Keepers' Diaries, April 2017

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.

01 April 2017

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.

02 April 2017

The orphans did not want to exit their night quarters and delayed doing so until they say the keepers walking past pushing wheelbarrows of lucerne from the stores. Quanza went to try and steal a bail and managed to spill it all over the ground which meant that the keepers had to collect it all and pushed it outside the fence line. It was still quite dark when the keepers began the morning routine and they were happy to see some wild elephants eating the left over lucerne as they waited for the babies to come out for the day. When the wild elephants caught the keepers scent and saw them they quickly ran into the forest as they are still very wary of humans and do not want to come in contact with them. Murera was not interested in following the wild group as she is wary of the older bulls and what they could do as they are much stronger than any of the orphans. It was clear that the wild bulls were a bit upset as they kept turning around to see if anything or anyone was following them and trumpeted loudly in an effort to scare away anything that came after them.

03 April 2017

When the elephants came out of the stockades in the morning, Mwashoti and Alamaya joined up and walked together with their trunks intertwined. There were some bushbucks happing browsing behind the stockades when the orphans came upon them and began charging and trumpeting loudly while pushing down trees as they ran around. As the charging continued Mwashoti fell over a tree that was on the path and knocked his head. He started complaining and rumbling loudly. Murera came to assist him but he was not happy to have help from her alone and continued to complain until Sonje came as did the keepers all of whom thought aht something serious had happened. When they all reached Mwashoti he got to his feet and walked up to Alamaya and the two went into the bushes to browse.

04 April 2017

The elephants exited their stockades to begin their day. Today they made their way to the forest under the leadership of Zongoloni and Lima Lima who led the group to the Umani Hills circuit. Zongoloni, Lima Lima and Quanza thought that they would get some fresher greens as they had not browsed in that area for a while. Murera rumbled to all the babies warning them to keep alert as there could be buffaloes or wild elephants around. Jasiri, Ngasha and Ziwa tried to take a different direction to that taken by the others and the keepers were quick to intervene and prevent them from doing so. Faraja screamed for help as he was being pushed and bullied by Quanza as he did not want to listen to what Quanza was telling him as he was trying to take the same branch that she was already feeding on.

05 April 2017

Following the dry weather we have been experiencing the last few months we hope that it will rain soon as it is desperately needed. The orphans exit their stockades already feeling hot and run directly to the waterhole to cool off and cover themselves in mud. When the babies got to the browsing grounds they immediately started looking for branches to feed on. A small antelope walked out of the bushes making quite a noise as it did so. The elephants and keepers were alert thinking that it would be a kind of large animal and were surprised to see that it was just a little dik dik. At the bottle feeding area Ziwa has taken to screaming before and while having his share of milk. This is something that he used to do and for some unknown reason has started again. The keepers are trying to stop him from doing this as it is unnecessary and ultimately ends up getting milk all over the keepers. After finishing his bottles he runs to the waterhole for a mudbath with the other orphans.

06 April 2017

It was a very hot beginning to the day. As the orphans headed out to the browsing fields many heavy rain clouds were seen gathering which led us all to believe that it would rain during the night. Jasiri and the other boys were very happy when they were out in the forest today as they came across some natural waterholes and were able to enjoy a wallow before heading the bottle feeding area for the noon milk feed. As the orphans had all had a lovely time mud bathing in the fields none of them water to enter the waterhole after they had drank their milk, choosing instead to return to the bushes with their keepers to search for fresh vegetation. In the evening it started to drizzle lightly with the ring falling heaver as time passed. It got so heavy that the the orphans ran for cover and the rain continued up to the middle of the night. The rain lasted for so long that there was water flowing down the paths and the roads.

07 April 2017

The long awaited rains are now fully upon us and today it started to rain while the orphans were out in the bushes browsing on the rain covered greens. It started to get very wind with the wind whipping through the acacia trees. Ziwa raised his trunk above his head so that he could smell the oncoming rain. Muerea and Sonje quickly gathered all the babies around them trying to shelter them as well as they could so that they would not get too wet when the rain began. The keepers donned their gumboots and raincoats so that they were fully prepared when it started to rain. When the rain finally began everyone was ready for it and the keepers made sure to keep all the orphans together as it was nearly time to head home and they didn’t want anyone to get separated from the group. It rained the whole night but by the morning it had stopped and the orphans were happy to welcome the cool weather that greeted them when they exited their stockades.

