Keepers' Diaries, October 2020

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Umani Springs Reintegration Unit

The Umani orphans have been very much preoccupied with finding vegetation during the dry season, and while Kibwezi forest is more favourable than many places this year it did become very dry, and because of that our orphans had to concentrate more on feeding.  Thankfully by months end a shower passed through the area and almost overnight it sprung into life with fresh shoots appearing everywhere. The Kibwezi Forest still provides a safe haven of food and water for a multitude of wildlife who have gravitated towards the forest especially due to the many fires that have ravaged the Chyulu Hills National Park this season.  There have been many wild elephants about, but also the buffalo and antelope numbers have increased dramatically.  

After months of soaring temperatures, the orphans were visibly delighted when on the 29th the skies darkened and within moments, the heavens opened and it started to pour with rain. Enkesha was on a little mission to find her friend Zongoloni when suddenly it started to rain, and clearly she and all the other orphans were taken by surprise. They happily rolled around on the floor and in the muddy pools formed by the rain, and we watched in delight as the elephants changed from brown to a muddy red.  Their happiness was on full display for us all to enjoy.  

Our sweet Alamaya has well and truly joined the partially-independent group of six orphans that the Keepers refer to as the ‘night-clubbers’ (Alamaya, Zongoloni, Ngasha, Faraja, Jasiri and Ziwa), aptly named due to their tendency to stay out all night and make a lot of noise while doing so! The Keepers have really noticed how his confidence is building, and he enjoys the forest seemingly fearless of anything. Several times a week Alamaya will return to the Umani dependent herd with at least one new friend in tow, and while he might spend a few days at a time away, he along with the others do enjoy popping back to the dependent Umani herd whenever they feel like. They have been quick to clock that mornings is a good time as it is the time for the Lucerne feed when the Keepers provide an extra supplement of Lucerne grass to bulk up the orphans’ diet in the dry seasons.  One morning the night-clubbers returned to feed with the dependent orphans, and Alamaya was the first to arrive. With a big trumpet Alamaya grabbed one of the Lucerne bales and ran off with it. The Keepers thought about chasing after him but changed their minds when they saw that Alamaya was running towards his friends, looking to share it with them.  

Whenever the night-clubbers choose to visit the dependent herd, Enkesha and Zongoloni are always overjoyed to see one another, and it is very sweet to see them run up to one another to greet each other so warmly each and every time, with their heads bowed together with deep affection. Sometimes the night-clubbers return with a wild friend or two, and Murera and Sonje, assisted by Shukuru and Lima Lima are always quick to move their beloved boy Luggard away, so as not to get caught up in any frivolity. 

It is clear that Luggard is first and foremost Murera’s little charge, but she is ably assisted by Sonje and Lima Lima and she is confident in leaving Luggard in their care should she wish to do her own thing. We watch her look for one of these doting nannies and almost hand Luggard over before she continues with whatever mission she wants to undertake. Sonje is still besotted with young babies and one day was left behind by her friends as they carried on home for the night and she remained behind to socialize with a wild herd including six young babies; she was at the gates of the stockades by midnight however, trumpeting and rumbling to be let inside to be with her friends. 

It seems Faraja might have been watching his older wild bull friends with a particularly keen eye as he has starting returning to the Umani herd with a passion for Lima Lima, who is not willing to return his advances quite yet! Sonje often has to step in and stop Faraja from annoying Lima Lima. When not trying to impress Lima Lima, Faraja is also happy to see Mwashoti and is fond of playing with the young bull, although Mwashoti is evidently still a little hesitant to play with Faraja as he remembers the time Faraja accidentally poked him in the face with one of his tusks and nearly poked his eye out albeit accidently. 

Lima Lima pulled a muscle in one of her legs and for a few days was kept back at the compound so as not to over-do things out in the forest, and when she was better she immediately wished to make up for all her lost time with Luggard and almost wrestled him back from Sonje who was escorting him. Luggard is the apple of everyone’s eye and everything pivots around him, while Enkesha remains much more independent, almost a born-leader, but is still adored by Shukuru, Sonje and of course Zongoloni too. As we mentioned last month, the arrival of Luggard and Enkesha had the most profound effect on Shukuru– and she is a brand new elephant, playful and happy, yet still not so willing to get caught up in any overzealous wrestling or pushing games. Quanza is still a very good friend to Shukuru and is happy to browse with her throughout the day, and is exactly the quiet and gentle kind of friend that Shukuru likes having around.

October 2020 day to day

01 Oct

The orphans walked towards the Kenze Hills this morning and found many buffaloes grazing in the same area. The Keepers wanted to keep the orphans safe, especially Luggard who was with Murera, and guided these two away from the buffalo herd.

Luckily Shukuru had left a little earlier than the rest of the orphans, so she managed to cross over into the Hills before the buffaloes got there. Just as the Keepers managed to usher all the orphans away from the buffaloes, they saw Alamaya emerge from the bushes and walk right past the buffalo herd. The Keepers were surprised to see how comfortable Alamaya was walking past the buffaloes without any fear. Alamaya definitely showcased his adventurous streak today and then walked right up to his friend Mwashoti to say hello.

The orphans continued to browse away from the buffalo herd and as soon as the Keepers noticed the herd had moved on in the opposite direction from where the elephant orphans were, they decided it was okay for the orphans to crossover to the foot of Kenze Hill. In fact, with all the loud trumpeting, the buffalo herd retreated further into the forest anyway.

Oprhans at the mud-bath

Mwashoti playing with Lima Lima

Quanza leading the orphans after midday bottle