Keepers' Diaries, November 2020

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Umani Springs Reintegration Unit

Just a few days of substantial rain is all it took to restore the Kibwezi Forest back to its verdant green. The Umani Springs remains a perennial source of water and with all the rain now the shrubs are a profusion of lush green foliage once more, with lots of small streams trickling throughout the forest from the build-up of ground water. Butterflies love to settle in the watery footprints made by the elephants along the muddy paths and fly up in a delicate flurry with every passing being. 

After struggling on through the dry season it was lovely for both the Keepers, and his adopted guardians Murera and Lima Lima, to watch Luggard enjoying all the fresh greenery, proficiently kicking and collecting trunk-fuls of delicious fresh grass using his front feet. By the end of the month Luggard’s tummy was looking much fuller and rounder! Both motherly girls have such a good routine now of taking it in turns to look after Luggard whiles the other browses. Every now and then however the greedy side of Lima Lima takes over and clouds her mind and she rushes forward to some new browsing spot she can smell, only to stop dead in her tracks as she remembers she is meant to be looking after Luggard, and rushes back to his side to walk slowly next to him! Sometimes Sonje will also take over the role of watching over Luggard, but for the first time this month Murera and Sonje also entrusted Shukuru to look after Luggard as well. They both wanted a mud bath at the same time and so left Luggard with Shukuru by the edge of the waterhole, keeping a keen eye on them the entire time, but they needn’t have worried because actually Shukuru turned out to be a very proficient nanny. From that moment on Luggard enjoyed spending time with Shukuru, taking comfort in her gentle disposition and quiet demeanour. 

With all the fresh water and greenery around in Tsavo and the Chyulu Hills now, wild elephants are frequenting the Kibwezi Forest less so it was only on a few occasional days this month that the orphans encountered wild elephants. One bull who arrived with Faraja and Ziwa one day took particular interest in our shy little Quanza, who to our great surprise reciprocated and enjoyed spending the afternoon browsing with the wild bull. It was the independent herd, the night-clubbers Faraja, Jasiri, Ngasha, Ziwa and Alamaya, of course led by the capable Zongoloni, who would bring the wild elephants to visit the dependent-Umani herd, and now that the wild elephants are moving further afield, Zongoloni, Faraja and Jasiri are also visiting the dependent orphans less and less, perhaps following the wild elephants to their new browsing areas. For some reason, Ngasha and Alamaya seemed to have peeled away from their friends and instead choose to visit the stockades every morning and escort the dependent orphans throughout the day, before wandering off back into the forest to browse during the night. The Keepers wandered if Alamaya was misbehaving, and Zongoloni was sending him away from her herd, and Ngasha, who has always been fond of Alamaya, chooses to escort the young boy. Of course Zongoloni and her group did still choose to visit the Umani orphans from time to time, but the visits tended to be outside of when Ngasha and Alamaya would come by and became slightly more brief as the month wore on – almost as if they were just checking in with the Keepers to let them know all was okay. This didn’t stop Enkesha and Zongoloni from greeting each other with great delight on every occasion however – as these two girls have such a soft spot for one another. One day Enkesha almost missed her dear friend as their interaction was so fleeting, and she ran after her in the forest with her tail in the air and her ears flapping, rumbling to her friend to stop and say hello. It was a scene the Keepers found very endearing indeed. 

Shukuru has always remained rather impartial to all the excitement and boisterous greetings between the dependent orphans and the independent herd; she prefers to keep a low profile and continue browsing. At any given time she is always aware of her friends’ movements, but just prefers to keep her own company. One Keeper is always by Shukuru‘s side, and when it is time to go home, both find the rest of the orphans and follow them back to the stockades.  

With Alamaya now spending more time with the independent herd, Mwashoti has started to try and spend more time with little Enkesha and enjoys playing with her, although he can get a little carried away sometimes and has to be kept in check by some of the older girls, and also Enkesha herself! This spunky little girl isn’t afraid to tell Mwashoti when enough is enough and will raise her ears high and trumpet loudly if Mwashoti is being a little too annoying or boisterous.

Quanza has been showing off her playful side this month, messing around with Mwashoti and also spending a lot of time with her quiet friend Shukuru. Perhaps the abundance of rain and different activities has had a positive effect on her but whatever the reason, it is lovely to see. She is always very caring though and if she spots Shukuru wandering off on her own, while the rest of the orphans know not to bother her, the protective side of Quanza takes over and she will always quietly approach Shukuru to keep her company while browsing. Towards the end of the month she too became an entrusted nanny for Luggard as Murera and Lima Lima seem to have more confidence in the other older females in the herd playing their part in looking after the young bull too.

November 2020 day to day

01 Nov

The recent rain in the past two days has completely transformed the Kibwezi Forest. Dry shrub and grass have now been replaced by green lush vegetation, small rivers and streams flowing with an abundance of fresh rainwater. Whilst elephants have the knowledge and acumen to be able to survive periods of drought, this green foliage is a big welcome.  

During the dry the season Luggard struggled a little to find fresh foliage, but now he is overjoyed and enjoys feasting on the new shoots of green grass that he can kick up using his feet. When Murera and Lima Lima, see this it fills them with joy to see how well Luggard is feeding.  

In the afternoon, just before the orphans were ready to make their way back to the stockades, they decided to make a quick stop and rest for a while under the shade of some big trees. As everyone was taking a break Zongoloni emerged out of the other end of the forest and walked right up to the Umani herd. The Keepers think she must have caught the scent of her little friend Enkesha. Enkesha who was resting next to Shukuru did not waste a second and ran in Zongoloni’s direction, both were happy to see each other and greeted with trunk hugs.