The highlight of the month at Umani has been the arrival of Alamaya and Mwashoti who had traveled from the Nairobi Nursery to their new home within the Kibwezi Forest on the 29th May. The Keepers anticipated they would be unsettled after their long journey but both Mwashoti and Alamaya appeared happy and excited and embraced everything from the moment of their arrival. It seemed that Murera and Sonje were aware something was up from the outset today, perhaps from reading their keepers body language or even through their telepathic ability. From the moment the babies arrived Sonje and Zongoloni embraced them; the older girls were overwhelmed with excitement and poured attention over them, guiding them sensitively into Umani Springs life. It was delightful to witness the two newcomers embracing everything before them, and literally smiling as they frolicked in the mudwallow on their first day; heart-warming indeed. There was one orphan who felt pangs of jealousy at having to share the attentions of Sonje and that was Ziwa who has been Sonje and Murera’s pampered baby since his arrival.
The Umani orphans encountered a host of wild animals during their sojourns in the Kibwezi Forest and Chyulu Hills National Park in May. Most of the time the animals are harmless, like bushbucks bouncing through the undergrowth or dik-diks and duikers, but the sudden appearance of any creature can send the elephants fleeing in fright no matter how harmless they are! At the beginning of the month Lima Lima was very upset to see a troop of baboons crossing her path, as was Murera who became angry at the noise they were making which was scaring the other babies. It forced Lima Lima and Murera to take action, trumpeting loudly to clear the way and scare them off. As the baboons were jumping away in the trees the Keepers suddenly realised that there was a leopard above which was the reason for all the noise. Sonje with Murera soon smelt the leopard, alerted their babies, and made sure the Keepers were aware too before herding their group to the safety away from the leopard.
Throughout the Month wild elephants, especially wild bulls, have been showing a great interest in the orphans and following them during their daily outings in the forest; during the night they also visit the stockades, communicating for hours. It’s hugely encouraging to see wild elephants repopulate the area since it has become such a protected area, and especially important for the orphans who will learn in time to integrate more with the wild herds of the Kibwezi Forest and Chyulu Hills National Park. The orphans always appear excited to come upon elephant dung or follow tracks recently frequented by wild elephant groups. Despite the Umani herd having encountered wild elephants on many occasions during the month, Murera and Sonje take great pains to steer clear of the wild bulls who have begun to follow them around. They are not too partial to the wild female groups either, worried that they might steal their babies away from them! All the details specific to individual orphans at Umani are shared in the Keepers daily diary entries.