08 April 2017

The orphans came running out of their stockades this morning eager to head out to the browsing fields. The group made their way to the Chyulu hills passing by the caves that house one of the biggest pythons that the keepers have ever seen. Lima Lima made sure to keep Alamaya and the keepers informed about the fact that the python was around and to be on alert. Lima Lima is very good about making sure that everyone is aware of anything dangerous that may be about when the orphan herd is out for the day. She is an extremely caring and sweet elephant. Zongoloni and Quanza seemed to be unaware about the presence of the python although they steered clear of the area where it had been soon. When it was time to return home for the night all the orphans were happy to do so as it had been a long day. When the arrived at the stockades they found their bottles already laid out for them. Lima Lima was in such a rush to get to her bottle that she knocked over Quanza’s bottle as she ran past. Quanza was not happy about the situation and followed Lima Lima giving her a push before returning to drink what was left of her share.

09 April 2017

Today the Crane birds kept a close eye on the elephant’s movements in the grasslands. They were especially attentive to Ngasha, Faraja and Ziwa’s movements. The keepers were wondering what was causing the crane birds to be so attentive to what the orphans were doing and upon reaching the area that Ngasha, Faraja and Ziwa had been in they found four eggs which explained the crane’s behaviour. They were being vigilant as they did not want the eggs to be stepped on by any of the elephants. Thankfully none of the eggs were broken although Lima Lima, Zongoloni and Mwashoti did get quite close at one point. Some of the keepers had never seen a crane birds eggs and after looking at them, without touching them, they moved away together with the orphans leaving the birds and their eggs in peace.

10 April 2017

The rainy season has thankfully begun in the forest and the vegetation is the better for it. There are a lot more lovely, lush fresh greens around for the orphans to feed on The paths that the orphans walk on have become watery and slippery and as such it is quite a challenge for them when they head out to the fields as they are slipping and sliding all over the place having a difficult time staying on their feet. Today Mwashoti was following Murera who was leading the group along the fence line. As the group was slowly making their way Alamaya surprised the keepers by suddenly knocking Mwashoti repeatedly and misbehaving towards his friend. The keepers disciplined Alamaya who ran off as he knew that he had been misbehaving. Lima Lima was quick to follow Mwashoti to find out why he was being told off by the keepers.

11 April 2017

All the bushes in the forest and the browsing field have become lush and green and have raindrops on them making them even more appealing to the orphans. There is water everywhere and the orphans are spoiled for choice as to where they will wallow as there are waterholes everywhere they go. As such they don’t seem to want to wallow when they come for their noon milk bottle as they have often had a mud bath before they get to bottle feeding area. The keepers have been having a lovely time watching the fun that the orphans have been having. Mwashoti and Alamaya are often seen competing over who will get to climb on Sonje’s back when she lies on the ground. Murera has also enjoyed wallowing at the numerous waterholes that the orphans come across. Today some wild elephants made their way to the babies at the bottle feeding area. The orphans saw the wild herd as they came for the noon milk feed. The wild herd stayed hidden in the bushes not wanting to be seen by the keepers. They kept an eye on the orphan’s movements seemingly wanting to join them but not doing so as they are still very wary of humans.

12 April 2017

Today there was a lot of noise from a falling yellow fever acacia tree. The orphans were busy browsing peacefully while some of the babies enjoyed playing mounting games. The noise of the falling tree scared the orphans, causing Mwashoti and Alamaya to stop their mounting games with Sonje and run for cover. Sonje was quick to go and try to comfort them and let them them know that everything was alright. The keepers came to see what had upset the orphans and had caused them to run screaming from the area and where surprised to see that the commotion had all been caused by a falling tree. When the keepers came to the orphans they found chaos, Mwashoti and Murera stayed right by the keepers while Lima Lima, Zongoloni and Faraja were running towards the Chyulu hills clearly confused as to which direction to take. The keepers started calling their names which helped them get oriented and it was not long before they found the keepers and the rest of the orphan herd who were all standing together waiting for them to rejoin the group.

13 April 2017

Today Quanza did not seem to want to e touched by anyone and had to be reprimanded a couple of times by the keepers when they saw her sizing them up and wanting to push them. When they told her off she ran into the bushes as she knew that she was misbehaving. Jasiri and Zongoloni were feeling quite bothers by some flying and biting insects today that sent them running into the bushes in an effort to get away from them which they succeed in doing and it was not long before they rejoined their friends and made their way to the bottle feeding area. When they arrived Zongoloni and Jasiri ran to their bottles and picked them up to drink their milk. Alamaya and Mwashoti tried to copy their older friends but were unable to do so as the bottles were quite heavy and slipped from their grasp falling to the ground and breaking which means that they didn’t get all their milk.

