In the days following Luggard’s death, the orphans struggled immensely with their grief. However, it was immensely heartwarming to see how the “nightclubbers” — Zongoloni’s band of partially independent orphans — stepped up to console the dependent herd. When they arrived the morning after his passing, they innately knew that Luggard was no longer with us. While the nightclubbers are usually a rambunctious bunch, they quietly gathered around Lima Lima and Murera, offering their condolences in the form of quiet rumbles. After a few minutes of this, both Lima Lima and Murera seemed much more settled, but it was heartbreaking to watch her not feeding with her head hung, her trunk softly blowing into the dust. It was comforting for the Keepers to see the Umani family come together in this difficult time, and further testament to the deep bonds that exist within our orphan herd.
Luggard often frequented a special acacia tree just outside the stockades. In the days following his passing, the other orphans used it as a memorial for their friend, standing underneath its canopy and touching its bark with their trunks. Lima Lima disappeared one day and the Keepers eventually found her standing under “Luggard’s tree.” Later that evening, Jasiri, Faraja, Ziwa, Ngasha, and Alamaya surrounded the very same tree. These nightclubber boys never spent much time with Luggard, but they clearly still felt his loss keenly. Our little lionheart was only at Umani Springs for a year, but he really left an imprint on everyone there.
Perhaps aware that the herd was feeling fragile, the nightclubbers donned their protective hats in May. On the 21st, a wild bull spent the day with the Umani orphans. He was extremely polite, but Jasiri took umbrage at his presence and chased him off with the help of Ziwa and Faraja. The bull reappeared the next day in the company of two wild friends, and again the nightclubbers tried to break up the party. Apparently, they are rather jealous to find the Umani girls in the company of wild bulls! Another afternoon, a friendly bull became enamored with Sonje. He tried to prevent her from going into her stockade, in the hopes that she would follow him into the forest instead, which caused Sonje to trumpet in irritation. Not a moment later, the nightclubber boys came crashing out of the bushes, chasing the bull away while Ziwa quickly ushered Sonje into the stockade compound.
Despite the best intentions of the nightclubbers, some of our Umani girls are rather enamoured with wild visitors. Lima Lima became smitten with a handsome wild bull who visited the herd for a few days. She was spotted encouraging him to wallow with the orphans and even joined him on private forays into the forest. The Keepers knew it was serious when she almost forwent her noon bottle in favour of spending time with her handsome friend!
However, all thoughts of wild elephants were forgotten on the 24th. Early that morning, the translocation lorry rolled up, delivering Nursery graduates Kiasa, Kiombo, and Maktao. We often marvel at the depth of elephant communication — they always seem to know things ahead of time — and that day was no exception! The Keepers tried to keep the Umani orphans at bay for as long as possible, so as to not overwhelm the newcomers, but there was no holding them back. Shukuru broke ranks first and the rest soon followed, showering Kiasa, Kiombo, and Maktao with a truly heartfelt greeting. The nightclubbers soon joined the welcoming party, filling the air with a spectacular chorus of rumbling and trumpeting.
The girls were overjoyed to welcome a little girl into the fold, and Sonje and Lima Lima have taken on the little boys, Maktao and Kiombo respectively. Enkesha was a bit jealous at first, but she quickly brushed it off and spent time with her sidekick, Mwashoti. Murera immediately adopted Kiasa as her own and became rather covetous, only granting Lima Lima and Quanza access to her when she needed a short break from nannying. Zongoloni, who is matriarch of the nightclubbers, began reporting to the dependent herd each morning, eager to spend time with the new babies. We knew she had her eye on Kiasa, and sure enough, she tried to spirit her away at the earliest opportunity! The Keepers were onto her plan and quickly retrieved the little girl.
As the newcomers arrived from Nairobi, the Keepers and Angela Sheldrick made an important decision about Shukuru. She hadn’t been herself recently, growing increasingly solitary and losing condition. We felt it was time for her to make the reverse journey to the Nursery, where she can receive more hands-on care and veterinary attention. Poor Shukuru has been grappling with health issues for many years now, and she boarded the lorry without hesitation, as if she knew it was the right thing to do. In Nairobi, we can keep her under close observation and hopefully get to the bottom of what ails her.
While the month began with heartbreak at Umani Springs, it ended on a hopeful note. Luggard left an indelible mark on all of us, human and elephant alike, and he will never be forgotten. However, the arrival of three new babies was just the solace our grieving herd needed. We will move forward together, looking to brighter things on the horizon.