Keepers' Diaries, April 2019

Umani Springs Reintegration Unit

We were so delighted when the rains began to fall around the middle of the month in the Kibwezi Forest, bringing much needed relief to the whole area. After just one rain shower the vegetation already started to recover, and all the animals were seen to enjoy the fresh green shoots that were springing up everywhere. Before that, the orphans were having to walk further and further to find enough forage to fill them up before returning to their stockades in the evening. 

01 April 2019

The orphans seemed to be in a good mood this morning, as they cheerfully woke up to have their morning bottles of milk before heading out into the bush. Murera and Sonje walked straight up to Mwashoti and Alamaya rumbling at one another as if to say good morning. When it was time to head out into the bush, Mwashoti appeared to make sure that Murera and Sonje did not leave him behind with Ziwa. 

Whilst the orphans were browsing in the forest along the Umani Hills, they came across some buffalos grazing on the slopes of the hills. Shukuru, curious about the buffalos, stopped to have a look at them. She soon realised that it wasn’t safe to remain near this herd without the Keepers and fellow orphans and quickly re-joined the group.  

02 April 2019

This morning Lima Lima and Zongoloni appeared to have the orphans well organised for the activities of the day. As the orphans were making their way passed the Umani Springs, they came across some crocodiles that appeared to be basking on the banks. As Murera and Sonje were walking along the banks, two crocodiles went charging down to the water, seemingly running away from the orphans. This scared Faraja, Jasiri and Ngasha who all started to trumpet and run in opposite directions. 

After all the commotion, the Keepers had to do a head count in order to make sure that all the orphans were safe and allocated for. The Keepers took some time to locate Shukuru and Murera but eventually found them under the shade of a tree amongst all the other orphans. The orphans stood there for some time, seeking shelter from the hot sun. 

03 April 2019

Today the orphans had to walk quite far along the Chyulu Hills in order to find some fresh greens to eat. Whilst walking, the orphans came across a large luscious acacia tree that appeared to have been pushed over by some larger wild elephants. Sonje and Ngasha were the first to see the tree and they led the other orphans to it. Quanza and Zongoloni seemed to not want to share with any of their friends as they kept on blocking the way as the others attempted to get closer. Ziwa didn’t seem too bothered by the fallen tree and browsed on his own, no too far from his friends. 

04 April 2019

The orphans were visited by some wild elephants this morning, and some of the females had young calves. The orphans, excited to greet their visitors, were all waiting near the stable gates to come out. As the orphans came out some of the wild calves were curious to greet them and approached them cautiously. The orphans seemed to notice the calves approaching and too became curious. As Zongoloni got closer to one of the calves, she stuck her trunk out and tried to touch it. This spooked the wild calf who began to trumpet loudly and in response two of the wild females came running over to see what had happened. 

As the wild females came running over the Keepers and the orphans decided to quickly move away from the calves and head off for their days browsing activities. 

05 April 2019

After their morning bottles of milk Mwashoti went over to Sonje and Murera and the three rumbled at each other as though to say good morning. As the orphans were about to make their way out to the field, they were joined by some wild bulls who came to drink from the stockade water trough. One of the wild bulls approached Sonje and appeared to want to greet her. Sonje didn’t seem too impressed with the bull so she rumbled loudly in objection. Lima Lima heard Sonje’s rumble and came running out of the bushes as if to check everything was alright. Sonje and Murera, who both appeared to have no interest in the bulls, went off and stood near their Keepers whilst Lima Lima, Alamaya and Zongoloni all continued to interact with the bulls, sometimes even playfully pushing them.  

During their mud bath the orphans had many onlookers. There were two wild elephant herds that were watching as the orphans enjoyed their mud bath. They appeared to be too shy to approach the water hole whilst the Keepers were around. After the orphans had finished wallowing, they headed back into the forest and greeted some of their onlookers before continuing with their browsing activities.  

06 April 2019

This morning Alamaya and Ziwa had a strength testing match. The match did not last very long as Alamaya seemed to know that he is quite a bit smaller than his opponent and Ziwa is much stronger as he is often playing with the larger boys Jasiri and Ngasha. 

Whilst in the field, Quanza and Shukuru appeared to get a fright when some Hadada Ibis birds flew over them making their loud call to one another. The two girls ran off and trumpeted loudly as if to warn the other orphans and their Keepers of the unknown noise. 

