Keepers' Diaries, July 2021

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Umani Springs Reintegration Unit

For a herd as small as Umani Springs, every member’s presence is felt keenly. When they arrived from the Nursery in May, Kiasa, Kiombo, and Maktao shook things up. Now that they have been in residence for two full months, everyone seems to have settled into the new dynamic.

Mwashoti was the only one who seemed displeased by the newcomers’ arrival. He was used to being the baby of the herd, so he felt quite jealous to be usurped by the youngster. At seven years old, however, it was high time that Mwashoti began exploring his own reintegration journey. This plot twist provided just the incentive he needed. He has begun spending more time with the “night-clubbers,” the semi-independent orphans, and fraternising with the wild elephants of the Kibwezi Forest. He is apparently very popular with female elephants — one day, he introduced the dependent herd to a coterie of wild girlfriends. Unfortunately, this made Sonje and Quanza very upset, as they didn’t appreciate having much female competition!

Enkesha and Maktao have become very close. They are nighttime neighbours, but their friendship extends into all hours of the day. Enkesha has taken on her mentorship role with gusto, ensuring no one bullies the young bull and eagerly showing him where the tastiest shrubs grow. Maktao has always been a sensitive soul, and he really seems to appreciate all this special attention. We always suspected Enkesha would become a matriarch one day, and given how well she looks after Maktao, our suspicions seem to be well-founded. 

Murera remains absolutely devoted to her little charge, Kiasa. This usually takes the form of emotional care and nurturing, but sometimes even physical support! One day, the herd was trekking up the steep Umani Hills. Murera realized that Kiasa was struggling to climb the slopes and immediately offered her assistance. Kiasa wrapped her trunk around the older girl’s tail, using her strength to propel herself uphill. Murera is such an excellent matriarch, always looking out for the welfare of her herd. Sometimes, Murera allows Zongoloni to look after Kiasa. Zongoloni and Kiasa are kindred spirits, spunky and independent in equal measure. 

Just as Murera is devoted to Kiasa, so is Sonje to Kiombo. Not only do they share a stockade at night, but they rarely leave each other’s sides. They have developed a very sweet morning ritual. Instead of immediately rushing off to the lucerne after their bottles, one waits for the other to finish their milk. Then, Kiombo gets a trunk hug from Sonje, and the pair head over to have their lucerne together. 

Under Zongoloni’s leadership, the night-clubbers have become more immersed with the wild elephants of the Kibwezi Forest. It is remarkable to see how easily Ziwa, Jasiri, Faraja, Ngasha, and Alamaya filter between herds, making new friends and seamlessly socializing with the dependent orphans and wild elephants alike. Lima Lima has been spending a lot of time out in the wild, which marks excellent progress in her reintegration journey. However, the dependent orphans miss her regular presence. When Lima Lima arrived at the stockade compound one evening, Quanza welcomed her with a jubilant trumpet. This woke up the sleeping babies, causing a startled Kiasa and Kiombo to hide underneath their nannies’ bellies!

There was a spot of drama towards the end of the month, when the orphans came across a crocodile in a small pool. Always conscious of the others’ safety, Murera immediately tried to chase it away. In the ensuing fracas, she hit the crocodile on the tail, which gave her an enormous fright. This sent all the other orphans rushing over to help their friend. Sonje and Mwashoti even wanted to step on the crocodile! The Keepers managed to intervene and save the besieged reptile, as he was only trying to protect himself. They called the SWT/KWS Kibwezi Forest Anti-Poaching Team, who moved the crocodile to the Umani Springs, where he would be much happier. And thus, peace was restored among our herd.

July 2021 day to day

01 Jul

The budding friendship between Enkesha and Maktao continues to blossom. Having Enkesha as a neighbor has helped Maktao settle into his new life as part of the Umani herd, Enkesha’s constant re-assuring presence has shown Maktao that this a friend he can rely on.

This morning Maktao and Enkesha exited their pens, finished their bottles of milk and walked over to the lucerne corner together. They were the first ones there, as the rest of their friends were still finishing their milk. Both Enkesha and Maktao started to grab trunkfuls of the lucerne pellets and stuff their mouths as much as they could, before the rest of the Umani herd arrived. The Keepers thought Enkesha was on the lookout for her friends, but they realized it was Mwashoti she was looking out for. Enkesha’s friend Mwashoti has been hesitant to accept Maktao and Kiombo into the fold, so when Enkesha saw Mwashoti approaching, she quickly ushered Maktao away to avoid any trouble. 

Sonje and Kiombo are another duo who are always together, during the day they are seen browsing side by side, at the milk feed they are side by side and even when it is time to go home, Kiombo is never too far from Sonje’s. The two young bulls have now made it very clear who have settled on as their caregivers. Jasiri and Faraja thought that they could also share in the affections of Sonje and so decided to join Sonje and Kiombo during their browsing sessions, but a very firm rumble from Sonje confirmed that she did not want these boisterous boys around Kiombo. She took Kiombo and they both walked to Umani Hills where they could browse in peace, away from the rest of the herd.  

Maktao and Faraja at the water-trough

Murera enjoys morning dusting

Mwashoti browsing in the Chyulus