Keepers' Diaries, April 2017

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Umani Springs Reintegration Unit

The rains finally broke this month across Kenya and Kibwezi Forest thankfully benefited after a long hard dry season. The orphans were delighted with the lush vegetation that sprang up almost immediately and savoured the delicious fresh grass. Small pools and puddles soon formed almost everywhere in the forest too, leaving the elephants spoilt for choice as to where to play and splash themselves. Because they were playing in water all day, they often decided to forgo the main mud bath after their feed time. The orphans, especially the albino boys Faraja and Jasiri, are much more comfortable in the cool weather, although the biting insects that come with the rain are rather bothersome! The paths around the stockades and into the forest soon became muddy and slippery and the elephants had to tread very carefully in order not to slip over. Murera was the most conscious of this, given her bad hip, and did not follow the orphans up certain paths or hills she felt were unsafe, and it was fascinating watching her cautiously take the sensible route on all occasions mindful of her disability and her limitations. This never hindered her, but she knew that she needed to take extra special care during this time.

The rains finally broke this month across Kenya and Kibwezi Forest thankfully benefited after a long hard dry season. The orphans were delighted with the lush vegetation that sprang up almost immediately and savoured the delicious fresh grass. Small pools and puddles soon formed almost everywhere in the forest too, leaving the elephants spoilt for choice as to where to play and splash themselves. Because they were playing in water all day, they often decided to forgo the main mud bath after their feed time. The orphans, especially the albino boys Faraja and Jasiri, are much more comfortable in the cool weather, although the biting insects that come with the rain are rather bothersome! The paths around the stockades and into the forest soon became muddy and slippery and the elephants had to tread very carefully in order not to slip over. Murera was the most conscious of this, given her bad hip, and did not follow the orphans up certain paths or hills she felt were unsafe, and it was fascinating watching her cautiously take the sensible route on all occasions mindful of her disability and her limitations. This never hindered her, but she knew that she needed to take extra special care during this time.

With the onset of the rains and good vegetation around, Alamaya is gaining weight and looking very strong these days. We think he is aware of this as well as he has started engaging the older orphans in pushing games, which they tolerate as they are still much bigger and know he is just gaining valuable social experience. However he has also started ganging up on poor Mwashoti a bit as well. Being such a gentle bull and with a compromised leg too, he never fights back and still relies on the protection of the matriarchs Murera and Sonje. One day he tripped over a fallen tree and hit his head; the keeper’s were quite worried about him but thankfully he was okay, but still did not stop ‘crying’ until both older girls were with him! They of course rushed to his side and showered him in plenty of love and attention; they ensure his every whim is catered for!

There was quite a lot of interaction between the wild elephants and orphans this month. They are starting to approach the stockades more frequently despite still being nervous of the Keeper’s presence. One morning Murera had a falling out with a wild herd when they visited the stockades and she felt they were interacting too much with “her” herd. Wild bulls were in the company of female elephants who wanted to take the babies into their herd and spirit them away. Murera was obviously upset but the older bulls in her herd Faraja, Jasiri and Ngasha actually came to her assistance as well as the Keepers, coming between the female wild elephants and the youngest members of their group, and eventually the wild herd left without managing to steal any of Murera’s babies. A few bulls were in the area mating with some wild females in season as well and one day turned their attention on Murera and Sonje! Sonje had been showing signs throughout the month of wanting to remain in the company of wild elephants and this day she stayed behind with the wild bulls as well, obviously flirting with them, enjoying their attentions. Murera returned to the stockades but Sonje chose to come later and was at ease with her brush of wild living.

Milk feeding times have been a bit of a fiasco this month for one reason or another. Ziwa has taken to yelling before and whilst drinking his milk which was a habit he used to have but grew out of for a while. He has started again and now milk ends up everywhere and all over the Keepers whilst trying to feed him! One day Alamaya and Mwashoti ran into the mud bathing area and tried to pick up their own bottles just like Zongoloni and Jasiri had done, but the bottles were too heavy for them and slipped from their grasp, spilling all over the ground! On another occasion Lima Lima was in such a rush to get to her milk, as usual, that she knocked Quanza’s bottles over and spilt the milk everywhere. Quanza was very annoyed about this and chased after her to push her with her tusks. Quanza has been in a bit of a bad mood of late and the Keepers had to reprimand her one day when she started to get irritable with them; she ran off into the bushes when they pointed their fingers as she knew she was misbehaving!

April 2017 day to day

01 Apr

Alamaya is gaining weight and is looking stronger. He sometimes tries to engage the older orphans like Zongoloni in a pushing game. Zongoloni, knowing he is much younger than her is happy to play with him and to teach him how to defend himself well in a pushing game with the other orphans. When Lima Lima saw Zongoloni pushing Alamaya she thought that Zongoloni may hurt him and went to break up the game. Alamaya let Lima Lima know that he was ok and continued to play with Zongoloni. The elephants walked all the way to the Chyulu hill today where they encountered some wild bulls. The keepers made sure to keep their distance as the bulls approached the orphan herd. Faraja and Ziwa both enjoyed playing with the wild boys.

Mwashoti playing with Sonje

Limalima early morning games with Sonje

Murera dusting

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