Keepers' Diaries, May 2021

Umani Springs Reintegration Unit

This month began on a heartbreaking note, as we lost Luggard on the 11th. His decline was sudden, but not wholly surprising: At just four months old, he nearly lost his life in a hail of gunfire. The bullet wounds left him permanently maimed, and while his lionhearted spirit carried him bravely through the past five years, ultimately, his body had taken him as far as it could go. He was happy at Umani Springs, which gives us great comfort, and passed peacefully surrounded by those who loved him most.

01 May 2021

Today Zongoloni and Alamaya thought they would be a bit cheeky and join the dependent orphan herd by sneaking in from behind the stockades.

Their plan worked with the Keepers as they didn’t notice them, but didn’t fully success as of course Zongoloni’s little friend Enkesha caught scent of Zongoloni and ran up to her to give her trunk hugs. Enkesha is quite tiny compared to Zongoloni’s big frame so it was very sweet to see Enkesha reaching up and trying her best to give Zongoloni trunk hugs. Zongoloni saw that her little friend was struggling so she stooped a little lower so that she too could envelope Enkesha. For Enkesha this is always the highlight of her day; seeing Zongoloni and browsing with her. These two are often seen side by side, Zongoloni with her head bent towards Enkesha as though imparting pearls of wisdom to her - maybe about her own adventures at night with wild elephants - all the fun, excitement and some dangers that come with being a wild elephant, and maybe all the best spots to browse in too.  

Alamaya walked over to Mwashoti, looking to engage him and a pushing and strength testing game. Normally Mwashoti obliges the other bulls, but not Alamaya so much. Alamaya’s playing methods have always been a bit on the rough side and more so now as he has picked up habits from the wild bulls he meets out in the forest. Mwashoti is bit more mild mannered and is a gentle bull, and so when Alamaya saw that Mwashoti wasn’t interested, he left Mwashoti alone. 

Later the orphans came to a clearing where it seems as if other wild elephants had dug up some roots but not eaten all of them, and the orphans scrambled to see who would get to them first. Because of all the commotion Shukuru decided to move away from the herd and find a quiet spot away from all the ruckus. 

02 May 2021

A big herd of wild elephants visited the stockade waterhole this morning, and with this herd were two tiny babies.

One of the Keepers decided to move closer to get pictures of the herd and their babies, but this wild herd was very skeptical about the presence of a human, never having been around one. As soon as the Keeper started getting closer to them, they got skittish and ran off, leaving behind a huge dust cloud. In all this commotion the wild elephants left behind their two little babies and Sonje and Quanza were quick to run over to take care of the little ones, but the babies did not make it easy for our two girls. They blew little trumpets, crying out to their mothers, who immediately stopped and turned back to rescue the babies. One of the mums made a beeline for poor Sonje who found herself on the receiving end of a rather irate mother elephant, who chased Sonje into the bushes. Quanza very quickly realized that perhaps it was a good idea to make herself scarce, and she too disappeared into the bushes before the other mother elephant could get to her.  

The Keepers were there to sooth both Sonje and Quanza and calm them down, and soon all was forgotten and the herd went back to their usual browsing.

03 May 2021

There was a power cut in the middle of night, caused by a fault in the wiring. All the lights went off, leaving the area around the stockade and the compound in darkness.  

The orphans have become accustomed to having lighting around the compound and so when the compound went dark, some of the orphans woke up in a panic, trumpeting and waking the others, causing some of them to get up and walk up to the gates of their rooms. The Keepers came out of their quarters right away to check on their babies, and soon realized they were only jittery because it had gone dark and this was unusual. They walked up to each orphans room to talk to them and soothe and reassure them. The Keepers also found it very interesting that the night-clubbers appeared as well. The Keepers have always assumed that the night-clubbers venture far out into the Kibwezi area but perhaps they heard their friends trumpeting and came to see for themselves what the matter was. Zongoloni in particular wanted to check on Enkesha, whilst Faraja wanted to know if Quanza was okay. Once they saw that the Keepers were there and that the orphans had started to settle, they turned back and returned to the forest.  

Enkesha and Luggard were the first to settle and then eventually the other orphans too, the rest of the night passed peacefully, but the Keepers did continue to check on their babies.

04 May 2021

Shukuru, who has a tendency of wandering off on her own, failed to join the rest of the herd when it was time to go home; she’s usually the one to bring up the tail end of the herd, or is leading the orphans home in her calm and patient manner. 