07 April 2019

Whilst browsing along the Chyulu Hills this morning, the orphans came across a herd of wild elephants. This seemed to disturb the orphans as they did not want to share their browsing area with the wild elephants. Murera and Mwashoti were heard rumbling which appeared to be in protest to the wild elephants. Sonje with Murera appeared to be guarding the young orphan bulls who sometimes wondered off too close to the wild herds. Lima Lima stayed close to the Keepers and seemed to warn them every time a wild elephant was close.

When the orphans came down to the waterhole for their midday bottles of milk, Zongoloni quickly grabbed her bottle of milk leaving Lima Lima at the vehicle with all the milk bottles. Before the Keepers could do anything, Lima Lima had already grabbed an extra bottle of milk and was running off with it. She eventually dropped the bottle with little milk inside, meaning that the Keepers had to give Murera one of the spare bottles of milk.

After the orphans had finished wallowing in the mud bath, they made their way to the dust mound to all have a dust bath. It was quite an entertaining scene seeing all the orphans rolling around, rubbing up against each other and throwing dust all over their backs. 

08 April 2019

The orphans spent their morning browsing along the Chyulu Hills. Whilst we are still waiting for the rains, the orphans have to walk a little bit further to find nicer greens, and more and more animals can be seen around the Umani Hill circuit. Jasiri and Ziwa were continuously pushing each other around whilst in the field. The two bulls continued for so long that eventually Zongoloni went and stood between the two. 

When it was time for the orphans’ midday bottles of milk and mud bath, Alamaya and Mwashoti were the first to make their way down to the bottle point, closely followed by Zongoloni and Jasiri. As the orphans were finishing their bottles of milk a buffalo came out of the waterhole where he had been wallowing. The buffalo slowly moved away as the orphans came over to wallow in the muddy water. Whilst making her way down to the water, Shukuru came across some butterflies which she began to chase around before joining the others for a mud wallow. 

09 April 2019

Alamaya was enjoying some strength testing games today. He has recently been playing with some of the stronger boys such as Ngasha and despite being younger he has still managed to stand his ground and on occasion win the game. Despite his new found strength, Alamaya still remains respectful of the older females such as Murera and Sonje. He is still as protective as ever of his short tail and doesn’t let any of the other boys anywhere near it as it appears to make him very uncomfortable.  

10 April 2019

It was an extremely hot morning today, with very few clouds to be seen. The elephants walked slowly through the forest, staying in the shade of the trees for as long as they could to keep cool. The orphans enjoyed browsing on some bark and leaves from the acacia trees they came across. 

Lima Lima and Zongoloni were the first to get their bottles of milk, followed closely by the rest of the herd. Once the orphans had finished their bottles, they made their way down to the mud bath. The orphans enjoyed a long wallow in the cool water with some of them, like Sonje, completely submerging themselves in the water with only her trunk sticking out the water.  

11 April 2019

This morning, Sonje and Alamaya led the orphans the long way around the Chyulu Hills all the way back down to the Umani Springs. Once at the springs, Jasiri, Faraja and Ngasha decided to go off together and browse away from the rest of the orphan herd. Mwashoti remained close to Murera and Sonje the entire time. 

This afternoon, Alamaya wanted to have a strength testing match with Lima Lima as he began to push her, but she was not interested and simply moved away. As Alamaya appeared to be getting no attention from his friends he began to trumpet and rumble loudly which seemed to cause concern amongst the older girls who came running over. Lima Lima and Sonje were the first to the scene and once they realised that nothing was wrong, they went back to browsing. 

12 April 2019

This morning, a herd of wild elephants visited the stockade compound. This disrupted the orphans’ morning routine slightly as the Keepers were trying to keep the orphans away from the wild herd. Shukuru had made her way in between all the wild elephants, and the Keepers were worried that she would be pushed around so they quickly called her away. Once the orphans had finished their morning bottles, they quickly headed off to the forest leaving the wild herd at the stockade water trough. 

13 April 2019

Whilst the orphans were happily browsing along the Chyulu Hills, some buffalos suddenly appeared scaring Quanza and Zongoloni who trumpeted loudly and ran away. As the orphans moved off, they came across a wild bull and some wild females, which made them stop running. They were well received by the wild elephants, especially by the large bull who seemed to take an interest in Lima Lima and Sonje. Lima Lima and Sonje stayed close to the wild herd whilst the other orphans moved off slightly to browse. 

As the midday heat began to hit, the orphans made their way down to the waterhole to cool off. Sonje and Lima Lima, having left the wild bull, were the first to enter the water closely followed by the others. 

In the evening, as the orphans were making their way back to the stockades, Ngasha, Ziwa, and Faraja did not want to come back as early as them and chose to remain out in the forest. Much later in the evening the three bulls were at the gate to stockade compound waiting to be let in. The Keepers let them in to join the others and enjoy some of the cut branches that had been laid out for them.  

