Umani Springs Reintegration Unit
Even with the other new rescues, Kapei is still the undisputed darling of the Umani herd. The big girls — Murera, Sonje, and Quanza — want to be with him all the time. When Kapei makes any distress noise, they come rushing over to rescue him, no matter how small the drama.
Lima Lima stays with the babies all day, but leaves them in Sonje and Murera’s capable care overnight. Murera is only interested in Kapei, while Sonje is focused on all the new babies. This has created a lot of jealousy for poor Kiombo. Although he would not have been able to stay with his ‘big sister’ forever, all the newcomers have diverted Sonje’s attention and forced Kiombo to spend more time away from her, sooner than he wished.
Although the Kibwezi Forest fared better than most places during the drought, we were still delighted to receive some much-needed rain. This brought a profusion of fresh greenery, which has given hope to all the animals that have been suffering. The babies also enjoyed the nutritious new grass. Instead of travelling around, as they usually do, they wanted to stay in one place and eat all the vegetation. Little Kapei was so engrossed in browsing one day that Enkehsa had to come back and fetch him.
One morning, Alamaya, Mwashoti, Lima Lima, Faraja, and Jasiri showed up at the stockade with some wild friends in tow. Murera and Sonje started grumbling and raised their trunks to greet them. The Keepers went to investigate and found a group of wild elephants congregated around the stockades. One was even at the gate, waiting to be let in! Word is clearly out that we are a safe haven for all manner of creatures.
Zongoloni continues her sneaky campaign to kidnap Kiasa. One afternoon, she tried to steal the young girl for the day. The Keepers watched and waited to see what Kiasa’s reaction would be, but Enkesha and Kiombo intervened and brought Kiasa back to the dependent herd. They obviously know to be vigilant when Zongoloni is around!
It is not only Kiombo who is grappling with some jealousy. Maktao has realised that Kapei and Enkesha are becoming good friends — and he doesn’t like it one bit. He constantly tries to separate them, putting himself between Enkesha and the younger bull.
Unlike Kiombo, however, Maktao has a sensitive side. One afternoon, Sonje and Quanza were lavishing Kapei with love, as per usual. Realising that Amali and Olapa were at a bit of a loose end, Maktao came over and guided them through the bushes. He seems to sympathise with the little girls, who, like him, are jilted by the big girls.
Aware that Kapei has already claimed the hearts of the big girls, Amali has wisely been forging friendships with the junior orphans. One day, we witnessed Mwashoti and Maktao take the young lady under their wing, escorting her around to browse. Kiasa and Lima Lima followed her closely, making sure she was safe and protected. Amali felt very good about this, especially when Enkesha also joined the group.
Given the dry conditions, wildlife are far more bold than usual — but none more so than the baboons. They always loiter around to finish any leftover food the orphans leave behind. The Keepers have nicknamed them the ‘table cleaners.’ Amali and Kapei enjoy chasing the baboons, ears spread wide and trumpets blaring.
We witnessed some interesting behaviour this month. Amali and Kapei have started fake suckling from Murera — and she doesn’t seem to mind it. When the babies come up to her, she stands with her front legs forward, so they can fit their heads beneath her belly. They do not try this with any of the other older females, not even Sonje.
Although Lima Lima now spends most of her time living wild, she is still deeply respected by the dependent herd. One morning, she returned early and persuaded everyone to follow her to the Kenzili area. Even the new babies joined her without question, making it very clear that she is still an esteemed leader.
On the 23rd, we received a good storm. While rain is desperately needed, it wasn’t welcomed by everyone: Poor little Kapei and Amali were shocked by the downpour and ran for cover. Sonje and Murera were accommodating at first and provided shelter from the rain, but they soon couldn’t resist the wonderful conditions. They ditched the babies and started rolling in the mud, having the best time. Once Kapei understood that the rain was a positive development, he joined in. Amali, meanwhile, joined Mwashoti, who was happy to help protect her from the rain. Amali is his favourite little girl.
We didn’t see our ‘lone ranger’ Ziwa this month. This was hardly surprising, as he has so seamlessly reintegrated back into the wild. Ngasha remained a mainstay, causing trouble as per usual. We welcomed visits from Jasiri and Faraja, who do a good job of keeping him in line. Whenever Ngasha misbehaves, the boys discipline him. The orphan herd is lucky to have two gentle bulls around, both of whom are good role models for impressionable young Kapei.
Sadly, our Umani herd wasn’t spared from the heartbreak of the drought. We lost two of our new rescues, Sibu and Olapa, this month. They were both rescued on 27th October, and while we were initially optimistic about their recoveries, they proved to be too far gone. It is a small comfort that their final chapters were happy ones, surrounded by a loving human-elephant family. We will miss them both terribly.