Keepers' Diaries, April 2018

Umani Springs Reintegration Unit

As if the heavens were weeping with us at the loss of our Dame Daphne, this was one of the wettest months we have seen for a long time, across the whole of Kenya. It has all been such a contrast considering how devastating the drought was not even 6 months ago, when we lost so many elephants to malnutrition in those harsh conditions. It seems a world of extremes at the moment, but fortunately the Kibwezi Forest is never too severely affected by such events, being the source of the Umani Springs and a ground water forest, which is why it is such a suitable area for our Umani unit, with gentle conditions for our more compromised orphans.

01 April 2018

During the night the orphans kept pushing at the sides of their stockades trying to reach some branches that were close by. Jasiri had been stealing branches from Sonje and Murera before turning to see what he could steal from Quanza who was guarding her branches in order to prevent them being stolen by him, Zongoloni or any of her other stockade neighbours. In the morning Alamaya walked out of his stockade and made a beeline for the pellets that had been put out for the orphans. Mwashoti followed Alamaya but when Quanza and Lima Lima arrived at the supplement feeding area Alamaya left to join Murera and Ziwa. When the orphans were full and had left for the bush a troop of baboons came looking for any pellets that had been left behind and began fighting each other for any pellets that they found. At noon the orphans made their way to the milk feeding area but did not seem to want to go any further. Sonje was the first to break ranks as she walked to the mud bath and began swimming. It was not long before the rest of the orphan herd joined her and they all enjoyed wallowing in the water.

02 April 2018

The orphans were eager to being their day and came rushing out of their respective stockades for their morning milk bottle before the usual games around the stockade compound. Alamaya and Mwashoti played a pushing game before following Ngasha to the scratching wall which Faraja had just left. Sonje was busy playing a rolling game on the ground and Alamaya went running up to Sonje and tried to climb on her back. He was soon joined by Mwashoti who did the same and they both enjoyed riding on Sonje and playing with her. While out in the bush during the day the orphans were busy browsing along the Chyulus when some wild elephants came to join them, paying a lot of attention to the females in the group. Jasiri and Ziwa were not happy about this and started protesting loudly, pushing Zongoloni to try and get her away from the bulls as they were worried about the bulls taking their young females friends from the orphan herd.

03 April 2018

As soon as Murera was came of her stockade in the morning she made her way to Mwashoti and Alamaya’s room to see how they were doing. Mwashoti rumbled loudly showing how happy he was to see Murera who was soon joined by Sonje who put her trunk through the stockade bars touching and comforting Mwashoti, showering him with attention which Mwashoti absolutely loved. At the noon waterhole the babies all came rushing for their share of milk with Zongoloni and Jasiri running in together with Mwashoti and Alamaya, who grabbed their bottles from the ground and fed themselves while the keepers watched as their help was not needed now that the two youngsters are able to pick up their own bottles which they discard when they have emptied the contents.

04 April 2018

Following the recent rains the browsing fields are full of fresh green grass for the babies to feed on. Quanza and Lima Lima were really enjoying browsing today and did not want to leave the fields even when the rest of the group was ready to move on. Aside from green vegetation there is also a lot of small mud baths that the orphans can enjoy should they choose to, and in general the flat areas they like to browse in are like a swamp, making the orphans feet wet as they walk through. Sonje took the babies to the swimming pool where they all had a lovely time with just their trunks being seen above their heads as they swam in the deep water. Alamaya and Lima Lima were seen by the keepers holding the tails of Sonje and Jasiri to help them swim in the pool. As the orphans wallowed some buffaloes came and stood to the side, waiting for the orphans to leave the area and give them a chance to wallow as well.

05 April 2018

This morning Sonje was busy rolling around on the ground, enticing Alamaya and Mwashoti to come and clamber over her and play while Murera watched. The keepers are happy to see Sonje having such fun as there was a time that they did not know if she would be able to play in this way considering the injuries she had sustained to her leg when she was orphaned. As the orphans headed out today some of the boys did not want to follow Murera or Sonje, choosing instead to walk past them as they climbed the Kenze Hills, and make their way to the bushes where they chose to spend the morning feeding. Lima Lima was in the lead as the group browsed with Ziwa and Zongoloni staying by her side the entire time. When it was time for the noon milk feed and mud bath the two babies Mwashoti and Alamaya once again showed that they have become experts in feeding themselves without any help from the keepers. Sonje, Murera and Ziwa are the only orphans that still wait for the keepers to feed them as they are not able to grab their own bottles from the ground. In the afternoon the orphans were busy browsing peacefully surrounded by some antelopes when Sonje, Murera and the keepers saw a buffalo approaching the group. The orphans trumpeted loudly while the keepers shouted at the buffalo trying to scare him away so that he would not disrupt the orphans feeding activities.