14 April 2017

Alamaya is becoming quite pushy towards some of the other orphans He is often found pushing Zongoloni who tolerates his antics as she knows that she is older, bigger and stronger than he is. The same can be said of Ziwa whom Alamaya has taken to playing with of late. None of the older orphans reprimand him as they know that he is just practicing for when he is older. Alamaya however, has taken this to mean that he is no longer a baby as he can play with the bigger orphans. Mwashoti has become bit wary of his age mate and as such always sticks close to Sonje or Murera as even though Alamaya believes he is big and strong he will not push the Matriarchs of the group and Mwashoti therefore feels very safe. Mwashoti is a sweet and friendly orphan who never causes any trouble and always listens to the keepers and the older orphans. When all the orphans were walking to the forest Lima Lima and Ngasha were in the lead and wanted to lead the group to the water springs. Some of the orphans wanted to head to the Umani hills and as such the group was divided as to where to spend the day browsing. The keepers decided to come in and make the decision for the group leading the to the water springs for the morning.

15 April 2017

Murera did not seem to be in a happy mood this morning as the orphans exited their night quarters. Jasiri and Ngasha walked to Murera’s stockade to greet her as they began their day. Jasiri reached out to Murera wanting to interlock trunks with her but she pushed him away. When Ngasha tried to do the same thing she chased him away pushing his bottom and knocking him over. Ngasha cried out in surprise which brought caught the keeper’s attention and they all came to assist him and get him up off the ground. Everyone was surprised at Murera’s actions and made sure to keep their distance from her today in hopes that she would soon be back to her usual self. When the babies came to the bottle feeding area for their milk they found some buffaloes at the waterhole having a drink of water. Zongoloni and Quanza started blowing their trunks and trumpeting complaining loudly about the presence of the buffaloes at the waterhole. The buffaloes were quick to move away, leaving the orphans to enjoy a mud bath in what the orphans perceive to be their waterhole which is they vehemently protest finding other wildlife there.

16 April 2017

All the babies were in good form as they exited their stockades ready to begin their day and head out to the forest. In the morning as the orphans were rushing towards the water springs some crested crane birds came flying out of the trees making some unique sounds as they flapped their wings. Quanza and Lima Lima were scared but the noise, thinking it might be something that would hurt them and ran towards the keepers with their trunks in the area as they tried to locate what was causing the noise. Alamaya and Mwashoti saw Quanza and Lima Lima running away and they followed making their way towards Murera and Sonje who they felt could protect them as they are the groups Matriarchs. As the orphans had scattered the keepers had to call them all back and gather them together so that they could see that there was no danger and everything was ok. Before they could continue on their way a rock springer crossed their path and jumped to the rocks confusing them all and sending one of the orphans running off into the bushes trumpeting loudly. The keepers were once again left standing on their own wondering why the orphans seemed to be in such a skittish mood today. They had to call all the orphans back again so that they could continue with their day.

17 April 2017

There was some commotion in the bushes today as some wild elephants were busy fighting and breaking down branches and crashing through the bushes. The racket upset the keepers and the orphans who were enjoying the mornings browsing session Murera and Sonje did not want to interact with the wild herd and as such Murera went in search of her baby Mwashoti leaving Alamaya under the care of Lima Lima to lead the group. Ziwa and the other boys followed them while Jasiri stood watching the wild group wanting to interact with them but didn’t as they were huge compared to him and it would of been futile for him to try playing any pushing games with them. When the wild group left the orphans made their way to the Kenze area as where there is still a lot of fresh greens and soft branches for them to feed on. They then made the long walk to the waterhole and milk feeding area. They did not wallow at the mudbath as due to the rains there are now several waterholes in the forest that they have been enjoying.

18 April 2017

When the orphans arrived at the water springs they were very thirsty and were fighting for space to have a drink of water. The young boys fought for space among the older orphans and Alamaya was proving to be quite tough in an effort to get to the front and quench his thirst. Mwashoti was about to be pushed out of the way by Ngasha and as such Murera came in to help the youngsters push the older rowdy boys out of the way. After having a drink, Quanza, Zongoloni and Ziwa decided to try and lead the orphans to the browsing fields. Lima Lima was not happy with this and took over the leadership taking the orphan herd to the Umani Hill circuit where they found plenty of soft branches to feed on.