All the orphans were starting to settle in their rooms and that is when the Keepers noticed that Shukuru’s milk bottle was still in her room, untouched, and a quick look around the compound confirmed she was not there either. The Keepers decided to check just outside the compound in case she had stopped somewhere to browse. They called out her name, but there was no sign of Shukuru, so they decided to form small groups of two and three and start combing the area and walk back towards where they had come from. As they were calling out Shukuru’s name, Ngasha appeared out of the bushes and it seems he must have realized that the Keepers were looking for Shukuru, and he led the Keepers to where she was browsing. To the Keeper’s surprise and delight, there was Shukuru, browsing happily, oblivious to the worry she had caused. She was just as happy to see the Keepers and follow them home. Ngasha seemed sad to see his friend go so he decided to accompany Shukuru and the Keepers to the stockade gate and once there, he turned around and returned to the forest.

At the stockade compound gates Murera and Lima Lima were eagerly waiting for their friend to return and upon seeing her, they trumpeted in excitement, welcoming Shukuru back with trunk hugs. After having her bottle, Shukuru settled in her room and her neighbour Enkesha was pleased to see her friend had returned too.

05 May 2021

All the orphans gathered at the mud bath after their midday milk bottles; some were getting ready to wallow; others had opted for a dust bath instead. Everyone was very relaxed as there were no wild elephant herds or other animals at the mud bath and the orphans had the whole place to themselves.

A few minutes later the SWT helicopter flew overhead, heading towards the Chyulu Hills and surrounding areas for their daily patrols. The orphans still find the noise a little unusual and everyone moved towards Luggard to protect him, especially the older girls, but Lima Lima managed to get to him first. She chased away the others and stood protectively over Luggard. That is until Murera returned. Then it was Lima Lima’s turn to be chased away. Murera is the matriarch of the Umani herd and she will always be the one in charge of looking after the babies in the herd.

Lima Lima, feeling a bit dejected, tried to join the girls who she had just chased away, but they were reluctant to include her now! So Lima Lima made her way back to Murera and Luggard and browsed alongside them.

06 May 2021

As the sun was rose over the Chyulu Hills, all the orphans woke up in a jovial mood, busying themselves with their daily routine of having their milk bottles and some lucerne grass before making their way out to browse.

This morning Lima Lima had been appointed on Luggard duty by Murera. She stood by the young bull, watching over him as he had his fill of water from the stockade water trough. After a few minutes, the orphans were joined by the night-clubbers. They seemed very thirsty and headed straight for the for water trough. Lima Lima was very pleased to see them and exchanged pleasantries, but as soon as they turned to leave, Lima Lima trumpeted at them, as though beseeching them to stay. Lima Lima’s old friends were happy to oblige, in fact, they stayed quite a while with the Umani herd and joined them for their browsing session. The older boys took a keen interest in Luggard, which pleased Lima Lima, and Luggard seemed to enjoy being in the company of the older bulls too.  

By midday, the night-clubber boys decided to go their own way, but Zongoloni stayed back to give her little friend Enkesha, as well as Lima Lima and Luggard, some company. By 5pm, as the orphans were getting ready to return to the stockades, Zongoloni left, walking in the same direction as the night-clubber boys, no doubt with the intention of linking up with them for their night adventures.  

07 May 2021

Murera is the matriarch of the Umani herd, very much the leader, but perhaps even matriarchs have a mischievous side, and we saw Murera’s today at the midday bottle feed.

All the orphans had finished their bottles and were getting ready to walk to the mud bath. Shukuru found a tree stump and was scratching her belly. The Keepers were watching Enkesha and Mwashoti chasing each other and Lima Lima was looking after Luggard, which left Murera quite free. Without anyone realizing, Murera snuck away from the herd towards the milk vehicle, and started rummaging around the back of the van to see if she could find any spare bottles of milk, but the big girl made so much noise that it caught the attention of one of the Keepers. He started walking towards the van thinking that perhaps a baboon had got inside, only to find Murera with her trunk rummaging around in the bottles in search of milk! Murera was so startled, and perhaps a little embarrassed at being caught, that she ran off trumpeting.

As Murera ran off she somewhat lost her way and ran in the opposite direction of where her friends were, embarrassed and now lost too, she trumpeted, calling out to Lima Lima who responded right away and ran in the direction of her friends trumpets. After a few minutes the two girls walked back and walked towards the Keepers who were looking after Luggard.  

08 May 2021

Ngasha is one of our night-clubber boys and last month, one of his night adventures with other wild elephants, he sprained his leg. Our Tsavo vet was called in immediately and Ngasha was treated for his sprain. While he is recovering well and his leg seems to be getting stronger, he tends to stay close to the stockade and to the Umani herd as well.

