Keepers' Diaries, October 2019

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Umani Springs Reintegration Unit

Rain fell over the Kibwezi forest continuously this month as the short November rains arrived early. As a result the vegetation recovered and looked green and verdant once more, much to the delight of the Umani orphans and the other resident wildlife. Herds of buffaloes grazed along the open plains as well as troops of baboons who were scattered like ants across grassy plains, picking at the delicious fresh grass shoots with their teeth. The orphan elephants love these new fresh shoots as well, and busied themselves kicking the strong grass using their toes and feet to slash specifically chosen pieces before collecting up with their trunk to place in their mouths. 

The rain turned many of the puddles throughout the forest into larger water holes, made even bigger by the orphans who enjoyed rolling in the warm muddy slush in preference to the bigger watery pond beside their milk feeding area. Often because they had chosen to mud bath all day in their new warmer pools, Quanza, Zongoloni, Jasiri and the others would arrive to the noon milk feed with their bodies covered in mud, so after finishing their milk they would just return straight to the grasslands to continue gorging on the bounty of greens. 

With the heavy rainfall, the orphans seem to be in more of a rush these days to make their way out to the forest or to the fresh grass in the morning, even by passing their tasty lucerne pellets. When they are all racing each other out like this and not following one leader in particular, the Keepers have to make sure they quickly keep up! 

Despite once being the cosseted baby of the Umani herd, seven year old Ziwa is certainly the driving force behind some of the orphans exploring their independence. He Ngasha and Faraja can now stay out even for a couple of nights at a time, in an offshoot herd the Keepers have called the ‘boys club!’ Ziwa knows that he is stronger and safer with other friends beside him, so nearly always goes walkabout with Ngasha by his side. The Keepers can always tell when they have itchy feet, and Ziwa will lead the bulls away from the other orphans to go and explore and find some wild friends. Jasiri is less inclined to follow them and prefers to stay with the females in the Umani herd, who remain together with the little babies Mwashoti and Alamaya. With Ziwa and Faraja not turning up to some of the milk feeds, the babies and Shukuru have been benefitting from the extra bottles of milk! This combined with the fact they don’t have the boisterous boys around to pick on them means they and Shukuru are very content in the Umani herd at the moment.

Ziwa likes to interact with wild elephant herds on an almost daily basis and is the first to greet any herds that approach the orphans. Lima Lima is welcoming of wild herds as well, but normally only when there are little babies in their midst – she is obsessed by them, and will try to get as close as she can. One night she chose to remain with a wild herd, with Zongoloni too, until almost midnight, just because they had babies within the herd. The mothers are very protective however, so she is not always successful when attempting to babysit.

Sonje will only sometimes be receptive towards any wild bull’s advances, and she is quite picky when it comes to which bulls she will accept and spend time with. The wild bull named ‘Osama’ by the Keepers is her particular favorite friend, but we have not seen him for some time now that he has ventured further afield. On the 5th she disappeared into the forest, before re-appearing a short while later with two wild bulls we had not seen before. It was nice to see her interacting with these two bulls, and Murera eventually joined them too. The four interacted for some time before Sonje and Murera made their way back to the orphan herd and their Keepers. 

Murera and Sonje are still very protective over ‘their’ baby Mwashoti, especially when some of the older boys such as Ziwa try to playfully tease him. The two girls are always first to chase the naughty boys away. Alamaya can sometimes be in a naughty mood as well and the girls need to keep him in line. Shukuru has learnt to cope with his mischievous ways however and is not afraid to give him a disciplinary smack with her trunk. Lima Lima is also very protective of the others in the herd and this is a role she takes very seriously. One day the Keepers watched as Alamaya and Mwashoti walked towards a water hole where they did not notice the crocodiles in the water. Lima Lima, who had already seen the crocodiles, came charging over and jumped into the water hole first in front of the two bulls, causing a disturbance and thwarting the crocodiles. She is a very caring elephant and her actions are always amazing her loving Keepers. 

October 2019 day to day

01 Oct

This afternoon, after their midday bottles of milk, most of the orphans were not interested in having a mud bath and simply walked over to the edge of the forest, standing in the shade waiting for the Keepers to finish their lunch. Shukuru on the other hand was very eager for her mud bath and walked over to the waterhole and began splashing mud on her head and chest and eventually lay down in the water, rolling around covering her entire body in mud. When Shukuru and the Keepers were ready to head back to the forest, the orphans happily followed Shukuru and Mwashoti back up to the hills. 

Ngasha standing in the water trough

Sonje drinking from the stockade water trough

Ziwa enjoying his bottle of milk