19 April 2017

There were some leadership wrangles between Murera and the wild bulls who visited the babies as soon as they came out from their night stockades in the morning. The wild bulls were in the company of some cows who tried to come between Murera and her babies and spirit them away with the wild group. Murera was not happy about the situation as she knew that the wild elephants would start taking one baby and then another until none of the orphans were under her leadership. The older boys in the orphan group came to Muerara’s assistance and engaged the wild bulls and cows preventing them from taking the babies in the group. The keepers also came in to help and in the scuffle Faraja and Zongoloni managed to know over a wild cow after which Lima Lima came in to try and take her baby. The wild cow saw what was happening and quickly got to her feet making sure that her calf stayed away from the orphan herd. The wild herd then left the area and the orphans were able to go about their day, feeling very proud of themselves as they had managed to keep their herd intact and get rid of the wild group.

20 April 2017

The weather was very hot today and the orphans looked tired and quite bothered by the heat. They kept flapping their ears and taking refuge under the trees in an effort to cool off. The two albino’s in the group were the most affected by the heat and kept looking for water to throw over themselves so that they could get some relief. The fighting boys, Jasiri and Ngasha, were pushing each other and being mischievous which meant that Sonje had to come in and discipline when they started misbehaving. Murera and Sonje then decided that it was time to make their way to the mudbath and the rest of the group was quick to follow as they were all eager to get to the muddy water and splash it over themselves to cool off.

21 April 2017

Today a friendly wild bull came together with some wild friends to visit the orphan herd. The wild elephants were not the friendliest towards the orphans and seemed to want to pick a fight with Sonje and Murera. The presence of the keepers had them keeping their distance as did Ndugu who is friends with the orphans and does not want anything to damage their friendship and trust. A long the Chyulu hill park, some antelopes were seen fighting for the females. One of the antelopes crossed to where Faraja and Ngasha were browsing. They heard some noise coming from the bushes and they quickly moved away so that they could clearly see what would be coming out of the bushes and if it was a cause for them to get alarmed.

22 April 2017

Mwashoti in the morning had a scratching session against as he had a very itchy belly. Murera came to see what was bothering and was not able to assist him in any way. Lima Lima then came in and got him to follow her to a rock that would help him relieve the discomfort he was feeling. The orphans all enjoyed a scratching session. Once they were all satisfied they made their way out to bushes to begin the days browsing activities. The group walked all around the Umani hills up to the sun downer area. Murera, Sonje and Mwashoti stayed at the base of the ill as they could not make the climb to the top. The group remained feeding on the lush vegetation in the area until it was time for the noon mudbath and milk bottle. The keepers made sure to prevent Lima Lima from getting to the milk first allowing Alamaya, Zongoloni, Jasiri and Mwashoti to get there first which meant that by the time Lima Lima arrived she was not able to steal any milk from the other orphans.

23 April 2017

Today Ziwa and Alamaya managed to get Mwashoti between the two of them and were bullying him somewhat which surprised the keepers as Mwashoti is the gentlest and kindest orphan and did not do anything to deserve the treatment he was getting from the two boys. Murera and Sonje could not see what was going on as they were browsing behind some bushes. When the two matriarchs heard young Mwashoti screaming they came running to see what the problem was and were quick to come to his aid. When Ziwa saw Murera and Sonje running towards him he quickly ran off not wanting to be reprimanded by them while Alamaya was reprimanded by Zongoloni. When the orphans arrived at the waterhole they all had a lovely time wallowing in the mud following their milk bottle. Mwashoti had fun rolling around with Murera and Sonje clambouring over her back enjoying a short ride.

24 April 2017

The orphan group met up with some wild elephants when out in the browsing fields today. The younger wild elephants went to Alamaya and Mwashoti to enjoy some friendly pushing games. Sadly one of the wild calves touched the stump of Alamaya’s tail which he never likes and as such he screamed loudly catching the attention of Lima Lima and Zongoloni who came running to see what the problem was. It was not long before the entire group stopped browsing and came to Alamaya’s side to offer him support and comfort. The big boys chose to follow the wild group in an effort to form some friendships with them. The keepers kept their distance watching the proceedings as they knew that if they got to close the wild group would run off. At the bottle feeding area Sonje and Ziwa were seen holding Mwahsoti’s trunk making sure to keep him calm following the mornings events.