Lima Lima is happy to have her friend Ngasha join them, but this also means a bit of extra work for her. She feels the need to keep an eye on both her boys, Ngasha and Luggard, and because both move at a very different space, Ngasha always ahead and Luggard slight behind, Lima Lima finds herself running between both boys, to make sure they are happy and safe, especially Luggard.  

Lima Lima is clever too. As the evenings draws in she stays close to Luggard, as sometimes he comes back to the stockades slightly early, and Lima Lima knows that if she stays with Luggard she will receive her milk bottle earlier than everyone else too!

09 May 2021

The orphans had a very pleasant start to their morning and the day went quite peacefully with the orphans choosing to browse near the Umani Hills.

Some of the night-clubber boys joined the orphans at the mud bath, but not Ziwa. The Keepers thought he might not be too far behind so they called out to him, but there was no sign of Ziwa. It was not until the orphans were slowly making their way back to the stockades that Ziwa joined them, but he wasn’t alone! With him was a much older and larger wild bull. The Keepers had seen this wild bull before, but always from afar, and he had always kept his distance, but now with Ziwa he was able to get closer to the Umani females. Luggard, Murera, Shukuru and most of the orphans had already reached the stockade compound; it was only the night-clubbers who were lingering outside the stockade compound with Zongoloni. The large bull wasn’t interested in the Keepers or the orphans but he was very keen on Zongoloni.  

Jasiri immediately tried to block the wild bulls’ access to Zongoloni but was not very successful so he tried a different tactic. He lured Zongoloni away from the wild bull, led her through the forest and snuck into the stockade compound without the wild bull noticing. The Keepers caught on to what Jasiri was trying to do and locked the compound gates. After a while when they could no longer hear the night-clubber boys or the wild bull, Jasiri left with Zongoloni.

10 May 2021

Luggard hadn’t been feeling well today, and therefore we had to call the vet to attend to him. The vet instructed the Keepers to keep a vigilant eye on the little boy and there was medication to be administered via injection.

As soon as the orphans were done with their morning routine and were getting ready to leave, the Keeper decided this way the best time to give Luggard his injection as Lima Lima was already quite far ahead. As soon as the Keepers tried, Luggard cried out for help, alerting Lima Lima, who came back running to see why Luggard had trumpeted so loudly. Then she wouldn’t let the Keepers near Luggard. The Keepers tried to pacify Lima Lima to allow them to give Luggard his medication but Lima Lima wouldn’t let them. The Keepers had to finally prepare a bottle of milk and entice Lima Lima away from Luggard at which point they were able to successfully give Luggard his injection.

At the mud bath Mwashoti and Enkesha were up to their games but this time they were chasing a pair of crane birds; we are sure they were guarding their nest nearby, but for these two cheeky characters, it was just another game. Once the orphans left the mud bath area, we saw the cranes return to the same spot where the Keepers are sure there is a nest with their eggs in it.

11 May 2021

It was a difficult and long night for all; for the Keepers as well as the orphans.  

Our little Luggard was unwell, and the rest of the orphans could sense it too. His health started to deteriorate and the Keepers did everything to help him. Luggard was put on a drip, but unfortunately it was not meant to be and our Lionheart Luggard slipped away around 1am. The Keepers were absolutely bereft, as were the orphans. At the moment of Luggard’s passing, all the orphans started rumbling and knocking at their gates. The Keepers tried their best to pacify them, but we believe they must have sensed Luggard’s passing. Eventually the Keepers gave each orphan a milk bottle, which seemed to help settle them, but Murera continued to pace in her room, she eventually tired and settled down to sleep.

The morning brought further heartbreak as the older girls passed by Luggard’s empty room. During the night the Keepers had moved Luggard and taken him to a special burial spot. The older girls rumbled and stayed close to Luggard’s room, some touching the hay with their trunks where he had lain, running their trunk over his room and the surroundings as though to capture Luggard’s final essence to store it in their memory. Elephants have such strong powers of communication, we feel sure they knew what was happening all along, maybe even for some time, which is why they cherished him so much. The Keepers had to give the orphans time to mourn the loss of their beloved friend. After about an hour or so, the orphans seemed ready, and started to move to start their day of browsing.

12 May 2021

Our Umani family continues to mourn the loss of Luggard. Yesterday Lima Lima and Murera were the most heartbroken. They would sneak away from the herd and wander off on their own, but the Keepers also understand they must allow the girls to grieve in their own way.

