Keepers' Diaries, July 2017

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Umani Springs Reintegration Unit

This month was characterised by plenty of interactions with wild elephants again, perhaps as they filter into the Kibwezi Forest with its lush vegetation and ever present spring in a drying Tsavo region, and each meeting is different to the next. It's one thing that the wild elephants are less cautious of the orphans, approaching them often, increasing less apprehensive of the Keepers it seems, but they are not always very friendly.

This month was characterised by plenty of interactions with wild elephants again, perhaps as they filter into the Kibwezi Forest with its lush vegetation and ever present spring in a drying Tsavo region, and each meeting is different to the next. It's one thing that the wild elephants are less cautious of the orphans, approaching them often, increasing less apprehensive of the Keepers it seems, but they are not always very friendly.

Sometimes the orphans bring this on themselves however, when they become over exuberant in their games with wild calves and pull them too close or pull their tails, which obviously draws the attention of their angry mothers. Sonje seems to be able to interact with these wild friends well and the orphans did enjoy some amiable meetings like drinking and sharing water with wild bulls. Every interaction for the orphans is instrumental in teaching them new social skills, and signifies a more seamless integration into the wild for them.

The weather was cold this month which meant the orphans did not always take a daily mud bath, and the babies Mwashoti and Alamaya would stick close to the matriarchs Sonje and Murera for warmth. As Murera's leg stiffens in the cooler weather, she has been walking around in the morning to help her blood to circulate and warm up a little, so she could keep up with the others. The cold seems to affect Murera's leg more than Sonje's, but both girls are doing well despite their compromised legs and have grown into fit and strong sub-adults. Mwashoti's compromised foot from his snare wound has also healed remarkably and we only see him walk with a slight limp these days. The cold weather does make him slightly stiff but like Murera, after walking he begins to loosen up.

Zongoloni, Quanza and Lima Lima are excellent supports to Matriarchs Murera and Sonje and they help lead and direct the other orphans on all matters like which direction to take and when it is time for bed. One day, Alamaya and Ziwa walked into the stockades holding trunks like the good friends they are, but Zongoloni pushed them apart so they would go into their own pens for their milk. When the boys don't listen regarding which direction to take they receive a firm shove from Quanza, who is always there to help them up after a vigorous wrestling battle as well. Lima Lima still dotes on Alamaya the most and one day we watched her try her hardest to fit him under her belly to keep him warm in the cold weather. She also continues to entertain the Keepers with her greediness, rushing to the feeding area before everyone else, grabbing her milk bottles from the vehicle before the Keepers are ready and even going to the length of trying to steal bales of lucerne in the morning from the food store! The Keepers have moved the morning feeding time to before 6am because of her impatience, and her greediness creates chaos on an almost daily basis, but she remains endearing to her beloved Keepers!

The presence of hyenas and leopards in the forest around the stockade this month meanwhile irritated the orphans when they were in their stockades and they made the most tremendous noise knocking on their gates, mainly because their smell upset the babies (especially Alamaya who had been attacked by hyenas when he was a baby before he was rescued) and the older girls wanted to reassure them.

When the naughty boys like Jasiri, Faraja and even Ziwa decide not to listen to the Keepers it can be to their own disadvantage, like the morning the Keepers had found their most lovely treat of acacia seed pods and the boys ignored their calls, leaving the little boys and the Matriarchs to enjoy them before they realized what they were missing out on!

July 2017 day to day

01 Jul

All of the elephants were looking very happy early in the morning. Murera and Sonje, the big girls, came out of their bedrooms quickly and immediately started looking for their beloved Mwashoti, touching his tail and giving him hugs which made him very happy. Alamaya joined Zongoloni and Lima Lima for a walk along the water springs. Murera went ahead of the naughty boys to stop them pushing the young boys Ngasha and Ziwa, they were separated from Zongoloni and left Alamaya to walk away with Lima Lima.

Mwashoti having a drink at the water trough

Murera coming down from the forest

Orphans running home with Ngasha in the lead

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