Keepers' Diaries, May 2018

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Umani Springs Reintegration Unit

This month there was still rain at Umani, and the elephant paths turned into running streams with the open gassy glades saturated with water too. This proved heavy going for the three elephants with compromised legs, Murera, Sonje and Mwashoti who instinctively know that they have to proceed with great caution in these conditions. Later in the month the orphans welcomed slightly drier conditions, but still with the benefit of bountiful food, with the long grass so tall that it dwarfed the younger elephants making it difficult for the Keepers to keep tabs on them!

This month there were many wild elephant encounters and more buffalo run- ins than the Keepers may have cared for, but with Lima Lima remaining ever vigilant, good warning were always given and Lima Lima did the job of clearing the buffalos away by trumpeting and charging, keeping her beloved keepers safe! Even the baby crocodiles at Umani have become waterlogged with so much water about and could often be seen basking in the sun on the edges of the small and plentiful waterholes, or just lying up in the grassy glades, but the arrival of the orphans always sent them scurrying back to the water. The crocs aren’t sure whether in or out of the water is safer with the sometime very boisterous mud bathing antics that take place which then dislodges any self-respecting crocodile. These are baby crocodiles in the waterholes, not the larger ones that prefer the deeper Umani Springs.

This month Ngasha has been tempted to with a couple of night outs, choosing to leave the confines of his night stockades to instead return to the forest, however an attempt on his own ended with him losing his nerve and soon returning, but in the company of best pal Ziwa, they both managed to last a full night out alone without their big girls for comfort; they were both there to meet their friends early the next morning however. Ziwa then attempted a night out on his own on another occasion but lost his nerve and was back at the stockade entrance in no time looking to be let back in his Keepers and to once again join his orphan friends. Quanza and Zongoloni have had to intervene when the pushy boys get too enthusiastic with their sparring games, and this has included separating Alamaya from Mwashoti if they felt matters were getting out of hand and Murera was not around, and our Umani strong boys Faraja, Jasiri, Ngasha and more recently Ziwa have been engaging in strength testing with some visiting big wild bulls this month.

While Lima Lima is always greedy and quick to steal others milk bottles, Quanza and Zongoloni are much more civilized about their feeding times, and tend to be content with their quota, and sometimes they are the victims of Lima Lima’s forceful and opportunistic character having their milk swiped before their eyes if they are slow on the uptake. Lima Lima makes up for this bad behavior however with the many wild elephant encounters which have kept her vigilant ensuring the Keepers are fully aware of the wild elephants presence in good time so that they can move away a safe distance. She has such a great understanding of these situations and constantly has her Keepers safety foremost in her mind. Sonje was very enamoured with the big bulls that visited, but Murera not so much, although there were occasions when even she would follow them into the forest.

Another day of chaos reigned when Mwashoti was given a terrible fright by some unsuspecting rock hyrax. Their unexpected arrival on his scratching rock sent him careering down the hill trumpeting which got the big girls in a fluster and then the whole herd took off in hot pursuit of Mwashoti, bashing through bushes and charging around with none really knowing the cause for such panic! Even the Keepers were hard pressed to gather calm and order once more. Another day the presence of a leopard on a kill in the high branches of a fig tree, with hyenas at its base waiting for any fall out tit- bits, unsettled the orphans enough to have them change direction for the day, leaving the predators to it. Safe to say there has been a lot of action in the Kibwezi Forest this month, but never has the place looked more beautiful thanks to more rain falling in March, April and still through May than we have recorded in the past ten years.

May 2018 day to day

01 May

Today was a big day for Ngasha who decided after a day of feeling his independence that it was to be his first night out. He first returned to the stockades, had his fill of milk and then before the stockade door was closed pushed his way out and headed out of the front gates back into the forest. He proceeded to browse in the bushes and the Keepers thought he wanted to join some wild elephants in the area. Then as darkness fell Ngasha realised he was a little boy still, he couldn’t handle the night-time on his own and was soon banging at the front gates of the Umani Springs compound demanding he be let back in. The Keepers delivered on his request and before long he was tucked up in his stockade next to Faraja and feeling secure once more. His arrival was met by shouting and trumpeting from the others as all were delighted to have him back in the fold. He too seemed very happy to be back, his night out experience alone had done a good job of frightening him it seems!

Zongoloni picks acacia pods

Orphans enjoying playing in the forest

Ngasha coming out of the bushes