Today both girls were very listless; they didn’t browse much but just kept touching each other with their trunks and we wondered if this is how the consoled each other and perhaps communicated words of comfort. 

Things changed for the better when closer to evening, the entire night-clubber herd arrived. They seemed to instinctively know that Luggard was no longer with us. They trumpeted when they saw Lima Lima and Murera, all the orphans greeted each other by entwining their trunks. Then all the night-clubbers plus the Umani orphans gathered around Lima Lima and Murera; they rumbled and communicated in their own way, perhaps remembering Luggard and consoling each other. They stayed this way for a few minutes and after this, both Lima Lima and Murera seemed more settled. It was comforting for the Keepers to see how this Umani orphan family has come together at a time like this. This is testament to how important family is to elephants, perhaps not related by blood but by the bonds that they have created with each other.

13 May 2021

Elephants mourn very much like humans do. They often frequent a spot or a place that reminds them of their loved one.  

Murera and Lima Lima kept returning to a spot at the mud bath where Luggard used to play and wallow. It’s Luggard’s special spot and if any of the other orphans approached, Murera would chase them away, but not Lima Lima. Murera seems to have a mutual understanding and knows that the only other elephant who shared her love as much for Luggard is Lima Lima. Both these girls loved and doted on Luggard immensely. The Keepers also observed that sometimes the two girls would do things that Luggard used to enjoy doing, maybe this is also their way of remembering Luggard, keeping his memory alive.  

There is an acacia tree, just outside the compound, where Luggard would often stop and rest before going into his room. Every time we walk past this spot, both Lima Lima and Murera have to stop and spend some time touching the ground and running their trunks on tree. The other orphans also join them; they surround the tree and stand here for a while.  

14 May 2021

The Umani herd was out in the browsing fields when the Keepers noticed Lima Lima was not with them. They assumed she had gone off with the night-clubber boys when they arrived this morning.

When the night-clubbers arrived later however, Lima Lima was not with them, so one of the Keepers walked back to the stockades to see if Lima Lima was there, and she was. They found Lima Lima just outside the stockade compound, standing under the acacia tree where Luggard used to rest, looking very relaxed and content. The Keeper felt it was important to give Lima Lima time to remember Luggard this way, so he sat with Lima Lima too. After a while he tried to get Lima Lima to join the rest of the orphans but Lima Lima wouldn’t budge. He then decided to pack his pockets with lucerne pellets to get Lima Lima to follow him to where the rest of her friends were and it worked. Lima Lima followed the Keeper and re-joined the herd where she was welcomed by her friends.

At night the Keepers observed that the night-clubber boys would also come and surround the same acacia tree, spending hours standing underneath, rumbling and trumpeting. Luggard was with us for only about a year, but in that year the lovely boy with the most endearing spirit managed to carve a place in the hearts of all the Keepers and a deep bond with the orphans. Luggard will be remembered always as our Lionheart Luggard!

15 May 2021

Life is slowly getting back to normal for the Umani herd, we remember Luggard every day, in one way or another, but the orphans are starting to settle back into their routine.

Whilst browsing near the springs, Lima Lima heard noises coming from a distance. Earlier we had spotted two male buffaloes and wondered if it might be them. Ever inquisitive, Lima Lima did not waste another moment and set out in the direction of where the noise was coming from. The Keepers didn’t like the idea of Lima Lima going on her own and so one of them decided to follow her. Upon reaching the springs, the Keepers’ suspicions were confirmed. It was two male buffaloes, engaged in a rather fierce fight.  

Lima Lima immediately sprang into action, trumpeting at them in the hopes of separating them, but the buffaloes were so engrossed in their fight that they paid Lima Lima no heed. Lima Lima decided she needed reinforcements, and returned to her friends to enlist the services of her trusty herd, which included Murera, Sonje and Quanza. Lima Lima and this trio walked back to the where the buffaloes were and surrounded them. All four girls began to trumpet at them very loudly, and the tactic worked. The buffaloes stopped fighting and when the girls continued to trumpet at them, they ran off in different directions, not to be seen for the rest of the day.

The girls returned to their friends and the rest of the day passed peacefully.

16 May 2021

It was a typical start for the orphans this morning, as we let them out of their rooms. Sonje and Murera spent quite a bit of scratching their bottoms on the loading bay and then where the loose soil mounds are. Once all the orphans were ready, we made our way to the water springs.

