With Sonje and Murera now safely ensconced in the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust’s new Umani Springs Reintegration Unit in the Kibwezi Forest, it was time for their three friends to join them
With Sonje and Murera now safely ensconced in the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust’s new Umani Springs Reintegration Unit in the Kibwezi Forest, it was time for their three friends to join them. Quanza, Zongoloni and Lima Lima made the journey in the early hours of the morning of the 27th June 2014 to this beautiful protected ecosystem abutting the Chyulu Hills National Park.
The day started at 4.00am and Zongoloni was the first orphan to be led out of her night stockade and onto the elephant-moving truck by the Keepers. With a little calming influence she seemed completely unperturbed and walked into her travelling compartment without a sideways glance whilst gulping down her milk and watching as the compartment door was closed. Next to join her was Lima Lima who was definitely more boisterous, but did not object to being loaded, so it was not long before she was also safely inside. Then came the problem, Quanza, who despite having months of practice to board the elephant-moving truck she never actually entered one of the compartments, refusing to get onboard despite the temptation of her much loved milk bottle. So like her friend Sonje, Quanza had to be put to sleep and pulled onto the awaiting truck on a canvas stretcher before being revived once safely aboard. Once this was done, with stressnil administered, Quanza along with her two friends began their journey south to the Kibwezi Forest.
The team of Keepers onboard the truck with Quanza, Lima Lima and Zongoloni included Nairobi Head Keeper Edwin who was anxious to see the newly completed relocation unit. The travelers made excellent time and arrived shortly before 9.00am at the Umani Springs stockades. The truck parked next to the ramp and the doors were soon opened. Lima Lima was climbing the gate trying to exit, while Quanza and Zongoloni looked on bewildered. There to meet them rumbling their welcomes was Murera and Sonje who were visibly overjoyed and relieved to see their friends. Angela Sheldrick and Robert Carr-Hartley, together with their sons Taru and Roan and their niece Emily, were already at Umani waiting to receive the new arrivals together with Head Keeper Philip Okonde and Keepers Amos and Simon, who had all travelled down to Umani a few days before to settle down at the new stockades with Murera and Sonje.
The three newcomers downed their milk bottles and headed straight to the dust bath, rolling around and dusting themselves before heading off to explore the surrounding forest. Lima Lima who led the group was so excited by her new environment that her exuberance soon rubbed off on the others. Murera and Sonje trailed the little ones, delighted to have a very obvious leader in their midst with little Lima Lima taking charge, leading them down the road before zigzagging through the trees. The orphans couldn’t get enough of the delicious browse they were surrounded by and later returned for a mudbath next to the stockades before setting off again in the opposite direction, Lima Lima making the decisions as if she had been there all her life. This confidence was infectious and the others all appeared to embrace their new home, safe in the knowledge that their Keepers were always by their side. Murera was surprisingly the least confident of the five, probably because she feels more vulnerable with her compromised hind limb.
Edwin and the crew were amazed and suitably impressed by the new and third relocation unit and joked that the chosen Umani crew had found themselves in paradise! Of course aside from Philip who will remain as Head Keeper of Umani, the DSWT’s other Keepers will rotate between the units throughout the coming months and years.
Before sundown the herd of five filed into their stockades and seemed extremely comfortable with the soft earth, dairy cubes, cut greens and lucerne. Murera and Sonje are accommodated on one side of the stockades whilst Lima Lima, Quanza and Zongoloni are on the other side but together, whilst their keepers are all close at hand. During darkness that night wild elephants were heard rumbling outside the stockade perimeter creating great interest, whilst Lima Lima got a fright from the crying bush babies frolicking in the trees above. The orphans are gradually adapting to their new environment and as the days have passed they have become more and more comfortable in their new home.