Owing to the natural springs that seep through the porous volcanic rock, the Kibwezi Forest is a perennial lush environment where there is always water to be found and thus vegetation for animals and elephants to eat. Nevertheless, during the dry season and the months we have experienced recently, even this forested area can start to dry out. This means our orphans have to walk further afield for their browse, and need to obtain sustenance from drier vegetation and tough bark. So the rains, which started last month and continued this month, have brought relief even to this naturally more lenient environment and the orphans have been enjoying the fresh green shoots sprouting all over the forest and especially up into the hills, where less animals graze. Lima Lima is of course the greediest girl, running all over the place from one spot to another trying to get as much greenery as she can before her friends. Sonje, Murera and Mwashoti usually find it harder to get up the slopes due to their bad legs, but even they have found the going easier this month and are eager to reach the fresh vegetation wherever it is to be found. The only time they have particularly struggled is during and after a rain shower, when the ground becomes muddy and slippery. With their bad legs they have found it difficult to hold their balance but they make sure to walk carefully and slowly so as not to fall over. The orphans have also avoided the mud bath several times this month due to the colder weather, but have braved it on other days so as to gain that protective mud coating against the insects which are plentiful and bothersome during the rainy season! We watched as the younger boys sometimes sought shelter under the bellies of the older girls like Quanza, but they are fast becoming too big to do so! Lima Lima would sometimes try to come and seek shelter under the Keepers’ umbrellas as well, which is always a funny sight to behold.
The boys were in an especially boisterous mood this month, including little Alamaya who is growing in both strength and personality every month! Mwashoti’s leg makes him always slightly more subdued than his companion and age-mate, but there is no doubt they are both growing into handsome and healthy young bulls. As for the older bulls, Faraja was definitely the most boisterous this month, pushing his friends around, initiating wrestling matches to ascertain dominance and pulling his friends tails to get a rise out of them. Sometimes the male orphans are the most confident when it comes to socialising with their new wild friends in the forest, though there are some they do not wish to fraternise with because they try to lead ‘their’ female friends away along a different path. Jasiri in particular was very indifferent one day and did not want any wild bulls around his adopted sisters. Interactions with the wild elephants are different every time, but the orphans had some energetic meetings this month and sometimes the orphans were pushed around a bit. Each meeting is a lesson to our orphans however, in elephant etiquette, and the keepers try to hang back when they can, or step in when they see our orphans really need assistance. One day Zongoloni stepped in to help Lima Lima who had been knocked by a big bull, only to be knocked over herself by another bull she didn’t see coming!
In the meantime it is the duty of our matriarchs Sonje and Murera to keep the other orphans in line, and they do a good job of it. Murera has not been tolerating any nonsense and one day even pushed Mwashoti who she felt was misbehaving. Sonje has been stepping in when she feels bulls like Ngasha, Jasiri and Faraja are taking their pushing games too far, and neither one tolerated the tame bush buck that sought shelter in the stockade compound one day! Their leadership is supplemented by the other females Zongoloni, Lima Lima and sometimes Quanza too, who help keep an eye on the younger orphans. This, however, does not mean they are immune to bad behaviour, especially Lima Lima due to her greedy nature! One day she and Zongoloni grabbed some lucerne from the hay stores while the Keepers were not looking, and when they tried to stop them they ran off with a whole bale, dropping it as they tried to eat on the run!
Ziwa is approaching his 6th birthday soon but sometimes he thinks he is older than his years. One evening after the orphans had returned to the stockades for the day, he tricked the Keepers into thinking he was picking up the delicious seed pods by the gate, before sneaking off into the bushes in an effort to stay out for the night. The Keepers decided to let him try it, but by midnight he was standing beside the gate crying to be let back in! The Keepers opened the gate to a sheepish Ziwa who missed his friends, who welcomed him back with comforting low rumbles. We are certain he will not try that again for awhile!