We found a lone elephant bull drinking water there. The orphans were curious as usual, and the Keepers careful as usual! Some of the orphans started interacting with him and once the Keepers saw he was friendly, they started to relax too. The lone bull stayed with the orphans and accompanied them to the midday bottle feed. Lima Lima took the most interest in the bull today! When the Keepers called the orphans for their milk Lima Lima didn’t make an appearance at first, which is most unusual for her, but after a few minutes we saw her run towards her bottle. She took her bottle which the Keepers thought she would finish there as usual, but Lima Lima had other plans and she took her bottle to where the bull was and drank it whilst standing with him.  

Lima Lima spent several hours with the bull. A few times we saw Lima Lima trying to get the wild bull to follow her to the mud bath the bull remained slightly cautious. He stayed at a distance watching the Keepers and the orphans wallow and dust bath. He eventually left and Lima Lima re-joined her friends and they carried on with their day as usual.

17 May 2021

Today the wild bull from yesterday appeared again. Lima Lima was quite happy to see him and he spent the whole day with the orphans.

At the midday feed, again, he stayed back, watching the orphans have their milk bottles and indulge in their mud wallow and dusting sessions. Lima Lima tried again to get him to join them in the mud bath but the wild bull stayed away, waiting patiently for Lima Lima. After the mud bath Lima Lima disappeared with the wild bull into the forest. We thought perhaps she had gone to meet his wild friends but one of the Keepers who had stayed back at the stockades reported that Lima Lima had brought the wild bull to stockades and showed him around, as you would a new friend or guest.  

The Keeper reported that Lima Lima took the wild bull to her room, and tried to get him to join him in her room but the bull stood outside watching Lima Lima, reluctant to enter the room. It must be strange for a wild bull to see another elephant sleeping in a “room” when he is so used to sleeping out in the wild, in the open, under trees and an open sky. The wild bull was not deterred from seeing the stockades; he chose to remain with Lima Lima for the rest of the day and only left when he saw the other orphan returning at 5pm.

18 May 2021

It was a beautiful cool start to the morning; all the orphans came out of their rooms, happy and well rested. The older girls decided to lead the herd to browse down by the springs again today.  

On arriving at the springs we found a small herd of elephants with two tiny babies. Murera and Lima Lima were so excited to see the little babies that they immediately approached the wild herd looking to interact with them, but a tussle broke out amongst the wild herd and our two girls when the wild herd realized that Murera and Lima Lima were interested in playing with their babies. The wild herd left but Murera and Lima Lima followed them, at distance, in the hope of getting to one of their babies.

The Keepers left Lima Lima and Murera following the wild herd and they carried on to the mud bath area with the rest of the orphans. The orphans had their milk bottles and there was still no sign of Murera or Lima Lima. The Keepers called out to them, but no luck, so they decided to drive towards where they had last left the two girls and started calling out them. Wherever the two girls were, they must have either smelled the milk or heard the Keepers calling out to them, because they came running out of the bushes, straight up to the Keepers. After that they walked back with the Keepers to join the rest of the Umani herd.  

19 May 2021

Today Lima Lima and Quanza had a bit of a quarrel. Over the past few months, Mwashoti and Enkesha have become very good friends and they enjoy browsing together, chasing butterflies and also engage and friendly pushing games. Lima Lima and Quanza were not very happy about this, and kept on trying to convince Mwashoti to join them instead. Mwashoti ignored the girls and continued to enjoy Enkesha’s company.

When the night-clubber boys arrived, to make up for Mwashoti rejecting her, Quanza decided she wanted to spend time with Ziwa. Ziwa is a very gentle bull and happy to oblige the girls. He was happy to have Quanza’s company, but it seemed as though Lima Lima wasn’t and tried to push Quanza a few times. Quanza did not back down and pushed Lima Lima back and a fight broke out between the two girls, which resulted in Lima Lima walking away.

When it was time to go home, it seemed as though Lima Lima was still a bit sore from her earlier defeat from Quanza, so when Quanza tried to enter the stockade compound, Lima Lima blocked her and kept on pushing her out. Ziwa was not too far behind and when he saw what Lima Lima was doing he chased her away, towards her room, so that Quanza could enter the compound.  

20 May 2021

When the orphans exited the stockades this morning, usually they have their milk bottles and make their way to the lucerne feeding area, but today, after having their milk, both Murera and Lima Lima separated themselves from the herd. They stayed close to each other, not mingling with the other orphans.

As the orphans walked out, making their way to the browsing field, again Murera and Lima Lima kept to themselves. When the Keepers tried to get them to join their friends, they refused. The Keepers wondered why these two girls were behaving in such a strange manner. They have always been happy to take the lead and look after the rest of the herd, so this behaviour of separating themselves from the herd was baffling the Keepers.

