Keepers' Diaries, March 2022

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Umani Springs Reintegration Unit

They graduated to Umani Springs together nearly a year ago, but Maktao, Kiombo, and Kiasa remain very bonded. Like all siblings, they have the occasional quarrel. Maktao usually stays above the fray, but Kiombo and Kiasa have fiery temperaments and this sometimes leads to trouble.

Kiasa has mastered the art of holding her own milk bottle, and now she is putting this talent to mischievous use. She drinks her milk very quickly, then dashes over to steal Kiombo’s bottle. This makes Kiombo understandably upset, and he makes his anger known by trumpeting loudly in Kiasa’s face. When this happens, Sonje comes running over to chastise naughty Kiasa and comfort her favourite boy. At the Nursery, Kiasa was known as a troublemaker, and it seems that streak hasn’t entirely disappeared!

The Keepers often say that if there were Olympic games for elephants, Lima Lima would win many medals. She is unusually fast, intelligent, and observant — and she is always putting these qualities to good use. While the orphans were browsing one morning, she kept walking to the swamp then back to the orphans. The Keepers thought something must be wrong, so they followed her and discovered that a buffalo had gotten stuck in the mud. They called our Mobile Vet Unit, who was able to extract the buffalo. Lima Lima undoubtedly saved his life. 

Later in the month, we were reminded of another one of Lima Lima’s shining qualities. As the orphans were drinking from the Umani Springs, a crocodile grabbed a bushbuck from the water’s edge. The orphans started trumpeting because they wanted to help the bushbuck, but the water was too deep to traverse. Brave Lima Lima swam across the spring to chase the crocodile away. While she was too late to save the poor creature, it was still a striking display of courage.

At 12 years old, Murera is the eldest member of the Umani herd. She is proud to be a matriarch and has started acting more and more like the queen bee, so the Keepers have nicknamed her ‘Head Girl.’ Murera used to follow whatever direction the orphan herd chose, but now she likes to have the final say on where they go.

Sonje has always been Murera’s partner. They are excellent co-matriarchs and always look after the rest of the herd. One particularly hot afternoon, the orphans encountered a herd of wild elephants wallowing in the mud bath. Their presence seemed to startle the visitors, because a wild bull started chasing the orphans. Kiombo, Kiasa, and Maktao ran away in fear, but Sonje and Murera stood up to the bull and protected their little ones.

Although Enkesha is still young, we believe she is a matriarch-in-the-making. One afternoon, she led Kiasa, Maktao, and Kiombo around the Chyulu Hills, unchaperoned by the older girls. Enkesha did an excellent job taking care of everyone on this excursion, proving that she is a calm and capable leader.

Quanza is another girl who has impressed us with her leadership skills. She has become a very good ‘mother figure’ to the younger orphan, particularly her roommate, Kiasa. If any of the other orphans disturb her little friend, Quanza quickly disciplines them. However, the Keepers have noticed that Quanza becomes very jealous at feeding times and doesn’t like it when Kiasa gets fed before her.

One afternoon, a wild herd of females with tiny babies came looking for water. Lima Lima and Quanza were delighted to find themselves in the presence of so many youngsters. One of the smallest babies got confident and walked under Quanza. In her eagerness, Quanza took things a bit too far and started cuddling the baby, who got scared and started trumpeting. As the protective mother swept in to rescue her baby, Lima Lima gave Quanza backup. Both girls ran away with Mwashoti and Alamaya in tow.

As leader of the ‘nightclubbers,’ as the Keepers have nicknamed our independent orphans, Zongoloni now stays away for longer periods of time. In the past, she spent a lot of time with Kiombo, but she now has her hands full with the independent orphans. Perhaps the little bull harbours a grudge, because when Zongoloni returned to the orphan herd after a prolonged absence, she tried to hug Kiombo, but he rebuffed her affections.

Mwashoti is a big boy now. He now spends his nights out with wild elephants and the other ‘nightclubbers.’ However, he remains very attached to Murera, who looked after him when he was young. He keeps trying to convince her to join a wild herd with him. As the orphans are preparing to return to their stockades for the night, Mwashoti can often be seen chatting with Murera, trying to persuade her to join him in the forest. Despite his attempts, Murera is not ready to take this step quite yet.

The other ‘nightclubber’ boys, Alamaya, Ziwa, Jasiri, Faraja, and Ngasha, are doing very well. Alamaya has emerged as a social butterfly and has made many wild friends, although he also spends a lot of time with Mwashoti. Unfortunately, the feud between Ngasha and the other boys is still going strong. Faraja, Ziwa, and Jasiri tend to give the dependent herd a wide berth if they see Ngasha is present. 

With his bullish ways, Ngasha has earned an unsavoury reputation among the other orphans.The Keepers were pleasantly surprised when he appeared one morning with a wild girlfriend in tow. The other orphans took a liking to her, particularly Sonje and Quanza, who spent the whole day with her. They even tried to bring her back to the stockades in the evening, but she refused to cross through the gate. She and Ngasha returned to the bush together.

The following day, Ngasha returned without his girlfriend. However, he seemed to realise that chivalry wins more hearts than bullish behaviour, because he was uncharacteristically kind and gentle. He focused his attention on Sonje, breaking off high branches for her to eat. That evening, he tried to woo Sonje to join him in the forest, but she could not be convinced to leave her babies behind.

The boys are not the only ones experiencing some discord. Sonje and Quanza have grown jealous of Lima Lima, who is a famous flirt and always has lots of suitors. One day, she brought a handsome wild boyfriend with her to the mud bath. Quanza and Sonje were so distracted by the bull that they completely neglected their matriarch duties. Lima Lima seemed to pick up on the bad energy and decided to leave with the bull. This only made Sonje and Quanza more annoyed, and they proceeded to chase Lima Lima all the way towards the Umani Springs. In time, all the girls will have their own suitors, but for now, Lima Lima has more than her fair share!

On the last day of the month, the orphans were browsing along the Umani Springs when Lima Lima went to investigate a noise. She discovered that a leopard was attacking a bushbuck, so she immediately circled back to warn the other orphans. She was especially concerned about Maktao, Kiombo, and Kiasa. Everyone went running back to the stockades, with Murera and Sonje bringing up the rear because of their bad legs. The Keepers split into two groups, some going with Lima Lima and the younger orphans, while others remained behind to look after Murera and Sonje. Once the whole group was reunited, Murera went to have a stern chat with Lima Lima. She was not happy that Lima Lima had taken charge of the young orphans, so she disciplined her and sent her off with Alamaya and Mwashoti. Murera is generally a relaxed leader, but she does not appreciate when any of the other girls overstep the mark.

March 2022 day to day

01 Mar

The early hours of this morning were calm and peaceful. The orphans were out of their stockades enjoying some Lucerne pellets. Then Ngasha and Alamaya arrived back from their night out and everything changed. Murera was unhappy to see Ngasha because she knows he is such a bully, she started to walk away, and he followed pushing her and Kiombo into the corner. The Keepers were watching this and intervened, separating Ngasha from the rest of the orphan herd. They allowed Alamaya to join, as he doesn’t cause trouble. 

Sonje and Quanza called the little babies to their sides while Mwashoti joined Murera. The orphans all headed to the Umani Hills to browse. That evening Enkesha took over the leadership duties and led the orphans back home after a long day. 

Sonje, Quanza and Murera