Keepers' Diaries, September 2021

Select your unit:

Umani Springs Reintegration Unit

Time will tell when our older girls are ready to mate, but they are certainly entertaining their fair share of suitors. Murera now spends most nights away from the stockades, meeting wild friends and perhaps being wooed by friendly bulls. Sonje, who is an exceptionally beautiful elephant, caught the eye of a very gallant bull. It was sweet to witness their courtship: During browsing sessions, the bull would reach up to pluck the tallest, greenest branches and give them to Sonje.

Just as parents would, the Keepers often wonder how many suitors Lima Lima has! Right now, she is socializing with as many bulls as she can, no doubt in an effort to find the right mate. She is right to be picky: While every elephant is remarkable in their own way, Lima Lima is exceptional. Her intelligence, loyalty, and intuition are second to none. This month, the Keepers noticed she was sneaking off for periods of time. Curious about what she was doing, they followed her into the forest and discovered her shadowing a troop of baboons. This was a strategic choice of company on Lima Lima’s part. As the baboons feed from the treetops, where she can’t reach, they invariably drop pods that she can feast upon. This arrangement also works well for the baboons, as they are usually vulnerable to leopards, but know they won’t be preyed upon when elephants are around.

In fact, there was a bit of drama involving a leopard at the beginning of the month. Late one night, the Keepers heard the nightclubbers trumpeting loudly. First thing in the morning, Lima Lima took Kiasa and Enkesha into the bushes. They all returned after a few minutes, making lots of noise and running around excitedly. This caught the attention of the rest of the herd, so everyone ventured into the forest to see what Lima Lima was so eager to share. It transpired that she had found a bushbuck who had fallen prey to the area’s resident leopard. After letting the orphans inspect the poor creature, the Keepers moved them away so the leopard could enjoy his feast in peace. 

The excitement continued the very next day, when Murera discovered the placenta of a newborn baby near the springs. This sent all the female elephants into a tizzy. Determined to find the newborn baby and its herd, they fanned out far and wide. In the end, the only way the Keepers could calm everyone down was to lure them back to the stockades with lucerne pellets. 

Ziwa was an infrequent visitor this month. While we miss his presence, his absence shows how well he has reintegrated into the local elephant population. However, the rest of the nightclubbers seem to feel a bit nostalgic for home. While they used to spend their nights travelling far and wide in the forest, Zongoloni, Jasiri, Faraja, Ngasha, and Alamaya have recently set up camp in the environs of Umani. Their continued presence also encourages wild friends to take up residence in the area. Umani is quickly becoming a hub for wild elephants, which opens the door for many wonderful interactions with our dependent orphans.

Maktao remains as sweet and quiet as ever. At the beginning of the month, he had a little mishap in the mud and got stuck. Most of the orphans were already far ahead, eagerly approaching the springs, but his loyal friends Kiasa and Kiombo rushed to his aid. Unfortunately, they are just as small as he is, so they had to trumpet for reinforcements. Murera and Sonje arrived in a flash and quickly rescued their beloved boy from the mud.

Kiombo and Mwashoti continue to clash, largely driven by the fact that Mwashoti feels the younger bull has replaced him as Sonje’s favourite. When no one is watching, he sneaks up on Kiombo and pushes him over or blocks his path. This upsets Sonje greatly, but she also understands that Mwashoti needs time to adjust. Instead of chastising the wayward bull, she simply moves away with Kiombo. The other girls are not so accommodating and have started reprimanding Mwashoti for his naughty behaviour. He doesn’t like to be in their bad books, so now he tries to be more friendly with Kiombo.

Kiasa and Enkesha are another pair who had their fair share of run-ins this month. Enkesha wants to be the leader of the younger orphans, but headstrong Kiasa believes she is the right elephant for the role. Kiombo and Maktao seem to agree that Kiasa should be the one to lead them. This caused one major disagreement between the girls, and while they eventually put aside their differences, the Keepers expect this issue will come up again. 

While she seems to think she is wiser than her years, Kiasa is only four years old and still needs lots of guidance. Murera provided this during Kiasa’s initial months at Umani, but ever since she began spending nights away from the stockades, the little girl has lacked a mentor. The Keepers had been planning to move her out of the stockade she had previously shared with Murera, but in typical Kiasa fashion, she decided to take matters into her own hands. At the end of the month, she invited herself into Quanza’s room and settled down to sleep. Quanza was over the moon to have a little roommate to nurture. We expect this is the beginning of a wonderful new friendship. 

September 2021 day to day

01 Sep

While they used to spend their nights traveling far and wide in the forest, our night clubbers — Zongoloni, Jasiri, Faraja, Ngasha, Alamaya and Ziwa — have set up camp in the environs of Umani. This is a good thing, as their continued presence encourages wild friends to also take up residence in the area. As a result, Umani is quickly becoming a hub for wild elephants, which opens the door for many wonderful interactions with our dependent orphans.

Today, Zongoloni walked over to Faraja and rumbled in communication with him. The pair then walked towards to the Umani Springs, where four larger, wild bulls emerged out of the bushes. They clearly knew Zongoloni and Faraja, as greetings were exchanged. Lima Lima, who had already caught scent of these wild bulls, rushed over to welcome them. Always eager to meet new friends, she encouraged them to join her and the other orphans, but the bulls seemed hesitant to move beyond the night clubbers. Ever protective of her Keepers, however, Lima Lima rushed back to them, as thought to alert them to the presence of the wild bulls. Not knowing their temperament, she seemed to want the Keepers to keep their distance from the visitors. The Keepers moved further back into the bush, where the wild bulls would not be able to see them and the younger babies.

Kiasa immediately sensed the situation, so she walked over to where Enkesha and Kiombo were standing with Sonje. Quanza also joined them with Maktao in tow. Lima Lima made haste and the whole herd moved towards the hills, effectively avoiding any altercation with these new bulls.

Orphans browsing

Quanza plucking acacia

Zongoloni running to join her friends