Keepers' Diaries, June 2022

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Umani Springs Reintegration Unit

Our Umani girls are known for their romantic intrigues, especially Sonje and Lima Lima, who have a constant stream of suitors. This month, however, was dominated by the boys’ love lives.

It began with Ngasha, who strolled up to the dependent herd with a wild girlfriend in tow. The female seemed very happy to be with Ngasha, and he clearly wanted to introduce her to his human-elephant family. Unfortunately, Faraja and Jasiri became jealous of their friend’s good fortune and promptly set about stealing her. It looked like Faraja would win the girl, until Jasiri swept in and emerged victorious. At this point, it’s a charade anyway, as all three boys are still quite young and thus unlikely to be a female’s preferred mate.

Lima Lima has started following Faraja around all day, which has caused some jealousy among the other older boys. One morning, Jasiri came by the stockades and found Faraja playing with Lima Lima. He ran over and chased Faraja away, but Lima Lima was unimpressed by his behaviour and refused to spend time with him. To add insult to Jasiri’s injury, she left with Faraja.

Love was also in the air for Alamaya! On many occasions, the Keepers spotted him walking alongside a beautiful wild female. However, trouble began when the female got a wandering eye and set her sights on Mwashoti. Determined to win her back, Alamaya challenged Mwashoti to a pushing match — and being older and larger, it was a fight he easily won. Despite his victory, the female decided to stick with Mwashoti. Alamaya enlisted Faraja to help him, but by the time he returned, his girlfriend had already left with Mwashoti.

Kiasa has a party trick: She is the only girl who can hold her own milk bottle and feed herself! This is born from her passion for milk; Kiasa is obsessed with her bottles and always makes sure she is at the front of the feeding line. One day, Kiasa stole a bottle from Kiombo, which caused a big drama. Sonje ran over to help Kiombo. In the process, she inadvertently pushed Kiasa, who cried for Quanza to protect her. The two big girls, Quanza and Sonje, started to fight each other, each defending their little friend. Things continued to escalate until Murera then came over and broke up the argument. Quanza and Sonje promptly apologised to each other and hugged it out. Peace was restored and everyone browsed happily for the rest of the afternoon.

This month was very special, because we witnessed how successfully Ziwa has transitioned to the wild. He has been living independently for quite some time now, but now he is fully ensconced in a wild family. Ziwa has always been a protector of females, so it makes sense that he has joined a wonderfully nurturing, all-female herd. He is clearly eager to introduce his human-elephant family to his new family, as he brought them by several times this month.

On one visit, Ziwa guided his family to the water trough next to stockades. The wild elephants were not as comfortable with the Keepers, but they trusted Ziwa not to put them in danger. When a Keeper walked by, the littlest member of the herd got scared and hid under his mother. Realising the baby was panicking, Ziwa moved closer to reassure him. Ziwa was the host and wanted to show his wild family that they were safe in his presence. When Ziwa disappeared into the bush, the orphans raised their trunks aloft and bid him farewell with a chorus of trumpets, as if asking him to come again soon. They miss their friend, but they know he is thriving in the wild.

Sonje is weighing her ties to the dependent herd and her desire to become more independent. She has adopted little Kiombo, who is her roommate. It seems that she wants to start spending nights out with the semi-independent orphans (the ‘nightclubbers’) and their wild friends, but she also doesn’t want to ditch Kiombo. She keeps trying to convince the younger bull to join her on these nocturnal forays, but Kiombo is not ready to take that step. One evening, Kiombo thought Sonje wasn’t coming home, so he became very anxious and sad, worried that would have to sleep alone. He calmed down when Sonje returned to the stockades later in the evening.

Zongoloni is the ringleader of the nightclubber boys, but she dotes on little Kiasa. While they spend their days together, Kiasa is still stockade-dependent. One afternoon, however, Zongoloni snuck away with the younger girl. Quanza raised the alarm when everyone was back at the stockades; she shares a bedroom with Kiasa and was upset to find herself without a roommate. Unsurprisingly, it was Lima Lima who saved the day. She led the Keepers roughly three kilometres through the bush, until they found Zongoloni sheepishly hanging out with Kiasa. The Keepers walked back to the stockades with Lima Lima and Kiasa, while Zongoloni linked up with the nightclubbers. Soon enough, Kiasa will be old enough to spend nights in the forest, too!

We had lots of wonderful, wild interactions this month. Sometimes, however, the orphans’ enthusiasm got the better of them! One morning, a wild female elephant joined the orphans with her tiny baby in tow. All the girls were very interested in the baby and kept following her around. Lima Lima, as usual, couldn’t contain herself and tried to sneak away with the youngster. The mother rightfully made a big fuss and chased Lima Lima away. While Lima Lima sheepishly remained with the Keepers, Sonje was invited to join mother and baby, and proceeded to enjoy a few special hours in their company.

We are always amazed by how bravely the orphans stand up for other wildlife. It is as if they have appointed themselves the guardians of the Kibwezi Forest. They have a love-hate relationship with the baboons who hang around the compound, as they are very rowdy and disruptive, but when push comes to shove, they will defend them. One night, the baboons saw a leopard and started making a terrible racket. The orphans joined in, trumpeting and pushing on the gates of their stockades.

Early one morning, the orphans heard a big racket in the Umani Springs area. Quanza and Enkesha quickly ran over to investigate, and they were dismayed to discover a leopard attacking a buffalo calf. They realised they would need reinforcements if they were to stop the attack, so they ran back and enlisted to rest of the orphans and Keepers. The orphans made lots of noise, trumpeting and surrounding the leopard. This worked, and the leopard ran off into the bush, leaving the baby buffalo behind. Miraculously, he only had a small injury and was soon reunited with his mother. The Keepers were so happy that their orphans had saved his little life.

Maktao and Enkesha remain best friends. The Keepers thought they would enjoy sharing a stockade, but this didn’t work, as they started fighting over their milk bottles. Instead, the Keepers put them in separate stockades next to each other. This new arrangement has worked perfectly — it seems that some friends are better neighbours than roommates!

Towards the end of the month, everyone banded together to help Ngasha’s love life. It all began when he arrived with one of his wild elephant girlfriends. He seemed very taken with this particular female, as he had brought her to meet the orphans on several occasions. Ngasha and his girlfriend spent the day hanging around the springs, remaining a bit separate from the orphan herd. Their romantic afternoon was interrupted when a wild bull challenged Ngasha over the girl. The orphans felt sorry for their friend and joined forces to defend him. The wild elephant was overwhelmed by all the orphans and ran into the bush, allowing Ngasha to reunite with his girlfriend. It was a nice victory for our Romeo.

June 2022 day to day

01 Jun

The orphans woke up ready for the new day, as usual they ran out the gate except Murera who walked out slowly not rushing like the little babies. Murera did not want to be part of the bustling, pushing and squeezing to be the first one out. Kiombo, Kiasa and the other young boys were pushing each other and forcing their way out, and while the Keepers tried to stop them, they wouldn’t listen. 

Mwashoti and Murea grouped together. The two friends with their bad legs look after each other, they like to stay a little separate from the rest of the herd. Sonje and Quanza rumbled to Murera and Mwashoti, warning them that they were about to be left behind, but they didn’t mind.

Wild bulls were following Lima Lima, but they stopped when they realized that the herd was heading towards the human Keepers. Lima Lima joined the herd alone and the bulls remained behind. When Lima Lima saw the bulls waiting for her some distance away, she rejoined them.