14 April 2019

As Ngasha, Faraja, and Ziwa are getting older they seem to be enjoying more and more time out of the stockade compound. As the bulls had come back to the stockade compound much later the night before, they had missed getting their milk bottles and were very eager to have them this morning. The three boys kept disrupting the other orphans in order to get their milk first and would not leave the Keepers alone. Eventually, once they had received their bottles, everything returned to normal and they seemed happy to follow Murera and Zongoloni out into the forest. 

15 April 2019

Last night, Alamaya and Mwashoti seemed to have a bit of a dispute over their cut branches. Mwashoti kept trying to grab some of Alamaya’s branches through the posts and as soon as Alamaya saw this he would charge at the wall between them. It seems that in retaliation, Alamaya then tried to grab Mwashoti’s branches and the game continues through part of the night. In the morning, however, the two bulls were the best of friends again and come charging out their stables to greet each other. 

Whilst in the field today, Ziwa and Faraja were browsing at the base of the hills whereas Zongoloni and Shukuru made their way round the hills looking for some nicer greens. Later that day, as the orphans were all browsing near one another,r again some Hadada Ibis birds came and landed on some branches just above their heads. This seemed to give the orphans the biggest fright as they all charged off in different directions leaving Shukuru behind, oblivious to what had just happened. 

16 April 2019

As the orphans were browsing along the Chyulu Hills this morning, they came across a herd of wild elephants. The wild herd could be heard from some distance away as they were trumpeting and rumbling. Shukuru, unsure of the noise, was very cautious when walking towards the herd. Lima Lima on the other hand could not have appeared more excited to see what was happening as she came charging past Shukuru, heading straight towards the wild elephants. She was well received by the wild herd who took their time to greet her and enjoyed her company until it was time for the orphans’ midday mud bath and bottles of milk. 

When the orphans made their way back to the stockades for the evening, a wild bull seemed to not want to leave Lima Lima as he followed her all the way back. Ngasha and Jasiri did not seem very happy with this bull following Lima Lima and when they got back to the stockades the two young bulls decided to team up and chase the bull back to the bush. The bull could be seen walking off back to the Chyulu Hills to join the other wild elephants. 

17 April 2019

Murera seems to have formed a new found friendship with an old female elephant who came to visit with her sibling. Murera went to greet them together with Mwashoti, who was busy trying to play with the young calf that was with them.  She was a little female calf and when Mwashoti tried to hold her tail she screamed loudly which had her mother running to intervene, stopping Mwashoti from grabbing her tail and letting him know that he had to behave. Sonje also came over to warn Mwashoti against misbehaving towards their wild friends.   

The orphans came to the waterhole at noon for a drink and a wallow in an effort to cool themselves off as the sun was particularly strong today.  Sonje and Ziwa were the first of the orphan herd to get into the water where they were soon joined by the rest of the orphans and they all had a fantastic time wallowing and playing in the waterhole.  

18 April 2019

There was some rain this evening which had a cooling effect in the Kibwezi forest and its environs.  The light rain soon turned into a thunderstorm which had the orphans panicked and unsure of what to do. They trumpeted loudly and charged around their stockades which had the Keepers coming out to try and calm them down.  Alamaya managed to damage the roofing sheets of his stockade. Mwashoti and Ziwa stood watching Alamaya as he misbehaved by pushing the roofs iron sheets, managing to punch holes into them with his tusks.  It wasn’t long before Ziwa, Ngasha and Faraja took to doing the same thing as Alamaya filling the stockade with noise and loud trumpets as they all pushed at the roofing sheets. Little did they know that the damage they were doing would result in them having no cover and shelter from the rain and would cause more work as the roofing sheets who have to be replaced and repaired as soon as possible.  

19 April 2019

At the waterhole, after all the orphans had finished their midday bottle, none of them went to the waterhole to wallow as it was a chilly day. Instead of wallowing, Ziwa and Ngasha led the group to the water trough for a drink.  There had been some rain and as a result there is fresh vegetation shooting up which the wildlife in the Kibwezi forest will all be able to enjoy.  Many baboons were seen picking the new grass that is growing. Murera, her herd and the Keepers made their way to the Kenze Hill and the Umani Hill circuit for the afternoon browsing session.  Once there Faraja and Shukuru became the leaders moving the herd away from Murera and Sonje who are the matriarchs of the group.  Lima Lima enjoyed some greens with the boys before leaving them to browse in a different area with Alamaya. Mwashoti stuck close to the matriarchs who were leading him to the best places to browse. 

