This month at Umani it has been all about the arrival of the new babies and the shift in dynamic this has created amongst the group. Murera and Sonje abandoned little Ziwa in the excitement of receiving two new, much younger babies from the nursery at the end of last month. Ziwa is old enough however to fend for himself now and can even be seen joining in the pushing games with the bigger boys Faraja and Jasiri, which previously he would have shied away from. Murera and Sonje immediately took to the new youngsters, and after a few days started to concentrate their attention on Mwashoti mainly, recognising and understanding his slight impediment caused by the healed snare wound around his front left foot, and leaving Lima Lima to dote on the young Alamaya. They lead him around the best routes and ways of approaching more difficult obstacles like climbing up hills and inclines, and protect both the young boys from the boisterous antics of the older bulls in the group! Some of the orphans have shown curiosity in Alamaya’s missing tail, but where Jasiri the ‘tail puller’ has been trying to grab it, others like Quanza have just been touching the stump, trying to understand where it has gone – either way Alamaya usually does not like it! Quanza has actually been in quite a playful mood this month, although the others are always careful not to take the game too far, as Quanza does not stand for nonsense of any kind!
Alamaya and Mwashoti have been getting used to the new sights and sounds of Kibwezi Forest, how to negotiate the lava rocks and new sounds like the crocodiles splashing back into the water near the springs when the orphans come running – all new and slightly unnerving for the orphans who are not used to it. There is no doubt they have been immensely enjoying their new environment however, thriving in the thick forest with ample variety of vegetation to feed off; even as the dry season commences, there is permanent water to be found from the fresh Umani water springs. Due to the drier conditions wild elephants and other wildlife have also been starting to frequent the Kibwezi forest more from the drier Chyulu Hills area, which is a great experience and learning opportunity for our younger orphans; this does not always come as welcome news to Murera however, who likes to keep her little herd close. For the orphans to be able to smell and taste what some of the wild elephants are eating is valuable information and only something they can learn once they reach the rehabilitation units in Tsavo and Kibwezi; Alamaya and Mwashoti have been doing this frequently when they come across the paths of wild elephants. The wild elephants are becoming a lot bolder in their approach of the orphans too, and have even been present at the stockades in the morning when the orphans come out of their pens, and sometimes visiting at night as well. They are becoming more curious of the funny little orphan herd in their midst, as well as more accepting of their human families presence.
Alamaya and Mwashoti have been keen to show off their amazing swimming skills, loving the fresh feeling of mud to cool their hot bodies on warm days, unlike their new friends Ngasha and the other two boys who tend to shy away from the water. The Keepers and Dame Daphne when she visited in the middle of the month have been amazed to see how well Mwashoti is doing on his lame foot. Day by day he grows stronger and he is able to run and keep up with the others just as well as any elephant! Both he and greedy Alamaya have even been able to master Zongoloni’s technique of picking up their milk bottles right off the ground, impatient to wait for the assistance from their Keepers. Lima Lima has thrived in her new role of caring for Alamaya and protects him from the rowdy behaviour of Jasiri and Faraja; even Ziwa as the month wore on became friendlier towards Alamaya, abandoning any previous resentment at being one of the new young babies in the herd and enjoying browsing with him in the forest.