06 April 2018

The elephants exited their stockades this morning amid rain showers. When Mwashoti failed to follow Alamaya, Zongoloni walked back to his stockade to get him to follow her and Alamaya but he chose to only follow Murera. Lima Lima and Quanza led the group towards the Kenze Hills. Murera and Mwashoti followed them part of the way but chose to stay at the base of the hill to browse due to their injuries they have difficulty climbing the hill. At around noon some of the orphans decided to change direction and head to the mud bath as it was rather a hot day and they needed to cool off. Ngasha and Faraja became the leaders and the orphan herd followed them to the water pool where they all had a lovely wallow. Alamaya was put between the older girls where they would not be bothered by Ziwa and the other older boys who can sometimes be quite rough in their games.

07 April 2018

Murera, Mwashoti and Sonje looked very tired when they made their back from the browsing fields today. Murera stopped at the gate to ensure that all the orphans had returned safely to the stockades with Ziwa being the first to enter his stockade for his evening milk bottle. By the time Murera joined Sonje in their night quarters Sonje had already finished her share of milk and was waiting for Murera to drink hers. It started to rain quite heavily during the night with Alamaya, Ngasha and Faraja abandoning the branches that had been cut for them to feed on as they sought refuge from the rain under the roof of their stockade. Some hyraxes were heard shouting from the direction of the Chyulu Hills and all the babies lifted their heads and spread their ears to listen. Zongoloni made sure that Quanza alerted the rest of the orphans to stay away from the sides of their stockades as she did not know what was causing the all the shouting.

08 April 2018

This morning the orphans were all in a playful mood with the boys trumpeting and chasing one another through the bushes. Sonje made her way towards Mwashoti but was prevented from getting to him by Alamaya who wanted to play with him. Sonje lay on the ground to play and Mwashoti did not hesitate to join her and climb on her back. Zongoloni came to join the two but was too heavy for Sonje to carry as well. The keepers got Murera and Jasiri to follow them out. A buffalo walked behind Murera and her baby boy Mwashoti which surprised them and made them a bit anxious as they did not know why the buffalo was walking so close. One keeper had to shout and move the buffalo away from Murera. Lima Lima, who normally warns everyone about any buffalos around, did not see any of this because she was very far inside the trees.

09 April 2018

Ziwa was being naughty when the keepers were opening their stockades this morning. He kept pushing on the gate while the keeper was trying to open it which damaged the chain and then the gate just swung open freely, knocking the keeper on the leg. Ziwa felt sorry later after realising the keeper was limping and not happy with Ziwa. Lima Lima came over to inspect the keeper’s sore leg as she is very caring and affectionate towards the keepers. The other orphans appeared cross with Ziwa as they all kept their distance from him and would ignore him when he walked up to them today!

10 April 2018

The elephants came out of their stockades for a new day today looking very happy and jovial. Alamaya was pushing the big girls Lima Lima and Zongoloni on their bottoms but he was just playing and being affectionate with these older girls. Jasiri went to stop Faraja who was trying to push Quanza away from joining the babies in the bushes. Lima Lima also went to punish him to make him stop his behaviour which was not nice amongst their family. Sonje looked for a place in the bushes around the Kenze and Umani Hills to go and look for some nice browse. She was then followed by Mwashoti and Murera. As they walked into the forest they came across wild elephant dung. Sonje picked some up to smell it and dropped it again as she walked away.

11 April 2018

As the babies walked and browsed peacefully within the forest after their noon bottle feeding, a very big wild bull showed up in the open grassland area where Lima Lima and Sonje went to greet him. Sonje had smelt him from far away and realised that the bull was her friend who had been missing for some time. Jasiri and other older boys Ngasha, Faraja and Ziwa did not want Sonje to go over to the wild bull. Jasiri tried to block the big bull from joining Sonje but Sonje ignored Jasiri and other boys and walked up to her friend. They spent some time together, and then the wild bull left the orphans alone with their Sonje. Later on in the day the bull came back to see Sonje but found the keepers had moved them on already. He did not want to follow them as he did not like the smell of the keepers.

