Keepers' Diaries, March 2019

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Umani Springs Reintegration Unit

March being the end of a very hot dry season the Kibwezi Forest has become a refuge for so many other wild animals, as they retreat down from the hills into the sheltered forest, seeking the shade, water and food. 

Needless to say this provides the perfect respite too for our half albino brothers Jasiri and Faraja with their fair skin, and injured orphans Murera, Sonje and Mwashoti who do not have to walk the distances normally required in these challenging times in search of browse. Even on those mornings that start out cloudy, teasing us of impending rains, by noon the temperature is soaring once again and the orphans cannot wait for their noon mud baths which have become very lengthy affairs. 

With the wild animals seeking solace in the forest, so the orphans have been enjoying numerous interactions with wild elephants and other wild encounters too. We have noticed that the wild elephant herds are becoming much more comfortable with our Keepers as well, happy to stick around and interact with the orphans, even once catching sight of, or hearing, the Keepers. One wild bull even went so far one day as to approach the milk vehicle after the orphans were done with their bottles, and wild herds often come to the stockades at night to have their fill of water from the trough, preferring the spring fresh water to that found in the waterholes around the forest. That they are now growing more comfortable with the Keepers is lovely and will allow for more prolonged interactions with the orphans too we hope. This is just like what happened at our Ithumba Reintegration Unit over the years, the interactions becoming more and more common place until it reaches a point where it is difficult to identify an orphan in a wild herd, all are so comfortable in the presence of the Keepers. Sometimes it is the orphans’ etiquette that brings the meetings to a premature end, as they still learn their manners and the dos and don’ts around their wild friends. Jasiri was so bold as to smell the underbelly of one of the wild bulls which understandably resulted in him being chased away, clearly too familiar too soon!  

Lima Lima is usually the first to welcome wild herds or bulls whenever they join them in the browsing fields. One day Ngasha got a bit jealous of a wild bull and walked up to him to push him, without fully comprehending how much bigger and stronger the bull actually was. He tried to push the bull’s leg which obviously resulted in the bull chasing him into the forest. Ziwa heard Ngasha screaming for help, as did Faraja, and the two ran to see what the problem was. By the time they found Ngasha they found him hiding under a tree. Ziwa did his best to calm him down and reassure him whilst Faraja stood by on hand should he need further back up!  

Murera and Sonje sometimes don’t have their milk bottles as they are much older now and being weaned off this precious formula, but like many of our Voi orphans they are still ‘stockade dependent’ – so although they might not have milk, they are still very much dependent on one another and they love the company of the Keepers, as well as their little babies and the stockades at night. They know the others are reliant on them as the matriarchs of the herd, and indulge little baby Mwashoti constantly.

Despite being the same age, Alamaya is much more boisterous than Mwashoti, who is a darling and because of his terrible snare injury, throughout which he was lovingly tended to, he is never far from the Keepers who he adores. We have noticed a slight change in his personality recently, becoming more bullish and playful, but all the other orphans still dote on him, worried about him getting hurt. Sometimes females like Zongoloni can be spotted coming between their pushing games, making sure that Mwashoti doesn’t get pushed too hard. One day when Mwashoti pushed Quanza over near the lucerne feeding area, everyone was surprised, but Murera and Sonje didn’t react or discipline him – perhaps because he is the smallest and still their adopted baby, but also perhaps because he is often bullied and they want him to learn to stick up for himself.

Lima Lima and Quanza were so impatient to begin browsing one morning, they pushed their stockade posts so hard that they managed to damage them. When the Keepers came to give them their morning milk bottles they found their stockade door broken. Lima Lima has always been a bit naughty at feeding times as she can be greedy and wants to get her milk first, but that morning the Keepers found that Quanza can be just as bad when she wants to be, with some of the bad behaviour rubbing off on her too.

March 2019 day to day

01 Mar

This morning, the elephants all appeared in a jovial mood as they exited their stockades ready to begin their day. They made their way to the Kibwezi forest under Lima Lima’s leadership until the boys decided to separate from the group and head off in their own direction leaving the Keepers wondering which way Mwashoti and Shukuru, who were at the back of the group, would go. Murera rumbled loudly to Mwashoti calling him to join her as she followed the main orphan herd to the hills. Sonje also started rumbling to Mwashoti making it seem as if the two older girls were competing for Mwashoti’s affection as they both wanted to have him with them. Mwashoti had a hard time deciding which one to join and instead of making a decision, just stood between them, thus benefitting from the love and attention of both of his adoptive mothers.


Zongoloni enjoying tall grass

Mwashoti rolling on the dust bath