When it was time go home, Lima Lima went ahead of everyone else, followed closely by Murera. When the Keepers got to the stockades, they realized why these two girls were behaving in such an unusual manner. It seems that they had been planning to take over Luggard’s room, because the Keepers found both girls firmly ensconced in Luggard’s quarters. When they tried to move them out of his room, they completely refused. Finally the Keepers had to place the girls’ bottles in their rooms, and Lima Lima and Murera slowly and reluctantly moved back into their rooms. It might not be obvious, but both these girls miss Luggard very much!

21 May 2021

When our orphans were out in the bush today they saw a young elephant bull browsing by himself. The orphans started to show an immediate interest in him, but the Keepers were a bit more cautious, thinking he might be in the company of an older bull, or several other older bulls, so they did not want to be caught unawares. A quick scan of the area revealed that the young bull was indeed on his own though.

The Umani herd was quick to welcome him and make him a part of their little group. The young bull was mild mannered and the girls very much enjoyed his company. The young bull stayed with them the whole day, up until it was time to go home. All the orphans including the young wild bull were walking towards the stockades when Jasiri appeared with the Ziwa and Faraja. Jasiri was not happy to see the young bull with Umani herd and immediately challenged him to a fight. Both boys started fighting each other and the young bull defeated Jasiri.  

Jasiri then left to look for his friends and after about twenty minutes he returned with Ziwa and Faraja; between the three of them they chased away the young bull away, apparently jealous of his interaction with ‘their’ family!  

22 May 2021

The young bull who visited yesterday, returned today with two other wild bulls.  

The night-clubber boys had not arrived yet, so the three bulls enjoyed browsing with our girls. All was peaceful until the night clubber-boys arrived. Upon seeing that the wild bull had brought reinforcements this time, our boys challenged the wild bulls, but much to the dismay of our boys, the wild bulls were rather strong and defeated the night-clubber boys in no time. The Umani herd girl’s loyalty towards the night-clubber boys won over in the end however; the herd moved away from the wild bulls and everyone chose to browse with the night-clubber boys instead of the wild bulls.

Every time the wild bulls tried to follow or engage one of the girls, the girls chased them, until the wild bulls gave up and left. The Umani herd was once again united with the night-clubber boys and they spent the rest of their day browsing together.

23 May 2021

The Keepers are always happy when the orphans get a chance to interact with wild elephants. It helps the orphans learn the necessary skills required when they go back into the wild. Sometimes these interactions are beneficial and run smoothly, and other times not so much.

As the orphans made their way out to browse today, a lone bull decided to join them. As always, the orphans were very happy to have the company of a new friend. He spent the entire day browsing with the Umani herd, even following them to the mud bath and wallowing whilst the orphans had their milk bottles. He seemed particularly enamored by Sonje and followed her everywhere, browsing close to her and sometimes wandering off with her, but then re-joining the herd.

The wild bull accompanied the orphans all the way to the stockade in the evening, but when Sonje tried to enter the compound, the wild bull stopped her from doing so, as though he wanted Sonje to join him. Sonje was getting nervous and trying to get past him but the bull wouldn’t let her. She trumpeted loudly, catching the attention of the Keepers who tried to chase away the bull but to no avail. Then, out of the bushes we heard crashing sounds and all of a sudden the night-clubber boys appeared and took stock of what was going on in front of them. The boys wasted no time in chasing the wild bull away and Ziwa quickly ushered Sonje into the stockade compound with the help of the Keepers. Once again the night-clubbers came to rescue of the Umani herd.

24 May 2021

There was excitement in the air at the Umani stockades today. Somehow the older girls must have sensed that something was happening, as all of them were restless and pacing the stockade compound. Today is the very exciting day that some new babies are arriving from the Nairobi Nursery, the Kibwezi Forest and Umani stockades having been decided as the perfect environment for them, especially considering the dry conditions in the Voi area. As the lorry from Nairobi appeared around the corner, the girls went right up to the loading bay, led by Shukuru, as though they already knew that the truck was bring them babies from the Nairobi Nursery. We have often marveled at the capabilities of elephant communication and how they know things ahead of time, and today was no exception! 

Today Kiasa, Kiombo and Maktao arrived at Umani, and stepped off the truck slightly apprehensively and somewhat taken aback at the size of the orphans at Umani before them. The Keepers tried to keep the older orphans back for as long as possible, to give the babies time to come off the lorry and acquaint themselves, but when Shukuru broke through the human barrier there was just no stopping them, they were too excited! 

