Keepers' Diaries, November 2021

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Umani Springs Reintegration Unit

Drama prevailed at Umani Springs this month. Interestingly, it was not among our dependent orphans, but among our semi-independent “nightclubbers."

Ngasha seems to be the root cause of the discord. He has started a feud with fellow nine-year-old bulls — and former friends — Faraja and Jasiri. The first ripples of disagreement broke out between him and Faraja. They used to be very close; in fact, they shared a stockade when they still slept within the Umani compound. Now, whenever Faraja arrives at the stockades or tries to join his friends in the browsing fields, Ngasha chases him to the periphery.

Then, later in the month, Ngasha and Jasiri had a big argument. Jasiri is bigger and stronger than Ngasha, so the Keepers were surprised when he conceded defeat. The Keepers have never known Ngasha to carry a grudge for so long, let alone with two of his friends. They wonder if he is trying to chase all the strong bulls out of the picture, so as to exert his dominance over the Umani herd. 

The older girls are eager to restore peace, especially as Ngasha can be a rather disruptive presence on his own. Over the course of the month, the Keepers witnessed them attempting to broker several diplomatic negotiations between the bulls. One day, they saw Zongoloni, Murera and Sonje having a long consultation with Ngasha, rumbling to him. Perhaps they were asking him to call a truce with Faraja and Jasiri. However, Ngasha is a stubborn bull and doesn’t seem interested in ending his feud. The Keepers hope they resolve matters soon, as they miss seeing all their babies together. 

Of course, everyone is together, albeit in a more scattered format. Ever since Ngasha banished them, Jasiri and Faraja have formed their own little group. The two bulls browse with the Umani orphans, but they maintain their distance. When Ngasha started pushing out Faraja and Jasiri, he clearly hoped to retain Zongoloni, as she is quite an impressive matriarch. However, Zongoloni is clever and chose not to join forces with Ngasha, because of his troublemaking ways. Instead, she joined Jasiri and Faraja’s splinter herd, and the three friends are very happy together.  

Ziwa continues to be a lone ranger, but the Keepers often see him in the company of several wild bulls. Mwashoti and Alamaya have teamed up, which seems to suit them both very well. Alamaya is more outgoing and has formed many friendships with wild elephants. Mwashoti is still very attached to his human-elephant family, but we are very proud of his progress this year. Not so long ago, he was completely stockade-dependent! Now, he spends his nights out in the forest, learning the ways of the wild and having all sorts of wonderful adventures. 

Our little babies Kiasa, Kiombo, and Maktao are thriving. Kiasa is such a plucky little girl, and a great favourite of Zongoloni. When she is with her “big sister,” Kiasa gets carried away and forgets that she is too young to reintegrate into the wild yet. It must be said that Zongoloni encourages this behaviour!

One day, Zongoloni and Faraja took the babies on a browsing excursion. Sonje and Quanza joined as chaperones. The Keepers know how Zongoloni likes to sneak off with the babies, especially Kiasa, so as evening approached, they were on high alert. They needn’t have worried, because soon their “scout” Lima Lima came running towards them, with the babies in tow. There is a reason the Keepers call Lima Lima their scout: She is always looking out for the welfare of the herd and never leaves an elephant behind.

The older girls care so much about their little charges. One afternoon, Kiombo and Kiasa got into a scuffle over lucerne. Kiasa pushed her friend over, causing him to cry out for help. Sonje ran to Kiombo’s side and reprimanded Kiasa for her naughty behaviour. However, when Quanza saw this, she rushed over to defend Kiasa. Then, a disagreement broke out between the older girls, both of whom were trying to protect their babies. In the end, Murera had to intervene and put a stop to the girls’ fighting.

Little Maktao and Enkesha are best friends and always look out for each other. One afternoon, they were engaged in a gentle pushing game when Mwashoti decided to join in. Maktao prudently made himself scarce, as he knows that the older bull doesn’t always know his own strength. True to form, Mwashoti knocked poor Enkesha over and she let out a very loud trumpet. While Quanza, Zongoloni, and Jasiri settled the situation, Maktao came rushing over to comfort Enkesha with rumbles and mini trunk hugs. He is such a loyal friend.

The older girls continue to entertain their fair share of suitors. One day, a wild bull joined their browsing session. Murera was not interested, but Sonje welcomed his attention and even Quanza showed a spark of interest. He was very handsome, so the Keepers wondered if it was Osama, Sonje’s special male friend. Upon closer inspection, however, they saw that it was just one of Lima Lima’s many admirers. Out of all the girls, she is the biggest flirt and her dance card is always full.

While the Kibwezi Forest was spared the worst of the dry season, it was certainly not immune to its effects. The challenging conditions were exacerbated by a spate of bushfires. While they never ignited in dangerous proximity to Umani Springs, several came a bit close for comfort. Late one afternoon, the Keepers were alerted to one such blaze. They gathered all the orphans and brought them back to the stockades. Once all the elephants were safely inside the compound, the Keepers split into two groups. One stayed behind with the babies, while the rest went to help put out the fire. It was certainly a busy month for our hard-working team. 

In difficult times, all manner of creatures seek refuge in the Umani Springs. They know it is a sanctuary, where there is always water and forage to be found. One day, the Keepers encountered a herd consisting of nearly 15 adults, along with several babies. It was a humbling reminder of how wild elephants now see Umani Springs as a safe haven, which was not the case before our Reintegration Unit was established there.

However, November ended on a hopeful note. After a very long dry spell, the heavens finally opened and blessed the Kibwezi Forest and Chyulu Hills with an abundance of rain!

November 2021 day to day

01 Nov

The rains still haven’t made an appearance and browse remains sparse in the Kibwezi area. Today, a few wild elephants and buffalos waited patiently outside the Umani stockades.

As soon as the orphans left the stockade compound, the wild elephants and buffaloes rushed in to feast on the leftover lucerne. With them was our boy, Ngasha. Ever since Faraja and Ngasha had their disagreement, Ngasha has become somewhat of a loner, preferring the company of his wild elephant friends. Today, it was almost as though he had led the wild elephants to the stockades. Once everyone had their fill, they moved on to the Springs, where the orphans had stopped earlier but had since left. Ngasha and his friends did not make it all the way to the Springs, as there were quite a few crocodiles around, so they took a different route and headed towards the Kenze Hills. The Keepers were careful and kept out of the way of crocodiles.

Lima Lima browsing

Enkesha searching for fresh browse

Kiombo wanting to play with Quanza