Umani Springs Reintegration Unit
This month Alamaya seemed to dominate our diary with his boisterous activities. Recently he has been determined to prove himself to the other bulls in the Umani herd, which is understandable since he turned six years old in January! We can see it in his eyes when he comes out of his room in the morning, and he appears eager to take on the first orphan that might approach him. One morning Faraja, who does sometimes enjoy bothering little Alamaya, was quick to run over to the young bull and start nudging him. Alamaya was all too prepared for him however and wrestled with Faraja with all his might. Faraja was taken by surprise and when he realised this was going to be no easy-win he quickly moved away.
Alamaya was so delighted at proving his strength he went bounding over to the other orphans rumbling and trumpeting. Quanza is another favourite wrestling partner of Alamaya’s for some reason, and her formidable tusks don’t seem to bother him in the slightest. Quanza can get easily bored or distracted however by anything else that’s happening around them, so their games never last for very long.
The heat is certainly building across Tsavo at the moment in the lead up to the rains we normally expect at this time of year, and Umani is no exception. Luckily the orphans have the perennial Umani water springs and water hole beside their milk feeding area to keep them cool, and they relished taking long mud baths to cool down on those searing hot days. Sometimes the orphans could spend most of the afternoon enjoying the cool waters. Often Alamaya was the last one out of the mud bath, even if all the others had already gone back to browsing in the forest.
This month Jasiri really seemed to be in two minds again about whether to join his more independent friends Ngasha, Ziwa, Faraja and Zongoloni out in the forest more. Whenever he does decide to wander off with them, he always returns to the stockades to be with the others by the time dusk falls. Ngasha, Ziwa, Faraja and Zongoloni continue to come and go as they please, coming and going at different times of day and sometimes not altogether. They are always happy to link up with any wild elephant herds that might be close by and they are learning so much from them, but they know that the other orphans don’t necessarily want to socialise with their wild friends too. Jasiri and Faraja are still such good friends and love to wrestle with each other when Faraja is with the Umani herd, but having spent so much time fraternising with wild friends he seems to have picked up a few tactics and he often overcomes Jasiri now. One day Jasiri was very eager to follow Zongoloni and the others out to the forest for the evening, but this appeared to upset Ziwa and he didn’t allow Jasiri to follow them, so he returned to the stockades with the rest of the Umani herd.
One night that was particularly poignant and rememberable for us this month was one where a herd of wild elephants was making such a noise outside the stockade compound. The orphans were rumbling in their rooms and with all the commotion, the Keepers woke up and came out of their rooms to check what was happening. The Keepers were delighted to find that the wild herd was in the company of Zongoloni, Ziwa, Ngasha and Faraja, and they were all happily drinking together at the stockade water trough outside. When they were done, the wild herd refused to leave without them, and they kept all rumbling and trumpeting at each other. It was a very eventful evening and one without much sleep, but it is so gratifying and rewarding to see the orphans that were once so dependent and sleeping inside the compound, to be fraternising and playing naturally with a wild herd on the outside.
For a few days this month Shukuru seemed to be in a bad mood and didn’t want the company of any of the other orphans, even her friend Sonje. She has always been a very independent elephant but this month she very much wanted to keep to herself sometimes and the Keepers just let her do what she wanted to do. Sometimes she would start to walk back to the stockades before the others, just as she knew it might take her a little longer to get there. She is still doing so well in the environment of the Kibwezi forest and we are so happy to see her getting stronger every day.
Lima Lima has developed a new trait, something she has been practising for a while now, where, at the 11am milk feed, she races ahead and waits for the rest of the orphans to arrive. As they do, she greets each one of them with a raised trunk, like a host receiving her guests at a party. Conversely, the matriarch Murera is arriving a little later to the 11am feed; it seems she wants her bottle less and less these days, as she finds plenty to forage on to keep her full when she is in the forest. Sometimes she tricks the Keepers into thinking she wants her milk bottle and arrives at the 11am feed, but does not take her bottle, or stays away altogether. She still dotes on little Mwashoti and the young bull, the same age as Alamaya, shows no signs of becoming more independent anytime soon.