Keepers' Diaries, June 2023

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Umani Springs Reintegration Unit

Predictably, the month began with Ngasha drama — but it was also a nice reminder of how the orphans have each others’ backs! Ngasha pushed Amali away from the mud bath so that he could have lots of space for himself. Faraja and Jasiri were watching from the sidelines and simply couldn’t let this behaviour pass. They chased Ngasha away from the herd while Mwashoti provided comfort to little Amali.

Mwashoti has become an excellent ‘big brother’ to Amali, but he isn’t above the occasional babyish antics himself. One day, he and Alamaya started fighting over a stick. Mwashoti became so frustrated that he gave up the original stick and found a new one, He then went over to Murera and started rumbling in annoyance, clearly tattling on his friend. 

The Keepers call Lima Lima their scout, and it’s a nickname she has earned with distinction. One afternoon, she did a very good job of protecting the Keepers and Mwana from some buffaloes. Mwana, not realising that she had a distinct size disadvantage, tried to charge at the interlopers with her tiny ears flared. Lima Lima saw that Mwana’s efforts were only irritating them to a dangerous degree. She placed herself between the buffalos and Mwana and then trumpeted loudly, sending them running into the bushes.

The following day brought even more interlopers. The orphans decided to browse towards the Chyulu area, away from the buffalos of yesterday’s encounter. Two klipspringers crossed the path in front of them. Maktao and Kiombo, feeling very brave, chased the small antelopes. Of course, klipspringers are built for dexterity in difficult terrain and easily outmanoeuvred the two bulls.

Later in the month, the baboons invaded the lucerne corner while the elephants were eating their pellets. Mwashoti noticed that a baby baboon was helping itself to fresh pellets. He immediately started chasing the little interloper, and it wasn’t long before Kiombo joined in. The baby baboon was very clever and gave the elephants the run around, cutting sharp corners so the much bigger creatures struggled to keep up. Mwashoti and Kiombo only found the baboon when it was celebrating at the top of the trees. The two orphans trumpeted in frustration at their defeat.

Mwana rules proceedings and has the entire orphan herd in her command. She loves to swim and always makes a beeline for the water, diving right in without waiting for anyone to join her. Everyone is left rushing to catch up with her, whether they wanted a mud bath or not! Mwana’s mood is infectious, and we have noticed a marked rise in wallowing enthusiasm since her addition to the fold.  

On 10th June, a wild herd approached the orphans. Mwana’s nannies instinctively moved her to the middle of the orphan herd, until Lima Lima and Sonje recognised Ziwa amidst the visitors. Ziwa came over to say hello while his wild family waited a few metres away. Once he was finished, Ziwa went back to his family and they moved off.

Ngasha and Faraja typically get on like oil and water, but this month, a common enemy united them. There were lots of baboons and bushbuck near the stockades. One of the baboons jumped down close to a bushbuck, who got a fright and ran into the undergrowth. The sudden movement scared Faraja, who started running for safety before realising it was only a little antelope. He charged and trumpeted, embarrassed that he had gotten such a fright over nothing. Faraja summoned his friends for backup, but only Ngasha answered his call.

As we are constantly reminded, each orphan has a unique reintegration process and pace. For instance, Sonje and Quanza have started reporting in later and later, until eventually they leave for several days without returning to the orphan herd. The two girls are reintegrating back into the wild faster than the nightclubber boys, Ngasha, Mwashoti, and Alamaya. The Keepers suspect that Sonje will bond with wild friends and then she will stop spending every day with the orphan herd.

Meanwhile, now that so many older girls are going wild, Kiasa and Enkesha are forming a nanny cartel. In fact, when the ‘nightclubber’ girls report back in the morning, Kiasa and Enkesha are often reluctant to give up their little charges! Quanza discovered this one morning when she rejoined the herd and went to look for Mwana. The little girl was with Kiasa and Enkesha, who refused to hand her over. Quanza was surprised by this behaviour and didn’t know how to respond. After standing in confusion for a minute, she conceded defeat and joined Murera, Mwashoti, and Alamaya at the acacia trees.

Kiasa, Kiombo, and Maktao graduated to Umani together, and they have a sibling-like relationship, full of love and quarrels. One morning, the trio were browsing together when Kiombo and Maktao started their usual games. Kiasa did not want the boys sparring too close to her and trumpeted her displeasure. They refused to respect her personal space — in fact, Kiombo even tried to pull Kiasa’s tail! This left Kiasa spoiling for a fight. Enkesha, the peacemaker, came over and diffused the situation.

Mwana runs the show, but it’s important to remember that she is just a baby and still has lots of learning ahead of her. Sometimes, that means Murera must discipline her. One morning, Mwana playfully charged at one of the Keepers. Murera saw what was happening and intervened, giving Mwana a stern warning. It was just a game to Mwana, but she will be a big elephant soon, and these lessons are important. 

Shy Amali is starting to come out of her shell. She has even started looking after Mwana for little activities. One day, she invited Mwana to a playdate in the mud bath. Kapei tried to join them, but he was stopped by Kiasa and Quanza. They do not trust Kapei; he can be resentful towards the young girls and tends to push them around. With that said, he is getting much better at keeping his jealousy in check. It has been a time of personal growth for Kapei.

Everyone is on team Murera. The other orphans know that she struggles in cold weather; it makes her stiff and slow. One morning, impatient Mwana was unaware of Murera’s struggle and kept trying to push her mother to move faster. Murera kept her cool for a spell, until Mwana’s petulance became too frustrating to ignore. Kiasa took charge of the situation, bringing Mwana to walk ahead with her and the other nannies. This was a diplomatic solution, taking care of Mwana and leaving Murera to walk in peace at the back of the herd, as she preferred. 

The month ended with drama. Soon after they left the stockades, the Keepers saw Quanza and Lima Lima raise their trunks, signalling that they smelled something nearby. Amali was the one who saved the day. She spotted a wild elephant herd and rushed back to the Keepers, alerting them to the potential danger. Everyone — the Keepers, the orphans, and the wild herd — scattered in different directions. Only Ngasha, Alamaya, and Quanza stayed put, oblivious to the commotion. Murera and Mwana’s nannies quickly formed a protective circle around Mwana, remaining there until the chaos had died down. 

June 2023 day to day

01 Jun

Ngasha pushed Amali away from the mud bath so that he could have lots of space to himself. Faraja and Jasiri were watching from the sidelines and they were upset to see this behaviour from Ngasha. They approached him to find out why he pushed her, then Faraja and Jasiri chased Ngasha away from the herd. Amali had already run over to Mwashoti, in need of comfort after her interaction with the wayward bull.  

Once Ngasha was gone, Sonje got into the mud bath. She was showing off all her swimming skills and tricks. Kiasa and Enkesha joined Sonje and they started a swimming competition. They copied Sonje and had a very enjoyable time playing in the mud bath. Kapei joined in. He climbed on Kiasa while she was lying down in the deep water. Kiasa was not too happy about this and stood up, leaving Kapei in the mud.

Ngasha alone in the mud bath

Kapei after his mud bath