20 April 2019

It rained heavily during the night and before it started there were a few problems for the orphans and the Keepers who were invaded by army ants which made it near on impossible for them to get any sleep as the Keepers had to get up and spray the army ants with insecticide and let the orphans out so that they could escape from them; once they bite they don’t let go and their bite is painful to humans and animals alike.  Murera and Sonje took off with Mwashoti to the bushes together with the rest of the orphans and the Keepers had to wait until it was light to go looking for them.  Greedy Lima Lima heard the buckets banging as the Keepers were mixing the morning milk for the orphans who soon appeared, coming out of the bushes for their morning milk feed. 

The orphans looked as if they had fed well during the night and had full bellies.  As such none of them were in the mood to head to the browsing fields and wanted to relax and get some rest. When it was time for the noon milk feed, Lima Lima was the first to arrive as she will never miss out on having her milk and took her share as usual gulping it down in a matter of minutes.

21 April 2019

This morning the orphans came out of their stockades trumpeting loudly. Once the milk feeding was done it was time for fun and games as the orphans charged around the trees and shrubs in the area.  Zongoloni and Quanza took off running holding tails in turns as they headed to the forest. Ziwa was with Ngasha and the two were engaged in a pushing game with Ziwa trying at times to mount Ngasha but not managing to do so.  Faraja came to join the two and managed to mount Ziwa while Lima Lima stopped what she was doing to come and help Ziwa.  The Keepers also came to have a look and had a laugh watching them all as they tried to catch a ride on one another something that is often much harder to achieve than it seems.  

22 April 2019

After the noon bottle feed at the waterhole Zongoloni spotted some butterflies in the area and began a game of chasing them knowing full well that she would never be able to catch them.  As she charged around she trumpeted loudly with joy which had Lima Lima and Ziwa coming to join in on the fun.  The butterflies flew over the orphan’s heads making it difficult for Zongoloni and the others to see where they had gone.  Lima Lima ended up tripping and falling, knocking her knees, which resulted in her giving up the game. 

Jasiri and Mwashoti joined in and started trumpeting in an effort to get their friends to come and have some fun, but Murera and Sonje were already making their way to the bushes for the afternoon browsing session.  Some buffaloes were seen watching the orphans as the charged around trumpeting loudly while the Keepers called to them in an effort to get them to stop playing and follow them to the browsing fields.   

23 April 2019

We have all been happy to have the rains back bringing an end to the heat and drought that has been experienced all over the country. The drought has had the orphans walking further afield in search of greener pastures to feed on. It rained most of the night before making the stockade compound a muddy slippery mess which made in difficult for Murera and Mwashoti to leave their stockades as they kept sliding around, unable to get a grip and steady themselves which made them afraid of falling. With some coaxing the Keepers were able to get Murera and Sonje to slowly come out of their stockade and follow the rest of the group. It took them a little while longer to get Mwashoti to comply and come out but they were eventually successful in doing so.  

Zongoloni and Ziwa took the lead of the group to the forest showing them all the best places to go and forage.  Faraja and Ngasha were busy fighting over who was the strongest and were engaged in a strength testing game which Ngasha won when Faraja gave up and walked away to join Quanza and Lima Lima in the hills for the morning browsing session after which they headed to the waterhole for their milk feed.  

24 April 2019

At the noon waterhole there were some crane bids and buffaloes trying to get to the waterhole for a drink. The orphan elephants was already there and were preventing the other wildlife from getting close to the water. Alamaya and Ziwa seemed especially intent on chasing any unwanted guests away. The crane birds were able to fly over the orphans herd and settled in some nearby trees to wait their turn. The buffaloes however were chased away and returned only once the orphans had left.  

While out in the bushes in the afternoon the Keepers and orphans were surprised by some Klipspringers that appeared on the rocks, scaring the orphans and sending them running off in different directions. The Keepers then had to find them all and round them up but had a hard time finding Shukuru. Ziwa and Jasiri started trumpeting loudly and sniffing the area alerting the Keepers to the fact that they had found Shukuru who could now be seen making her way back to the rest of the group.  Once back she was happy to follow the Keepers who kept calling her and talking to her assuring her that everything was ok.  

25 April 2019

It was pouring with rain this morning which had all the orphans running for shelter. At times the younger boys Alamaya and Mwashoti were seen approaching some of the older orphans in the Umani herd in an effort to hide under them. They approached Sonje and Murera and Mwashoti was able to get refuge under Murera who protected him with her ears and her body. Alamaya could not get under Sonje and ended up getting wet like the others some of whom didn’t seem to mind as the older boys had fun rolling around in the mud.  

