Keepers' Diaries, October 2023

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Umani Springs Reintegration Unit

Mwana had two goals this month: To learn how to trumpet, and to banish every single baboon from the Umani compound. While the first goal required some practice, the second was quite easy, thanks to the herd’s worth of support she had. Whenever the orphans saw Mwana chasing the baboons, they would join their tiny general and charge at the primates from all fronts. Needless to say, the baboons prudently made themselves scarce. 

October began with a fight for Mwana duties. Enkesha and Kiasa seemed to be in disagreement over who was in charge of the little baby. Although they are good friends, they sometimes bicker over Mwana. While Sonje came over to reconcile the two nannies, Zongoloni took advantage of the distraction to try to claim Mwana for herself — only to find that the baby had already joined Murera. In the end, only Mwana’s mother got to be in charge of her that day!

Sometimes, Alamaya — who is usually very well-behaved — gets chastised by Murera when he gets too close to Mwana. We wonder if she might be confusing him with Ngasha, who was not to be trusted around the baby. Mwana copies her mother; it’s very funny to see how she (unnecessarily) defends herself against her ‘big brothers,’ as if she wants to fight her own battles.

With bulls, it’s all relative. Jasiri, Faraja, and Alamaya may seem big to us, but they are tiny in comparison to the wild bulls in the Kibwezi Forest. In fact, it’s quite funny to see how submissive the boys can be when wild bulls are in their midst. It’s as if they know that their size and status is no match for their full-grown friends.

Lima Lima is known for being baby-obsessed. Occasionally, this obsession gets her into trouble. One afternoon, she insinuated herself into a wild herd that had lots of little babies. The matriarch worried that Lima Lima might be angling to kidnap the youngsters and rushed towards her. Aware that she had committed a faux pas and that there were potential consequences involved, Lima Lima thought on her feet: She swiftly ran away and hid in the bushes before the matriarch could reach her.

Meanwhile, Quanza is becoming a wild ambassador in her own right. We experienced this when four giant bulls appeared on the hilltop. Murera would usually make a speedy exit, but she agreed to remain with Sonje and Quanza in the company of the wild elephants. We believe that Quanza knew the bulls from her wild adventures, and perhaps she communicated to the orphans that there was no need to flee. The relationship between the orphaned elephants and the wild bulls has improved, although Mwana and Amali prefer to keep their distance from any visitors.

Little Mwana is quite a handful, but Murera is lucky to have lots of support. One morning, the nannies had a breakfast meeting to discuss their plan to handle the baby. Poor Murera had had a challenging night, trying to keep up with her baby's demands for milk, and the nannies knew that she needed rest. Kiasa and Enkesha convened the meeting, with Lima Lima and Quanza in attendance. While they looked after Mwana, Murera enjoyed a peaceful morning with Mwashoti.

On 14th October, it finally rained after many dry months. For some babies, this was a novel experience. Amali and Kapei, who had not encountered rain for a while, were initially confused as to why it was getting dark and windy. Amali was particularly distressed. She screamed loudly as she sought refuge under Sonje. Unfortunately, Kiombo was already secured under Sonje and her big body was not able to accommodate any more little bodies. Amali had to find her own dry spot.

We hope that Jasiri is not picking up where Ngasha left off. He and Faraja sometimes forget their manners and try to mount the females, even Murera and little Amali. However, the Keepers and dependent orphans have an effective way of punishing this behaviour: When the boys overstep the mark, they are promptly shown the proverbial door and banished from the herd for the rest of the day. 

Ziwa made several appearances throughout the month. He was usually in the company of his adopted wild family, who are quite possessive and don’t allow him to linger for long. (We suspect they’re worried that the orphans will ‘steal’ Ziwa back.) One day, however, Ziwa made a solo appearance. Sonje approached her old friend and they stood ear-to-ear, prompting Ziwa to place his trunk over her for a sweet hug. When Alamaya tried to join their conversation, Sonje sent him away; she clearly wanted a special moment alone with Ziwa. 

Every morning, Kiombo and Maktao meet for sparring games. One day, Kiombo — who is considered the underdog, as he can’t quite match Maktao’s strength and impressive tusks — surprised everyone. In an unexpected turn of events, Maktao found himself unable to beat Kiombo and was forced to make a hasty retreat. Eager to secure his victory, Kiombo continued pursuing him and pushed him down. Enkesha, who is Maktao’s neighbour, was upset to see him on the ground. She attempted to help him up by holding his trunk, but Maktao misunderstood her intentions. Enkesha decided to give him space to suffer his defeat in private. However, it was not long before Kapei toddled over. Instead of assisting the older bull to his feet, Kapei clambered atop his back. Poor Maktao — it was not his day!

We had another surprise victory this month, courtesy of little Amali. She displayed her strength and determination as she stood firm against Kapei's attempts to bully her. Mwashoti came to her aid by holding onto Kapei’s tail, which effectively prevented him from pushing. Amali took this opportunity to escape, proving to Kapei that she is not to be trifled with.

Everyone loves Mwana — but milk is where they draw the line! Although she doesn’t have bottles (she nurses from her mother, Murera), Mwana likes to race the dependent orphans for their afternoon milk. Much to everyone’s surprise, she took the lead one day and reached the bottle line before everyone else. She tried to pull up a bottle, perhaps believing she deserved a trophy, but found it too heavy for her tiny trunk. No one offered to help her — bottle feeding is a serious business, and as much as everyone loves Mwana, they are not about to give up their milk. Instead, Mwana rightfully had to wait to nurse from her mother.

The end of October brought about a delightful surprise: In a moment of excitement, Mwana trumpeted loudly. This was a significant milestone, as she had been working hard to acquire this new skill! Mwana seemed very proud, as if she had proved her capability of being an elephant.

October 2023 day to day

01 Oct

This morning, Enkesha and Kiasa seemed to be in disagreement over who took care of Mwana. Enkesha clearly had a plan to take charge, but Kiasa also demanded a chance. Although they are friends, they sometimes bicker over Mwana duties. Humble Enkesha won the fight, as Kiasa gave up when she realised how determined her opponent was. Sonje came over and tried to reconcile the two girls. Meanwhile, Zongoloni took advantage of the distraction to try to claim Mwana for herself — only to find that the baby had already gone with Murera into the bushes! 

Mwashoti found a lovely stick, which he used to scratch his chest. Watching her older friend, Amali also picked up a stick and started to do the same thing. We have noticed that Amali is very observant and clever.

Kiasa and Enkesha

Zongoloni and Mwana