At the Nairobi Nursery Kiasa, Kiombo and Maktao were part of the largest group of babies, and they were not used to seeing elephants as big as Murera and Lima Lima, who with Shukuru were amongst the first to welcome the babies. They started to fuss over them and the Keepers could see how all the orphans were jostling to get close to babies. In a few minutes the night-clubbers arrived and joined in the greeting party too! The girls were delighted to have a little girl to welcome into the fold and night-clubber boys immediately started to fuss over Kiombo and Maktao. Enkesha was a little jealous of the new babies and ran around with her tail in the air showing off! But we are sure she will settle down soon.

The night-clubber boys immediately started to single out the boys and lead them away from the herd and Zongoloni was already eyeing up Kiasa, but Murera managed to keep the young girl close to her. As soon as the Keepers noticed what the night-clubber boys were up to, they ushered Kiombo and Maktao towards the Umani herd.  

The orphans must have communicated their schedule to the newcomers as the three new babies seemed to know exactly where to go when it was time for the midday bottle. The arrival of our three new babies has certainly helped the Umani family deal with the loss of Luggard and already there is a huge change in spirit at Umani.

25 May 2021

Today is the second day for Kiasa, Kiombo and Maktao, our new babies who graduated from the Nairobi Nursery and joined the Umani herd. They had a very restful night; in fact as soon as they were done with their evening bottles yesterday, they fell asleep almost immediately on the soft hay that had been prepared for them, evidently exhausted from the day’s excitement.  

All the orphans started the day on a high note but the tussle between the older girls has already begun. Murera obviously wants to be the primary care giver to Kiasa, but Lima Lima and Quanza both want an equal chance too. Kiasa spent most of her day under Murera’s care; Murera also knows having a girl in the Umani herd means having a longer period of being able to look after her, as female elephants take a longer time to join other wild herds, unlike the male elephants who tend to leave their original herd at a younger age. 

The only time Lima Lima and Quanza were allowed access to Kiasa is when Murera needed a break. It is exciting times for the Umani herd, and it remains to be seen which baby will end up under which older girls care. For now the Keepers are overjoyed at having the new babies join them. 

Together with Angela Sheldrick we arrived at the decision as well that Shukuru, who has been ailing for some time and keeping herself separate from the herd, should return to the Nairobi Nursery. Our dear Shukuru, who has been grappling with health issues for many years now, boarded the moving lorry without a care in the world and almost willingly, as if she knew it was the right thing. In Nairobi she can receive a closer level of care and we can also run a few tests to get to the bottom of what might be ailing her.

26 May 2021

Zongoloni arrived early in the morning, eager with anticipation at spending time with the new babies. She waited for the orphans to finish their morning rituals and set off with them towards the browsing fields.

Murera made sure to keep Kiasa close to her as she could already see that Zongoloni had intentions of sneaking off with Kiasa. The whole morning passed uneventfully and somehow just after the midday bottle feed, when Murera was busy dusting, Zongoloni managed to separate Kiasa from the Umani herd and snuck off with her. The little girl followed Zongoloni all the way into the forest and then after a while we heard a small trumpet from the forest. Murera realized right away that was Kiasa calling for help and ran in the direction of the forest, after a few minutes the Keepers saw her return without Kiasa and knew that they had to go back with her to look for Kiasa and bring her back.

The Keepers spread out in the forest and within a few minutes the found Zongoloni and Kiasa browsing. Zongoloni was reprimanded for separating Kiasa from the herd and between Murera and the Keepers, Kiasa was brought back to the Umani herd. The Keepers know this is going to be a regular occurrence and elephants love little babies. Zongoloni means well, it is just that Kiasa is too young to go into the wild, just yet. 

27 May 2021

The girls continue to fight over Kiasa. Before, it was Lima Lima and Quanza, joining forces against Murera, vying for the prime position of primary care giver to Kiasa, but now these two girls are fighting between themselves. In a way, this works in Murera’s favor, as whilst Lima Lima and Quanza are squabbling, she gets to spend more time with Kiasa.


Lima Lima finally got her chance to be with Kiasa when Murera was busy wallowing in the mud-bath, Kiasa was browsing nearby not really paying attention to her surroundings, so when Lima Lima approached her and invited her to join her in browsing a little further away, Kiasa was happy to oblige. Lima Lima’s triumph was short lived because, as soon as Murera came out of the mud-bath and realized Lima Lima had lured her away. She ran towards Lima Lima, trumpeting at her, almost as if berating her. Lima Lima ran off leaving Murera to take charge of her young ward once more. 


