Keepers' Diaries, May 2023

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Umani Springs Reintegration Unit

May commenced with some drama, courtesy of a wild bull whom Ngasha invited into the mix. Lima Lima, Sonje, and Quanza walked over to greet the visitor, but he only had eyes for Quanza. Unfortunately, he came on a bit strong, and Quanza ran off to find Murera and the others. Undeterred, the bull pursued her into the forest, which caused all the orphans to flee in a flurry of trumpets. Peace was only restored when the big bull retreated back into the trees.

We’re so proud of Enkesha and Kiasa’s nannying skills — they’re a real help to Murera. One afternoon, a different wild bull caused a big commotion among the orphan herd. He was nervous of the Keepers and charged, which sent the orphans scattering in all directions. Murera went running to Mwana, but Kiasa and Enkesha had already whisked the baby off to a quieter area. Because Murera can’t move quickly, she must have been very relieved that her two deputies were on the case.

Murera and Mwashoti are normally very close, but they had a spot of discord this month. It all began when Mwashoti refused to let Mwana approach Enkesha. Every time the baby tried to run over to her nanny, Mwashoti would stand in front of her. Mwana grew upset and rumbled at the big bull, which alerted her mum to his antics. Mwashoti then spent the rest of the afternoon trying to earn Murera’s forgiveness. She only thawed when it was time for the orphans to head home for the evening.

After a long spell in the wild, Jasiri returned to visit his human-elephant family. This was the first time Jasiri was properly meeting little Mwana. He walked around her, smelling and gently inspecting her. Once he had finished greeting the baby, he walked over to Murera and gave her a big trunk hug, as if to congratulate her on her new daughter.

Another male member of our Umani herd also had a special moment with Mwana this month. For a long time, Kapei resented the baby, as she dethroned him as the darling of the Umani herd. However, one afternoon the Keepers heard a commotion in the field. With Murera hot on their heels, they went over to investigate — only to find Kapei, Mwana, and Kiasa happily rolling in the long grasses! Their game was overseen by Enkesha and Quanza, who made sure that Kapei played gently with little Mwana.

Amali and Mwashoti continue to have the sweetest friendship. Mwashoti loves the young girl so much, and the feeling is mutual — it warms our heart to see how happy he makes Amali. One afternoon, the Keepers observed Mwashoti picking up delicious twigs and generously sharing them with his little friend. Kiombo, on the other hand, was just picking up old branches and throwing them about as a game.

Jasiri and Ngasha’s feud continues unabated. So much of elephant dynamics remains a mystery, and whatever caused their feud, it must be something that the boys need to sort out amongst themselves. Faraja, who is Jasiri’s best friend, certainly thinks so: Every time Lima Lima tried to step in and play peace-maker, Faraja would stop her. Faraja didn’t intervene once; he just stood by, watching Jasiri and Ngasha figure it out.

Sonje is a famous heartthrob in the Kibwezi Forest — all the bulls are smitten with her! As she breaks hearts, Lima Lima is left to sweep up the pieces. One day, a wild bull saw the Keepers near Sonje and jealously mock-charged them. Lima Lima, who is always so protective of the Keepers, was quick to step in front of the bull, blocking him from getting any closer and instead leading him away from the herd.

Sonje is spending a lot more time in the wild, but she is still a matriarch. As the orphans start their day, Sonje is usually waiting outside. She then walks around, personally greeting everyone as their gates are opened. Everyone reveres Sonje and greets her with warm rumbles, even baby Mwana.

Kiombo and Maktao remain the best of friends. They love to play and are quite evenly matched. Sometimes, however, their games escalate into real fights. This happened one afternoon, when they were squabbling over a coveted corner of the pool. Kiombo started back-kicking Maktao, who then grew more incensed. Lima Lima and Enkesha tried to step in and stop them, but neither of the boys would back down. The Keepers eventually called all the orphans out of the mud bath, which put an end to their fight.

Alamaya and Mwashoti are so protective of their human-elephant family. As the Umani herd arrived at the dust bath one afternoon, they spotted four buffalo napping on the other side of the dust mound. Mwashoti and Alamaya stepped forward and challenged the buffalo, rumbling and flapping their ears. The buffalo stood up in a hurry and wandered back into the forest. Once the interlopers cleared the area, Mwashoti and Alamaya trumpeted with pride and excitement. Everyone was then free to enjoy a fun dust bath.

Zongoloni is really embracing her wild side and has been away for a month or so. One afternoon, the orphans came across a large wild herd with lots of babies in their midst. The Keepers were amazed to spot Zongoloni at the heart of the herd. She may be increasingly wild, but she always has time for her human-elephant family: The Keepers called out her name and she immediately responded with a rumble. She walked over and warmly greeted the Keepers and her orphan friends, before running off to catch up with her new friends. The Keepers were happy to see her part of a big, wild herd.

On 27th May, we were treated to an auspicious visitor — Ziwa! He showed up during the orphans’ midday milk feed. Everyone was delighted to see their old friend and welcomed him with a chorus of excited rumbles and trumpets. Ngasha, who continues to feel insecure about being the dominant bull, tried to charge, but Ziwa stood his ground. Ngasha was surprised to discover how strong Ziwa was and quickly disappeared into the forest.

The month ended on a funny, low-stakes dramatic note. As Sonje led orphans up the Chyulu Hills, a troop of vervet monkeys began taunting them from the trees. This caused Kiasa and Lima Lima to stand guard, trumpeting and rumbling in warning, while the rest of the herd walked away from their antagonists. However, the monkeys started jumping from tree to tree, following the herd. This caused all the orphans, including little Mwana, to charge at them before running away. Amali and Kapei, who are always so quick to disappear at the slightest hint of trouble, made themselves scarce, while Mwana dashed among the Keepers. Only when the monkeys gave up their chase did the herd settle to browse.

May 2023 day to day

01 May

Ngasha was the first nightclubber to appear this morning, in the company of a large wild bull that the Keepers did not recognize. As the Umani herd were already settled within the Kibwezi Forest, the Keepers immediately started to look around for an exit in case this new visitor decided to charge. The bull kept his distance, but he had this suspicious look as though he did not quite understand the orphans’ relationship with their Keepers.

Murera was also a bit nervous so she, with the help of Kiasa and Enkesha, ushered Mwana away, deeper into the forest. Lima Lima, Sonje and Quanza all walked over to greet the bull, and he was particularly interested in Quanza whom he kept trying to wrap his trunk around. Quanza was confused by his actions, and she eventually ran off to find Murera and the others, but this caused the bull to follow all the girls. Once further in the forest the Keepers could hear all the girls rumbling and trumpeting, and they spotted them dashing off to the open field, so the Keepers followed. Once out in the open field, Ngasha decided to follow the Umani herd and eventually his new friend went off on his way.

This afternoon, Kiasa once again took Mwana away from the older nannies as she wanted Mwana to be escorted by herself and Enkesha. From being one of the naughtiest members of the Nursery herd, Kiasa has turned into such a caring and doting nanny. They were both trying to escort Mwana to the mud bath, but that little charger was sprinting ahead of them both and she made it to the pool well before them. After a wonderful wallow, the Umani herd began to make their way back to the stockades for the evening.


Murera and Mwana