When it stopped raining Sonje and Quanza led the rest of the group to the Kenze Hills passing by the Umani water springs on the way for a drink of water. Shukuru was scared by some crocodiles who were as unaware Shukuru was passing by. When they caught sight of one another everyone stopped moving after which Shukuru went in search of Lima Lima who always seems to protect everyone from any danger.  

26 April 2019

The orphans were quite scattered when they were in the forest today which made it a bit difficult for the Keepers to keep an eye on them.  Some wild elephants came to join the orphans and caused some chaos as they got amongst them making it difficult for the Keepers to separate their charges from their wild friends.  Murera, Shukuru and Mwashoti could not get away easily and Sonje ran off while Lima Lima seemed to be a bit oblivious to what was going on.  As the orphans all started running to get away from the wild herd so did the Keepers. While running through the bushes a Keeper was hit in the face with a branch which had him shout out for help.  Lima Lima heard the Keeper calling and came running to see what had happened and found Amos being helped to his feet by his comrades, who then took him to get medical attention as he had been hit in the eye and face by the branch and needed to be treated for his injuries.  

27 April 2019

Sonje and Murera today left for the forest today with Mwashoti. The rest of the orphans headed in a different direct with Alamaya following Lima Lima and Zongoloni as they went in search of browse to feed on.   The orphans were quite wary today following yesterday’s incidence with a wild herd. The orphans and Keepers had been ambushed by the wild group and in the rush to get away one of the Keepers was injured when he ran into a bush and got hit in the face and eye by a branch.  

While out in the bush it began to rain. Shukuru and Lima Lima had a lovely time rolling around on some anthills turning their bodies the same colour as the mud that the anthills were made of.  Alamaya came to join them and in an effort to do so ended up pushing Shukuru away. Jasiri was not happy to see this happen and warned Alamaya to be careful and mindful of the others. Shukuru came back and continued with her game while Zongoloni tried to entice Faraja to join in on the fun and games that the others were having.   

28 April 2019

Faraja, Ziwa, Sonje and Lima Lima all wanted to go in different directions today as they headed out to the browsing fields. Faraja and Ziwa went one way as Sonje and Lima Lima went the other. The two young boys Alamaya and Mwashoti followed Sonje and Lima Lima as they did not want to associate themselves with Ziwa and Ngasha who can be quite pushy and being older, are much stronger. The two youngsters could not retaliate to being and as such can often be found under Murera and Sonje’s care. 

A little big before the noon mud bath the orphans encountered some wild friends who were headed to the waterhole for a drink of water. As the wild elephants were coming out of the bushes Lima Lima alerted the Keepers to their presence so that they could move a safe distance away.  One of the Keepers was closer to the wild elephants than the rest and was unsure of where he could go to get away from them. Murera came to his aid and did her best to keep the wild elephants away from him. Lima Lima came back to check on the Keeper to make sure that he was okay. He then followed the orphans to the waterhole for the noon milk feed and mud bath. 

29 April 2019

It was a rainy day today which made the forest very wet and slippery.  Murera, Sonje and Mwashoti, all of whom have leg injuries found it difficult to keep up with the rest of the group as some of the areas were too muddy and they struggled to keep up as they couldn’t walk on the slippery ground.  

When the rain stopped none of the orphans wanted to wallow at the noon mud bath as they had wallowed enough in the morning hours in the many rain filled puddles.  Alamaya and Zongoloni rolled around on the wet ground which made them a darker colour than the rest of the orphan herd.  Lima Lima, Zongoloni and Alamaya arrived at the milk feeding area and grabbed their bottles to feed themselves. They dropped the bottles as soon as they had downed the contents leaving them for the Keepers to come and pick up.

30 April 2019

The elephants woke up early this morning and began the day by feeding on branches that had started drying and whose barks were peeling off.  Alamaya and Mwashoti tried to eat the bark but found it to be dry, hard and difficult to chew, and they quickly spat it out.  

A wild elephant family visited the orphans this morning and tried to interact with Zongoloni and Faraja who showed no interest in them. Before they could try and greet any of the other orphans Murera called the group away and they headed off to the browsing fields.  A friendly wild bull came to the water hole at noon to see the orphans and found the Keepers there with them. This however did not seem to bother him and he walked past Quanza and Sonje to the waterhole where he was joined by Ziwa. The two spent some time together before the bull headed to the water trough for a drink while Ziwa joined the rest of the group who were leaving with the Keepers for the afternoon browsing session.