Keepers' Diaries, June 2021

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Umani Springs Reintegration Unit

The Kibwezi Forest was brimming with wild elephants this month. Our rangers even came across fresh evidence of a baby being born within the forest, which was incredibly exciting. Our social butterfly, Lima Lima, was particularly delighted by the presence of these wild visitors. Upon hearing the trumpeting of a nearby herd, she would dash off to see if they had any babies to play with. She optimistically trots alongside the wild herds, hoping they will permit her to nanny their little ones.

The Keepers know that Lima Lima would like nothing more than to have her very own calf, but she is not quite of age to become a mother yet. However, romance is clearly on her mind: Lima Lima has been spending lots of time with wild bulls, even staying out in the forest overnight with them. She is such a beautiful girl, so it is easy to understand why she has a throng of admirers. However, one bull seems to have stolen her heart. He appeared several times throughout the month to call on Lima Lima, which is why the Keepers began to refer to him as her boyfriend. Despite these nocturnal forays, Lima Lima always returns to the stockades in the morning with Zongoloni’s independent group of “nightclubbers.” She is very fond of her milk bottles and doesn’t like to miss out! 

Murera had the most marvellous interaction with a wild bull one day, which took the Keepers by surprise. Since losing her precious Luggard last month, she has started to express more interest in fraternising with wild elephants, but she still remains relatively standoffish compared to the other orphans. Early one morning, the nightclubbers Zongoloni, Faraja, and Jasiri arrived at the stockades, flanked by a much older bull. When Murera saw the wild visitor, it was almost as if they recognized each other. The bull walked right up to Murera and gave her trunk hugs, which our girl accepted without hesitation — which is something she has never done before. They lowered their heads in communication and then spent the entire day together in the forest, until Murera returned in the evening to catch up with Kiasa. Perhaps wild-born babies are not too far away for our Umani girls, after all! 

The new arrivals from the Nursery have been such a healing balm after the loss of Umani’s beloved Luggard. Kiasa, Maktao, and Kiombo have settled so well into their new home. They never miss an opportunity to show off their expertise, although they often betray their inexperience by not knowing the way. One morning, Kiombo and Maktao even broke into the lucerne store and proudly took their bounty out into the forest. Kiasa was a leader at the Nursery, and it is amusing to watch her try to lead the older elephants around at Umani. She reminds the Keepers of Lima Lima, with her pixie-like energy and voracious appetite. She eagerly flits about the forest at such a pace that Murera and the other females have a hard time keeping up with her! While she is Murera’s special favourite, Zongoloni is very fond of her as well. Perhaps Zongoloni knows that, in time, Kiasa will be a positive addition to her night-clubber herd. 

Sonje has a new favourite in Kiombo, although she also has a soft spot for Maktao. The only elephant who isn’t quite so keen on the new dynamic is Mwashoti. Since Alamaya joined up with the nightclubbers, he is the oldest orphan bull in the Umani herd. The Keepers felt that he might benefit from the company of older bulls and urged him to spend more time with the nightclubbers. The presence of the new babies — plus the fact that Kiombo was now sharing his night stockade with Sonje — was all the encouragement he needed. Mwashoti is growing more independent step by step, and while he still acted out occasionally, he had fully accepted the new babies by month’s end.

Maktao seems to get along with everyone, but has found a particular friend in Enkesha. Lima Lima originally expressed an interest in “adopting” him, but with all her extended forays into the forest, she has become quite an unreliable nanny! Enkesha is Maktao’s neighbour and they have become very attached. He also has a motherly role model in the form Quanza, who does a wonderful job looking after him. 

When Jasiri was still part of the milk-dependent herd at Umani, he was known as a gentle giant, but his character is changing. Since spending more time in the wild, he has picked up the unsavoury habit of chasing the girls, particularly Murera. This behaviour doesn’t sit very well with the Umani herd, and every time Murera sees Jasiri approaching, she goes out of her way to avoid him. Sometimes, the Keepers have to step in if he is being a persistent nuisance. Kiasa is not used to this commotion, so whenever Jasiri is up to his tricks, she takes off and joins Maktao and Kiombo.

Aside from Jasiri, the other nightclubber boys have been on their best behaviour. Ngasha used to be a similar pest, but he seems to have turned over a new leaf. Perhaps he learned his lesson earlier this year, when he sprained his leg while trying to chase Murera. Now, he is much calmer and all the Umani girls really enjoy his company.

June 2021 day to day

01 Jun

May was a month of mixed emotions. For the older girls in the Umani herd, losing Luggard was extremely painful, especially for Murera and Lima Lima who would sometimes visit the young bull’s stockade. This was particularly difficult for the Keepers to watch, but the arrival of Kiasa, Kiombo and Maktao, our new graduates from the Nairobi Nursery, has breathed new life into the Umani Herd.

Murera has already taken a keen liking to Kiasa, who is quite independent little girl, showing signs of being a great leader, qualities that were already apparent when she was at the Nairobi Nursery. Kiasa has already moved into the stockade with Murera, who dotes on the little girl. Lima Lima seems rather unsettled on which boy she would like to take under her wing, she adores both Kiombo and Maktao, who are both at present sharing a room, but will be separated into their own quarters once they get a bit oldr.  

We have seen some changes in Lima Lima too recently. When it is time for the Umani herd to make their way back to the stockades in the afternoon, we find a few wild elephant herds waiting around for her. Despite the Keepers calling her back, Lima Lima leaves with the wild elephants and stays out all night, only returning in the morning in the company of the night-clubbers. It seems as though Lima Lima is starting to like the idea of exploring her independence a little more.

Zongoloni hugging Maktao

Kiasa with a friend

Lima Lima with a mouthful of grass