12 April 2018

The elephants did not like the rain this morning which began as soon as the keepers opened their gates for them to come out. Alamaya and Mwashoti slipped on the muddy paths and fell down, shouting to the keepers and Sonje for help. Sonje was the fastest to get to the babies and helped Alamaya up from the ground. Murera came hurriedly looking to see if Mwashoti was okay and Zongoloni came with her. Ziwa trying to be nice boy and was nice to Mwashoti after he fell down, forgetting how jealous he used to be of him. At the stockades when all the babies arrived back for bed after their long day out in the forests, they found a very big acacia tree had fallen down. The keepers had put some of its branches in their room for them, so it was a very joyful moment to all have their favourite branches to eat in their rooms.

13 April 2018

All the elephants came out ready for the new day to browse in the Kibwezi Forest. We were all stunned and shocked to receive the bad news over the death of our matriarch mama Daphne Sheldrick. The news made all the keepers very sad and we think even the orphans sensed that something had happened as they all came together as a group and surrounded the keepers. We will all miss Daphne Sheldrick but we as keepers will continue to keep her flag flying high for her legacy to continue, as we pray for her soul to rest in peace. The keepers spent their day with elephants but everyone felt very sad at the news today. Murera took all the babies with Sonje to a big tree and they spent some time there like they were helping us mourn our hero and mentor.

14 April 2018

It was another day of a lot of rain which had been going on since last night and was still going on in the morning. It made the elephants walk very carefully out to the forest as the path was very slippery and those with bad legs like Mwashoti, Murera and Sonje had a difficult time walking. Lima Lima and Ziwa were rejoicing in the wet weather and rolling around in the muddy areas they came across. Some baboons appeared running and climbing in the trees to avoid the rain as their bodies were getting very wet in the long tall grass. The keepers got their rain boots and rain coats for the long walk to take the orphans to the Chyulu and Kenze hills for some nice vegetation to eat.

15 April 2018

In the early morning all the elephants came out of their rooms very peacefully but before they could settle down to eat out just outside the gates, some baboons came from nowhere making a lot of noise. We saw Jasiri and Ngasha take off running very fast with all the other orphans following them into the forest. All the keepers stopped what they were doing so they could chase after them and call them back as they did not want them to get lost! Lima Lima heard the keepers shouting and tried to stop but Ziwa crashed into her because she had stopped so suddenly and right where everyone was running. Lovely Mwashoti came back to the keepers with Alamaya trying to calm down, but Sonje and Quanza had convinced the others to keep running and eventually everyone met up at the bottle feeding area beside the mud bath.

16 April 2018

This morning the orphans were busy trumpeting as they exited their stockades following their morning milk bottle. The usual morning activities took place in the stockade compound and following the supplement feeding the orphans made their way to the browsing fields under Murera and Sonje’s leadership. Mwashoti and Zongoloni seemed to be in a bit of an aggressive mood today and took to charging at whatever they found in their bath including the bushes. At the midday bottle feeding Lima Lima stole one of Faraja’s milk bottle and a fight ensued with the some of the boys taking on Lima Lima who is extremely greedy and often has more than her share; bottle stealing was a step too far and was something that would not be tolerated. The keepers intervened to make sure that peace was restored and that Lima Lima was appropriately reprimanded.

17 April 2018

This evening once the orphans had all returned to their stockades for their evening milk bottle a fight broke out between Alamaya and Mwashoti who were having a disagreement over the pellets that had been put in their stockades. Mwashoti was trying to reach Alamaya’s pellets and when Alamaya saw what Mwashoti was trying to do and started hitting the posts and the walls to scare Mwashoti off so that he would not steal from him. Mwashoti however was not easily deterred and kept reaching for the pellets which just made Alamaya angrier. Eventually the keepers came in to stop the fighting and moved Alamaya’s pellets out of Mwashoti’s reach and peace was restored. Mwashoti then went under the awning in his stockade and settled down for the night.

18 April 2018

The orphans seemed to all be in a very accommodating and patient mood today as they headed out to the forest to begin the days browsing activities. Faraja browsed with his friends while Quanza and Mwashoti patrolled along the forest towards the Kenze Hills where they got a bit of a fright from some antelopes and rock hyraxes that suddenly crossed their path. Sonje and Zongoloni were unsure of where Murera and her group were browsing, as were the keepers who went to a clearing and called for all the elephants to come and join them. The only one that made his way to the keepers was Mwashoti who showed them which direction to go to find the rest. Lima Lima soon came out and took the keepers to where the rest of the group was busy browsing. The keepers arrived and found some of the orphans breaking branches to feed on while others were busy rolling around in the wet slippery mud following the rains that are received on a daily basis.

