Wild elephant interactions between the orphans at Umani and the wild elephants who reside in the forest are becoming more and more frequent, with differing results each time. For the Umani orphans who have not had the benefit of Ex Orphans to follow, such wild interactions are crucial, but also sometimes worrying for the Keepers who have to oversee such events and hope that they continue amicably. Sometimes, when some of the orphans such as Lima Lima and Zongoloni get a bit too close and friendly with the wild elephant calves, the wild mothers step in and push them away. On a couple of occasions all the orphans were chased away, scattering in all directions, with the Keepers fearing for their safety,, but mainly such interactions have been harmless and valuable lessons for our young babies. One wild bull, who is always considerate of the babies, is ‘Ndugu’, and he visited them frequently around the middle of the month, even coming to drink from the pond at the Umani Springs Lodge one day, evidence that he is becoming used to the presence of humans in the forest, and understanding that they will not harm him.
All our orphans are curious of the wild elephants, except perhaps Matriarchs Murera and Sonje, as well as Quanza who is still a shy elephant and remains more apprehensive of such interactions. The Keepers were pleased one day when Ndugu felt sufficiently confident to approach the stockades with a whole herd of wild friends, including young babies. The Keepers were somewhat anxious when the elephants walked straight up to our orphan Matriarchs, keeping a safe distance in order to assess their reaction – Sonje and Alamaya seemed the most relaxed but Murera remains very protective of what she views as ‘her’ herd, and tends to move them all away.
Otherwise this month the usual antics of the orphans have been observed. The naughty boys, Ngasha, Faraja and Jasiri, are up to their usual mischievous ways. Jasiri, the reputed ‘tail grabber’ in trouble with the Matriarchs one day for touching Alamaya’s stump of a tail, which is a known sore point with him! Ziwa, despite being more affable with the youngsters recently, was also reprimanded for being roguish with Mwashoti and quickly ran away as he knew he would also be in trouble with the Matriarchs.
Lima Lima has always been especially caring of her beloved Keepers and whenever any buffaloes are close by, she comes to stand beside them, as if informing them of the potential danger. She and the others were most upset when they heard hyenas around the stockade this month, especially poor Alamaya who lost his tail and genitals to them when he was so young. Lima Lima always manages to make the Keepers laugh the most however, with her greedy ways. One day, as usual, she came running in for her milk first, with her tail straight up in the air like a warthog, despite all the best efforts of the Keepers to keep her back until last! On another afternoon she came running into the Stockades to finish all her milk before her roommate Quanza arrived, and managed to sneak past the Keepers as they were feeding Quanza to go in search of more milk! It took the Keepers a while to coax her back into her pen after that. Meanwhile, we are so impressed that Alamaya has learnt to pick up his own bottle emulating Zongoloni and Jasiri, and hence is able to feed all on his own. Another triumphant moment this month was when Murera was able to climb a hill, seemingly with ease, escorted by Mwashoti and Sonje. Everyone clapped when she reached the top and could continue along the same path as the others.