This back and forth will carry on for a while, between the older girls and sooner or later the roles of which female elephant will be responsible for which little one will soon fall into place. The Keepers seem to think, Murera will be taking care of Kiasa, whilst the two boys will fall under Lima Lima and Sonje.


28 May 2021

Poor Murera now has another contender. Zongoloni is also in the running for Kiasa’s primary caregiver, but she is not interested in staying within the Umani herd, in fact Zongoloni wants to extend her night clubbers herd by taking Kiasa in to the wild.


Zongoloni knows she has an advantage over Murera. The older girl is unable to run too fast because of her injury and so Zongoloni plotted quite the elaborate plan. She mingled with the Umani herd, staying close to Kiasa and playing with her but not separating her from the herd, as though to lure Murera into a false sense of security that Zongoloni is not interested in stealing Kiasa. As soon as Murera relaxed somewhat and stopped watching Zongoloni slowly but surely Zongoloni started to move Kiasa away from the herd, without Murera noticing. The two had got quite far before Murera noticed so the older girl started to run towards Zongoloni and Kiasa but she was not fast enough to catch up to them. Murera she let out a trumpet of help alerting the Keepers she needed back up. 


Between the Keepers and Lima Lima, they managed to get Kiasa back and shepherded her back towards Murera. Murera decided she was not taking any more chances and walked back to stockades with Kiasa, where she knows Zongoloni will not attempt to steal her.

29 May 2021

As we let out the orphans this morning, Murera was already on high alert as she spotted Zongoloni, outside the stockade compound gates with her night clubber boys.


Once the orphans had their milk and lucerne, Murera tried to chase away Zongoloni, but Zongoloni did not relent and fought back. Murera was not about to give up so easily either and also fought back, the fight carried on for about fifteen minutes after which Murera could see she was losing, so she called in her back-up in the form on Sonje, Lima Lima and Quanza. The three girls teamed up with Murera and even though Zongoloni tried her best, she saw that she was outnumbered and ran away. 


To stop Zongoloni from getting to Kiasa, the older girls came up with a plan, they recruited Enkesha to be on “Zongoloni watch-duty”. Whenever Enkesha saw Zongoloni approaching the orphans, she would trumpet alerting the older girls of Zongoloni’s presence. This tactic worked and somehow Zongoloni kept her distance.

30 May 2021

A wild elephant herd joined our orphans at the mud-bath today, and the Keepers are always happy for the orphans to mingle with wild herds, but this time, because of the new babies, they knew they would need to be vigilant as female elephants are notorious for stealing small babies.


The matriarch of the wild herd was playing with Kiombo and the young bull was very much enjoying the attention he was receiving from the older female. Murera and Sonje were browsing nearby, keeping an eye on Kiombo, but when they saw the matriarch was just playing with him, they got busy with their own browsing. No one noticed that the matriarch had snuck off with Kiombo, except for Enkesha, who is ever so vigilant and alerted the Keepers right away by letting out a very loud trumpet. The Keepers walked towards the wild herd, but were finding it difficult to spot Kiombo, so instead of scaring the wild herd by approaching them, the Keepers called out Kiombo’s name several times and soon enough we saw our little boy emerge from the herd and run towards Sammy. 


Sammy is one of the Keepers from the Nairobi Nursery who accompanied the babies to Umani, to ensure they have a smooth and happy transition. Kiombo knows Sammy very well and ran straight towards him. After that the wild herd moved on and the orphans went back to their normal daily routine.

31 May 2021

Sonje is starting to take a keen interest in Kiombo; the two are often seen walking together. From the time the orphans wake up, Sonje spends as much time as possible with Kiombo.


Unfortunately this doesn’t sit very well with Mwashoti, who is used to having Sonje’s attention. Now that Kiombo is in the picture, Mwashoti feels like he has been replaced by the younger bull. Mwashoti went out of his way to make Kiombo’s life difficult; every time he saw Sonje and Kiombo together he would run after Kiombo chasing him off. Sonje was not very happy with Mwashoti and rumbled at him several times, Mwashoti would walk away only to come back and chase Kiombo again. Eventually Sonje was a bit stern with him and nudged him with her head as a warning. After that Mwashoti stopped chasing Kiombo but browsed far away from the herd. The Keepers found it quite amusing because Mwashoti reminded them of a child sulking with his mother. 


When the orphans were settling down for the night but Sonje insisted on going to Kiombo’s room and this is when the Keepers realized that Sonje is already starting to bond with the young bull. Eventually all the orphans settled into their hay beds and fell asleep. Tomorrow is another day for the Umani herd.