19 April 2018

Alamaya and his friend Zongoloni took the lead today as they headed towards the Umani Hills walking slowly and carefully so as to avoid the wet grass surrounding the path to their intended destination. There were some buzzing insects circling the orphans which were particularly bothersome to Alamaya who doesn’t have a tail to help keep them away. Murera and Lima Lima came up behind Alamaya and did all they could to keep the buzzing pests away. Alamaya decided it would be easier to walk among the bushes hoping that the branches and movement from the grass would keep the bugs away. Some vervet monkeys came jumping down from the trees which were being pushed by Ziwa and Jasiri who were trying to show how strong they are by trying to push the trees down. The monkeys moved quickly when they hit the ground and went in a different direction to that taken of the orphans so that they would not be bothered by them and their strength-testing showcasing games.

20 April 2018

This morning Ziwa and Faraja had a disagreement over a scratching area. Ziwa was enjoying a scratching session against a wall near the stockades when Faraja came up and pushed him away. Ngasha tried to intervene and stop the pushing but ended up becoming engaged in a pushing competition with Ziwa, Faraja and the others boys resulting in Ngasha having to seek help from Murera. Murera and Sonje quickly intervened and chased the boys away. They all ran off in different directions with Faraja running into the bushes. Their quick departure had the keepers laughing. The fighting between Jasiri and Ziwa picked up again in the afternoon and the two kept pushing one another with the two matriarchs, Sonje and Murera, leaving them to work out their aggression as they knew they would stop when they got tired of fighting.

21 April 2018

Alamaya and Mwashoti have been finding it very hard to walk on the wet slippery grass which also makes it difficult for them to browse as they struggle to maintain their balance. If any pushing takes place it is very easy for one to fall over, which has been happening more often. Today Alamaya tried to push Mwashoti but slipped missing his target which he fell to the ground. When it was time for the noon milk feed and mud bath, Lima Lima was the first to come running in at top speed for her share. She somehow managed to get the milk teat off the bottle and no matter what the keepers tried she would not drop it, and went running off with it in her mouth with the keepers chasing after her. Two of the keepers slipped and fell which brought the chase to and end and Lima Lima came to see that they were alright and had not been hurt when they fell. Zongoloni and Quanza came to get Lima Lima and together they went to the Umani Hills to enjoy the rest of the days browsing activities.

22 April 2018

With all the recent rains the area around the forest has become quite swampy making it difficult for Murera and her friends to walk out to the drier areas as they have to cross through all the water and wet slippery soil. This morning Alamaya and Mwashoti had a particularly hard time as the water was cold on their feet, which they were not happy about but did not have any other option as they wanted to get to drier ground. Murera and Sonje were also struggling while Lima Lima seemed to cross quite quickly before waiting for the rest to come and join her. When it was time for the milk feed Ngasha arrived looking quite thirsty and quickly downed his bottle. Lima Lima ran off with the teat from her bottle again once she was done with her share. Ngasha tried to copy Lima Lima as he saw the keepers chasing after Lima Lima to get the teat back. Lima Lima was quite mischievous and dropped the nipple in the tall grass making it difficult for the keepers to find it and put it back on the bottle.

23 April 2018

For the first time in a while it was not raining as the orphans made their way out of their stockades to the browsing grounds. Jasiri walked with Zongoloni who made a stop at Mwashoti’s stockade and pushed at the name sign on the stockade bars, dropping it to the ground. The keepers saw what Zongoloni was doing and told her off for her naughty behaviour. Zongoloni then went and joined Faraja for a scratching session against the wall before heading to the forest to browse. The orphans headed higher up the Umani Hills to browse on the fresh vegetation that they found there. The orphans walked all round the Umani Hills today and did not come across any wild elephants as with the rains the wild elephants have moved further away; there is a lot of water and vegetation for them to feed on and they don’t have to rely on the vegetation around the Umani Springs area. The orphans came across some dik diks and antelopes came to where Alamaya and his friends were browsing. Mwashoti trumpeted at them in an effort to chase them away and this resulted in all the orphans chasing the antelopes away from the browsing area.

