Keepers' Diaries, June 2015

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Umani Springs Reintegration Unit

It has been a year since the Umani Springs Rehabilitation Unit was opened with the first elephants Murera and Sonje followed by the others, Lima Lima, Quanza and Zongoloni. Together these five elephants christened this our third relocation unit, and the Keepers learnt the ropes and settled into a completely new environment. It has become a favourite for elephants and Keepers alike. This year the next group arrived, our albino boys Jasiri, Faraja and Ngasha and then more recently little Balguda and Ziwa joined the fold. It is wonderful to see the success of this place exceed our wildest expectations.

It has been a year since the Umani Springs Rehabilitation Unit was opened with the first elephants Murera and Sonje followed by the others, Lima Lima, Quanza and Zongoloni. Together these five elephants christened this our third relocation unit, and the Keepers learnt the ropes and settled into a completely new environment. It has become a favourite for elephants and Keepers alike. This year the next group arrived, our albino boys Jasiri, Faraja and Ngasha and then more recently little Balguda and Ziwa joined the fold. It is wonderful to see the success of this place exceed our wildest expectations.

The interaction with the wild elephant herds has been interesting too, as with time the interactions have switched from just night time to some significant day time encounters as the wild elephants get use to the humans that accompany the orphans everywhere. On the 1st of June the orphans held their trunks in the air catching a significant scent on the wind, and just as the Keepers were wondering what it was that had attracted their attention a handsome wild bull came out from the forest into the glade. First to head towards him was Lima Lima of course, but big girls Sonje and Murera were much more reticent. It was not long before he became aware of the Keepers presence and turned away slipping back into the thick undergrowth. On the 4th another huge bull joined the babies, with Lima Lima quick to alert the Keepers of his presence to ensure their safety. This time Jasiri went up to him, and the size difference was remarkable. He didn’t remain long because of his fear of the humans with the orphans, but there is no doubt the Umani wild elephants are becoming bolder by the day. On the 8th they had a wild encounter with a wild herd in the forest and on another day the wild herd patiently waited for the orphans to finish their midday mudbath before moving in for a mudbath of their own.

Quanza is changing and growing more trusting of humans. Having witnessed her family brutally killed by poachers it has been a very long time for her to really enjoy human company, but she has changed recently and seems to be genuinely interested in seeking out the Keepers to close contact, and visitors too. Zongoloni has been somewhat displaced by Balguda who remains pampered by Murera and Sonje. They protect him from the rambunctious boys Faraja and Ngasha. Ziwa his room mate is thriving at Umani, growing stronger by the day and genuinely happy with his new home. Faraja and Jasiri with Ngasha are thriving and have to be watched carefully because their physical antics can be overbearing at times. Lima Lima is the most human of them all, a busy body, always spearheading everything and anything, and very protective of the Keepers communicating to them at all times the presence of elephants, buffalos, everything for that matter.

June 2015 day to day

01 Jun

Sonje, with her baby boy Balguda beside her was getting cross with the babies who were walking slowly behind her and she was forced to stop and wait for them. The naughty boys, Faraja and Ngasha, were very playful and taking time pushing each other, trying out their strength to see who was stronger than who and who would be the dominant bull. The keepers believe Jasiri will be the dominant bull very soon, not the naughty boys, Faraja and Ngasha. After a long time the babies finally caught up to the impatient Sonje and all the orphans came to her flapping their ears and with a few trumpets here and there and Murera trying to push them from behind to make them hurry up. When Zongoloni arrived she looked very itchy and not calm, so she spent a long time looking around to see if there was a rock or strong tree to help her scratch her itchy bottom. When she found a perfect tree she rubbed her back on the bark and enjoyed the feeling on her tough skin. During the day, as the babies were relaxing after taking the midday bottles and the keepers were enjoying their lunch under the acacia tree, Murera and Sonje were seen by the keepers raising their trunks above their head into the air. Quanza and Lima lima did the same thing and as the keepers started wondering what the signal was for, a wild bull came out from the bushes towards the orphans. Lima lima made her way towards him but the big leaders, Sonje and Murera were afraid. Before the babies could walk closer, the bull heard the keepers shouting "Wazee, ndovu, ndovu" meaning, "guys wild elephant" and dashed off, disappearing into the bushes.

Sonje waiting for the babies to come forward

Sonje on leftside with Balguda

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