25 April 2017

It began raining while the keepers and orphans were in the forest. It started raining quite heavily and the orphans were quick to try and take cover under the trees. The keepers had to think of where to take the babies so that they could continue browsing. While they were deliberating some of the orphan herd enjoyed rolling round in the muddy earth. Murera had a hard time walking on the wet paths as she kept slipping and sliding all over the place and she was worried about falling and knocking her bad hip while Sonje went in search of Mwashoti and Ziwa who were browsing somewhere in the bushes. In the evening some wild bulls came and joined the orphans. The keepers noticed that the bulls seemed to be after the older girls Murera and Sonje. The keepers were quick to get the orphans to return to the stockades for the night. Mwashoti, Jasiri and Alamaya were the first to make their way there leaving Sonje and the other boys out in the forest. Sonje seemed to want to stay with the bulls and did not want to return with the keepers. Murera was not happy to be at the stockades without her friend and made a fuss about entering her night quarters.

26 April 2017

It rained the whole night through and into the morning. All the orphans were in a joyful mood and seemed to enjoy the rain and had a lovely time playing on the ant hills that they came across in the bushes along the Chyulu hills. The boys were the first ones to roll around on the muddy ant hills and were soon followed by Quanza and Ziwa. Sonje held back Mwashoti and Alamaya so that they wouldn’t get to far from her and Murera as she was worried that they may be pushed over by the older boys who were being quite boisterous. Alamaya fond that he was perfectly safe behind Lima Lima as no one could reach him to push him as he was being fully protected by Lima Lima and Zongoloni who made sure that the naughty boys did not bother him.

27 April 2017

Last night there was quite a lot of noise and commotion around the stockades as some wild elephants were mating close to Murera and Sonje’s night quarters. Some wild bulls were fighting over who would get to mate with a cow. All the screaming and trumpeting caught the orphans by surprise and upset them as they did not know what was going on. Jasiri was trying to see what was going on but the wild elephants moved further into the forest and as such he was not able to see anything and things quieted down which meant that the babies could have more of a peaceful night and were able to get some rest so that they could enjoy their day.

28 April 2017

There was some heavy rain during the night and the silence following the rain was broken by a leopard calling at around midnight. This caused a lot of tension amongst the baboons who chattered amongst themselves while their babies cried in fear of the leopard. When Lima Lima heard the leopard she looked towards the trees but could not see it and started banging on the gates so that she could get out of her night quarters. All the noise that Lima Lima was making scared Quanza. Alamaya and Mwashoti seemed oblivious as to what was going on while Zongoloni and the other matriarchs were all to aware that their friends were not very happy and knew exactly what had upset them.

29 April 2017

The wild elephants came toady in large numbers and seemed to congregate around the stockades within earshot of Murera and Sonje as well as the rest of the orphans and proceeded with their mating activities. The noise that the wild group made scared the whole orphan herd and had them worried that they might be able to break into the stockade compound. Once they were done mating they made their way towards the springs for a drink of water. Following the activities that the orphans were subjected to last night Jasiri decided to try mounting Faraja and Ngasha. Ngasha and Faraja were not happy with what Jasiri was doing and decided to give him a taste of his own medicine. Jasiri fiercely defended himself preventing any of the boys from getting anywhere close to mounting him.

30 April 2017

Some bulls came and disrupted the calm of the day as the orphans were preparing to return to the stockades for the night. It seems that some of the wild bulls have lost their girlfriends to a more dominant male and have decided to come and see if they can get a chance of a girlfriend among the orphan herd. The keepers sensed what the wild bulls wanted and immediately started to look for Sonje and Murera to get them to join the babies and prevent them from being mounted on by the wild bulls as they knew how painful it would be for the two matriarchs who both have bad legs and would not be able to carry the weight of the older and heavier bulls and could end up being further injured. Sonje and Murera had someone gotten separated from the group and Murera saw the wild bulls approaching Sonje and trying to mount her and Murera quickly moved away to be closer to the keepers. All of the activities with the wild bulls delayed the orphans return to the stockades. Zongoloni was the first to return together with Mwashoti and Alamaya with the rest trickling in slowly. The last to return was Sonje and everyone was happy to see that she was safe and unhurt.