24 April 2018

Alamaya is growing into a strong young bull who does not tolerate any nonsense from the other orphans. Zongoloni has always thought of Alamaya as a friendly elephant who enjoys gentle pushing games with the other orphans but it seems that he has been holding back as today he pushed Zongoloni quite forcefully, pushing her into Ngasha who thought that Zongoloni was pushing him. Zongoloni was simply a victim of Alamaya’s pushing games which ended up getting everyone involved with the orphans all pushing one another as they browsed. When Alamaya was done playing he came and joined Murera and Sonje in the browsing fields. Mwashoti was wary of Alamaya and did not really want to interact with him but it was not long before things returned to normal. As the orphans and keepers made their way to the forest they came across an antelope that seemed to be in the middle of giving birth. The keepers quickly moved the orphans away so as not to disturb the expectant mother but were able to witness her giving birth which was something that they had never seen and they were amazed to have been able to witness something so natural taking place in the wild.

25 April 2018

All the orphans were very playful early in the morning celebrating their new day. The keepers thought this would be a good day for them and they were going to encourage them to meet up with their wild friends which they had heard in the night. Murera is showing us that she is ready to return to the wild but she cannot accept the fact she would have to leave her adopted babies Mwashoti and Alamaya. This is what keeps back both matriarchs Murera and Sonje from returning to the wild in a hurrt. They need to stay to keep an eye on the young boys to ensure they will be okay and also that none of the other naughty bulls like Ziwa play too rough or hurt them. Lima Lima also tried to care for little Alamaya today but she was overwhelmed by the demands from other orphans including the big girl Zongoloni, who wanted Lima Lima to show them which way to go. Jasiri started shouting in the bushes and Faraja went with Ngasha to see why he was yelling. When a keeper went to investigate all he found were these naughty bulls fighting over some branches from a nearby tree.

26 April 2018

The rain which poured all night made it not easy for the orphans to have a good night’s sleep because of the noise it made on their roof. It continued to rain into the morning and although the keepers tried to wait for the rain to stop so they could make the bottles and the feed babies, they waited a bit too long for Lima Lima’s liking! She started pushing her gates and trying to come out because she thought the keepers had forgotten. After they all had their bottles the orphans settled down and when the rain eased off a little they all came out of their rooms to go out to the bush for the day. Ziwa turned around to see if Faraja and Ngasha were behind him but only found Zongoloni and Quanza a little further behind with Alamaya and Lima Lima.

27 April 2018

All the elephants were very happy to be playing in their wallowing water hole which was spilling over with rain water – it was like a huge swimming pool. Lima Lima took over the leadership role from Sonje and brought all the orphans to the swimming area. Zongoloni and Ziwa were the first ones to test the water then all the orphans joined in. At about four o’clock Murera walked all the orphans for another swim with her little Mwashoti. Quanza walked over to join her and Mwashoti but Murera did not care for her company and she walked away into the forest. After a short while it started to rain very hard, leaving Mwashoti and Lima Lima to go to the keepers for help and share their umbrellas, but they found the umbrellas were not big enough for both of them!

28 April 2018

The orphans were trumpeting and signalling how happy they were as they blew their trunks and charged at trees and everything around them. Alamaya and Mwashoti were the first babies to start the trumpeting and then when Faraja heard the young boys blowing their tiny trunks making little trumpeting sounds, all the big boys decided to join in and show them how it was done, which really made the keepers laugh. Murera and Sonje also blew their long trunks but stopped when Quanza and Zongoloni joined in too. Little boy Alamaya with his friend Mwashoti kept browsing until butterflies came up and started dancing around his head and trunk. He started to chase the flying butterflies away in all directions to keep away from his feeding area, which is where they were just trying to lay their eggs as well!

29 April 2018

A short break in the rain meant the orphans could relax a little and walk a lot easier on the dry paths as they went about their morning activities. Alamaya and Mwashoti took over and led all the orphans directly to the water springs where they found flowing water like a river. There were lots of crocodiles on the banks of the water springs waiting for the sunshine to come out so they could bask. Murera disciplined the misbehaving boys Ngasha and Jasiri as they were trying to fight with the little boys Mwashoti and Alamaya.

30 April 2018

Alamaya keeps pulling his name sign from the side of his stockade. The keepers came over in the morning to see what Alamaya was doing and found he had already pulled his name sign down and it was on the floor. He was kicking it around like a little soccer ball and had damaged it all to pieces. When all the orphans were having their bottles, Lima Lima and Quanza became very naughty and both grabbed the milk teats after finishing their milk and forced the keeper to go into their room to collect them. When the keeper went inside Quanza and Lima Lima knew that they had done something wrong and tried to run away! Ziwa behaved so well today while all the elephants were being sprayed to keep the insects away. He just stood very still, as well as Mwashoti, just allowing the keepers to take their time doing what they needed to do. Zongoloni and Jasiri were not so well behaved and kept running all over the place to avoid the spray.