Keepers' Diaries, September 2023

Select your unit:

Umani Springs Reintegration Unit

Is Amali a Lima Lima in the making? We think so! As the month began, two wild bulls joined the herd in the Kenzili area. Amali was the first to notice the visitors. She gathered Kapei, and the two youngsters went to alert the Keepers and the other orphans. Amali has learned this behaviour from watching Lima Lima, who is known as the ‘scout’ of Umani. The Keepers are very impressed with Amali; she shows a lot of promise in warning the herd about potential dangers, especially at such a young age.

However, the moment wasn’t without its drama: Kapei felt jealous when he saw the Keepers praising Amali for her good deed and decided to push her in retaliation. Fortunately, peace-loving Maktao realised the young bull’s intentions and prevented him from acting out. Amali is wise beyond her years; Kapei is sometimes immature beneath his years!

Faraja has become Kiombo and Maktao’s unofficial coach, helping the younger boys build their strength and hone their sparring techniques. One morning, Kiombo was full of energy and wanted not one, but two sparring matches — one with his best friend, Maktao, and one with his trainer, Faraja. Faraja cleverly tricked Kiombo by hiding in the bushes, only to burst out and push the surprised young bull to the ground. Kiombo ran to the big girls in a huff, but Quanza and Lima Lima did not show him any sympathy, as they knew he had been the instigator.

The Keepers believe that Maktao might be ready to join the nightclubbers in the next few years, as he has matured considerably. Despite his growing size and strength, Maktao is a humble and well-mannered elephant, loved and respected by all. It will be bittersweet for the Keepers when he eventually embraces a wild life.

On that note, Sonje is becoming markedly more independent. She continues to arrive late every morning, reinforcing the idea that she will soon stay away for days at a time. Quanza spends time away from the herd with Sonje, but she always arrives back at the stockades first thing in the morning.

Although Sonje is spending more time away, everyone remains unwaveringly devoted to her. One day, she arrived at the stockades long after the herd had departed into the Umani hills. Finding the compound empty, she started trumpeting to her friends, trying to determine which direction they had taken. Kiasa and Lima Lima heard Sonje’s calls and responded, so she could follow them up into the hills.

As Sonje takes a step back from daily matriarch duties, Quanza is rising to the occasion. It has been lovely to see her taking on a bigger role in the dependent herd. One day, the orphans came across a large, rocky outcrop. Quanza decided to climb up the rocks, perhaps guided by some knowledge of what waited on top. Amali and Kapei couldn't find their way up, but Mwana somehow managed to find a gap in the rocks and climbed through. Enkesha and Kiasa tried very hard to follow Mwana, as they felt it was their duty to protect her, but they couldn't navigate the route. Mwana raised her trunk, waving at her nannies and celebrating her achievement. Meanwhile, Quanza happily tucked into the bounty of soft shrubs that were growing atop the rocks.

The orphans always race to their midday bottle feed. Kapei usually comes in first, because he is very greedy. Mwana is never far behind him. She doesn’t get a bottle — she nurses from her mother, Murera — but she enjoys testing her speed and strength by racing with Kapei.

Kiasa and Enkesha are baby Mwana’s most devoted nannies. Despite being quite young — Kiasa is six years old, Enkesha seven — they are both very responsible and capable, and Murera really relies on their help. One day, however, Kiasa had a gaffe. She was supposed to be looking after Mwana, but she got distracted and left the young girl chasing baboons on her own. A large male baboon threatened Mwana, causing her to scream for help. Murera ran over and was outraged to find her baby alone and unprotected. She immediately found Kiasa and chased after her, making her discontent very clear. Murera kept Mwana close for the rest of the day. 

Alamaya is a polite, well-mannered young bull. Sometimes, however, he can be quite greedy. One morning, he was coveting all the pellets and not leaving any for the other orphans. Then, he grabbed a bale of lucerne and ran off with it clutched tightly in his trunk. For Lima Lima and Quanza, this was the limit, and they decided to teach him a lesson. Fearing punishment from the older girls, Alamaya relinquished the bale and cowered in the bushes for a bit. 

Mwashoti is a gentle giant. He is especially kind to the babies in the herd, particularly Amali. We often see him pulling down high branches for Amali to eat. He knows that she is short and lacks the ‘fingers’ on the end of her trunk that allow elephants to browse dexterously. One afternoon, Kapei tried to join them, but Mwashoti was not welcoming. He knows that Kapei sometimes pushes Amali around, and he doesn’t approve of this behaviour. Kiasa was allowed to join the duo for a short while, until Mwashoti pulled the branches to a more distant spot so he and Amali could feast undisturbed.

Not so long ago, Kapei and Amali were very flighty. However, it seems that our babies are getting braver! Out in the forest, two zebras crossed in front of the herd, halting their progress. Instead of running away, as they once would have done, Amali and Kapei stood their ground and attempted to chase the zebras away. The Keepers were surprised and impressed by their bravery. 

Kiasa is trying to prove that she is matriarch material. However, her dedication to Mwana means that Lima Lima, Sonje, Zongoloni, and Quanza don’t get much time with the coveted baby. They evidently decided that enough was enough, because one day, they formed a mutiny. The quartet banded together and chased Kiasa away, so they could keep Mwana to themselves for the afternoon. Murera watched from the sidelines but did not interfere.

Murera has been much more relaxed since Ngasha moved to Ithumba. His presence used to make her very uneasy, as she worried that his rambunctious antics would hurt her or her daughter. Now, she is starting to get more involved in herd decisions and feels confident defending her space.

One morning, Murera woke up in a grumpy mood and chased anyone who came close to her. She only had time for Jasiri, who is now the most dominant bull in the orphan herd. Despite his gravitas, Jasiri is gentle and kind. He always shows Murera due respect.

September ended with a cute reminder that elephants are big scaredy cats. Mwana confidently directed the herd to the Umani springs area — she is the smallest elephant, but the biggest leader. However, she froze in her tracks when a little bushbuck ambled in front of her. Suddenly, all confidence melted away and Mwana decided it would be better for someone else to take the lead.

The theme continued at the Umani springs. The orphans didn’t realise they were sharing their space with two terrapins, who were sunning themselves on the bank. When the terrapins splashed into the water, the elephants got a fright and hurried into the forest.

September 2023 day to day

01 Sep

Jasiri, Faraja and Alamaya arrived today in the company of a wild herd of females. The keepers were surprised to see Alamaya with them. Accompanying wild elephants is typical for Jasiri and Faraja, but this was a first for Alamaya. He is often with Sonje, Zongoloni, and Lima Lima, but he does not mingle with wild females. Alamaya immediately left the wild herd and joined Sonje, Lima Lima, and Quanza as they happily browsed close by.

After greeting his friends, Alamaya also went to check on Amali and Kapei. Amali was cautious of the wild herd. She moved closer to Kapei and after a short conversation, both youngsters moved away.

Faraja went to greet Sonje, but then he went round and grabbed her tail. Sonje was disturbed by this, so she led the whole herd towards the Chyulu area, leaving Faraja by himself.