Keepers' Diaries, November 2018

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Umani Springs Reintegration Unit

Sonje was extremely playful this month which was lovely to see. On quite a few occasions she came out of her room in the morning and walked over to the loading wall to play on the ground there. She played in such style, pulling all sorts of extravagant poses, so much so that the Keepers remarked it was hard to tell she had a bad leg at all. 

The rain, which is usual for this time of year as Kenya receives the short rains around November, meant that the orphans were ready to forgo their lucerne quota and instead go for the delicious fresh vegetation that was budding out in the forest instead. On the mornings when the rain didn’t delay them in their stockades for longer than usual, they would rush out to devour the sweet fresh leaves that they knew were waiting for them. Only Mwashoti, Quanza and Lima Lima would return sometimes to grab trunkful’s of pellets on their way out. When the rain fell heavy and the orphans were already out in the forest, they would search for any shelter possible, sometimes choosing to shelter with the Keepers under their umbrellas! One day Shukuru sought shelter with the Keepers, but had to turn around because Mwashoti had beaten her too it, and he can be very jealous and protective when around the Keepers.

Shukuru is such a gentle and docile member of the Umani herd, despite being the same age as Murera the matriarch, she is often pushed around by the youngsters, but Sonje, actually two years her junior, doesn’t tolerate such behaviour and steps in and sticks up for her before the Keepers can respond. As Shukuru grows healthier and gains condition, so her confidence grows and it is wonderful to see her becoming stronger. 

This month we witnessed different behaviour from Mwashoti as well. He is normally a polite and gentle young boy, but we have noticed his character changing slightly and he is becoming more pushy. One day he pushed Quanza away from the pellets he was eating, something he would never have done before to an elder. As with all young male elephants, as they get older they become more bullish; one need only look at the others bulls in the herd, Ngasha, Faraja and Jasiri, and their manners. It is this type of behaviour that one day leads to the matriarchs and females in a herd to push the bulls out, and we can see the start of this kind of behaviour developing in this once quiet and docile little chap.

The behaviour from the older male members of the herd cannot help but influence Mwashoti as well. Often play-fights spring up for no reason at all; whether it is Jasiri and Faraja arguing over which direction to go, Ziwa preventing Faraja from accessing the water trough or Jasiri fighting over a branch with Ngasha and pushing him so hard he falls to the ground, often the fights culminate with the older girls like Sonje or Quanza stepping in to separate the sparring boys. 

One thing does help remind the boys how young they are and how much they still have to learn, and that is their encounters with wild bulls out in the forest. Ziwa and Jasiri seem especially apprehensive to meet wild bulls with such big tusks! With all the water and fresh vegetation around, the orphans did encounter some wild elephants this month. Sometimes they were more interested in their wild friends than others. When the wild elephants came to visit them at night at the stockade compound, the orphans did not tend to like these meetings as much and would make such a noise, trumpeting and pushing on their stockade walls. On their encounter with a wild herd and their babies out in the forest, Zongoloni and Lima Lima got overly excited as usual and spoilt it for everyone by over stepping boundaries and getting too close to the wild babies, resulting in the mothers chasing the orphans away.

November 2018 day to day

01 Nov

Sonje was very entertaining this morning as she playfully ran around the stockades, scratched against the loading walls, and even allowed Alamaya and some of the other boys to climb on her back as she was rolling around. 

After their morning antics, the orphans ran straight into the bush to browse. They were being directed by Murera and Sonje who lead them all the way to the top of the hills. Whilst in the forest, along the Umani Hills circuit, the orphans almost ran into a herd of buffalo. Thankfully, Mwashoti caught wind of the buffalo and alerted the others, including the Keepers, who eventually shouted at the buffalo causing them to move away.  

Orphans enjoying the dust bath

Ngasha enjoying the dust bath

Shukuru enjoying the grasslands