. They interlocked trunks, telling each other all of their stories.

There have been lots of bush fires around the far side of the Kibwezi Forest, more than ever before. This, coupled with the drought in Amboseli, has driven more wildlife to Umani Springs. In addition to an influx of elephants, there have even been zebra and giraffe sightings, which is unusual.

The month ended with an amusing Kapei incident. While the herd was walking through the forest, two fighting bulls exploded out of the bushes. The commotion scared little Kapei, who went running to Sonje, Lima Lima, and Kiasa for protection. With all the big girls behind him, Kapei suddenly felt very courageous. He decided to take control of the situation by flaring his ears and trumpeting at the bulls, who of course didn’t give him a second glance. Everyone chuckled at the tiny boy’s bravado. 

January 2023 day to day

01 Jan

The elephants were not feeling energetic this morning. They stayed browsing close to the stockades within the Umani Springs area. 

Kapei the favourite little boy was very greedy and demanded another milk bottle. After realising that the Keepers were not going to give it to him, he decided to steal one from Amali. The Keepers were quick to get the bottle off Kapei, but he started shouting, which attracted the attention of the older girls and they came running to his defence. Amali happily finished her bottle in the company of her good friend Mwashoti, knowing that he would protect her. 

After finishing her bottle, she rushed to the waterhole to cool off. Amali found that Kapei and the older girls were already monopolising the waterhole, so she took a detour over to an anthill, to scratch her bottom. 

The orphan herd relocated to the shrubs around the waterhole to browse for the afternoon. 



Mwashoti with a mouth full of grass