Keepers' Diaries, April 2020

Umani Springs Reintegration Unit

Alamaya’s head-strong ways is keeping the Keepers on their toes these days. He can be obstinate sometimes yelling out in protest when he doesn’t want to do something. At least the Keepers have the matriarchs to help them, and Sonje is always on hand to discipline him and helpfully pushes him into cooperation, rumbling her disapproval when she sees Alamaya disobeying his Keepers. She is also there to protect him however, especially from the other bulls like Ziwa who try to keep Alamaya in his place. While Alamaya is out to prove how tough he is within the herd, this can land him in hot water with the other bulls who are bigger than him! Alamaya is an impressively big boy and is going to grow into a huge adult in time.

01 April 2020

Osama, the wild bull elephant and Sonje’s boyfriend, made up his mind and decided to visit the Umani herd today, to drop in and say hello to Sonje after a long time away. All the orphans welcomed him very happily. Osama showed the Keepers he didn’t have any problem with them, and that he just wanted to feel a part of the Umani herd today. Sonje however, didn’t seem to be bothered by Osama’s presence or the least bit interested in the poor chap! She kept walking away, leaving Zongoloni and Ziwa to host the wild bull and keep him feeling welcome among the herd. Sonje walked off far away from Osama, perhaps annoyed or indifferent after having not seen him for so long! Ziwa and Zongoloni were the friendliest with Osama and were happy to stay close to him. Osama was very polite and well-behaved with the Keepers this time as well, having in the past been a bit bolshie with them, and everyone had a lovely day as the Keepers guided elephants around the forest. Shukuru looked tired today, and the Keepers focused all their attention on her. 

02 April 2020

Alamaya is giving the Keepers a bit of a hard time these days. He doesn’t like to listen to them and sometimes yells out when he doesn’t want to do something, which means it might not be long until he doesn’t want to listen to them at all and becomes more independent. At least the Keepers still have the matriarchs to help them, and Sonje showed Alamaya some discipline when she realised he was disobeying the Keepers who only ever love and care for the orphans. Sonje pushed him into the bushes then warned him with strong rumbling signals.

Jasiri was having a lovely time browsing on all the wide and varied vegetation in the forest found along the Kenze Hills, and Mwashoti was watching and admiring him. Mwashoti then decided to follow him up the hills, leaving the others downhill as they decided not to join them.

03 April 2020

Murera stood around with Sonje consulting with each other about which way they should go; they couldn’t seem to make up their mind which direction to take their herd for the day’s browsing activities. When they finally decided, they walked off into the forest and Alamaya, Mwashoti and all the rest of the herd followed the directive that Murera and Sonje gave to them.

Alamaya spent a good day with Ziwa today from midday onwards. Ziwa, Zongoloni, Faraja and Ngasha still like to come back to visit despite being more independent as they can’t forget their milk feeds. They know whenever they come back they will be accounted for as the Keepers have become more used to the routine they like. They know the independent group will most likely come to the midday bottle feeding and today was no exception. They were right, and Zongoloni and her little team arrived early, ahead of the rest of the Umani orphans, to have their share of milk bottles. 

04 April 2020

Alamaya found a very nice shrub in the morning which he spent a long time walking around and around enjoying every mouthful and feeding very peacefully. Mwashoti walked over to where he was and Alamaya led Mwashoti into a thicker area of bushes to hide from the Ziwa who was rumbling with protest. Alamaya and Mwashoti didn’t want to know what he was complaining about so they went to hide in the bushes further uphill, but Sonje and the Keepers could see them. When Ziwa walked away the Keepers tried calling Alamaya and Mwashoti back down as it was nearly the midday milk feeding time. 

When the orphans arrived for the milk feed many of them looked very dark which meant they had been enjoying a mud bath before arriving for their midday milk bottles.

05 April 2020

Jasiri is the only big bull who has never thought of joining his other four friends out in the wild since he tried it some time back and didn’t enjoy it at all. He didn’t enjoy spending the night outside the stockades and spending the whole night walking without rest. He might join his friends one day soon but for now he is still content staying with the Umani herd.  

The independent herd had joined the Umani orphans in the morning. Faraja found a very nice rough rocky area where he found a good scratching spot for his back which was evidently itchy.

The afternoon was hot and the orphans realised the Keepers were not walking next to them. The caring Lima Lima traced them and found the Keepers resting in the shade of some trees so she called the Umani babies with low rumblings to come and join the Keepers under that same shade where they could all rest from the scorching sun. 

06 April 2020

The young boy Alamaya acted as if he was a big bull amongst the Umani herd today, taking control over the female elephants’ role by leading all the orphans out to the forest as soon as he came out of his room this morning. 

Mwashoti was very keenly watching the footsteps of Murera as he tried to follow her movements instead of Sonje today. 

Ngasha emerged from some thick bushes to join the Umani herd who he had not seen so far today. Faraja and Zongoloni didn’t come back but Ngasha stayed with the herd for a while. When the other independent orphans didn’t return he walked off back into the forest later as well.

07 April 2020

It was as if Murera dreamt of going to the Chyulu’s in her dreams last night, for when she woke she just walked straight out of her room into the forest headed towards the Chyulu Hills. She did not want to stop and browse around like they sometimes do while they collect their thoughts and decide which way they want to go that day; she just woke up and walked straight out towards the Chyulu Hills, and the herd duly followed behind her.

Alamaya and Quanza were play fighting this morning but Alamaya did not take it to be a simple pushing game as he thought he could use the opportunity to prove his strength. Alamaya stood firm and pushed very hard so as not to be underrated by Quanza. He tried to prove himself as a tough young boy until Quanza eventually gave up and walked away!

The afternoon was very hot for the orphans again and they all agreed not to go any farther until they could cool off. By this time Faraja had arrived and he led the orphans to a small mud bath where he wallowed very nicely, making all the others jealous and wishing to cool their burning too. All the orphans had their turn before walking to the shade of some nearby trees and find some nice scratching posts against the bigger trees too.

08 April 2020

It seems Ngasha got left behind by the other three again as we found him out in the forest trying to find Faraja, Zongoloni and Ziwa and pick up their trail. He joined the Umani orphans but did not give up his search in the thickest areas of the Kibwezi Forest. He walked and walked and at long last Ngasha made it to where his friends were; he found them at the water trough around the stockade area.

All the orphans flocked to the water trough as they were all apparently very thirsty. When they were all satisfied Quanza found some soft acacia leaves she picked to eat. Shukuru decided to go up the hill to browse, but she was not able to get past some rocks, so she changed her mind and just browsed along the slopes of the Umani Hill until it was time to return home.

09 April 2020

The Umani babies made a bee-line for the Kenze Hills today, a place where they still find much needed forage and vegetation that they love to eat. Faraja, who has spent the last few days out before deciding to visit his dependent friend today, showed up to join them but not before coming across a delicious shrub to feed on before joining them. Zongoloni was with the Umani herd and spotted him, and she walked over to greet Faraja with a hug using her trunk, and Faraja reciprocated his joy by placing his trunk over Zongoloni’s back; Zongoloni felt very happy to meet her friend Faraja.

Jasiri was with the Umani orphans as well today and at one point he could sense they were enjoying something. He walked around until he found everyone enjoying an acacia tree that Ziwa had knocked down. Not far away Lima Lima was having a rest; perhaps she had had her fill of the acacia leaves and we could see her eyes were closed as she stood still resting against a tree having a small nap.

10 April 2020

Osama paid us a visit at the stockades again today in the early morning, as soon as the babies came out of their rooms. The first Keeper to see the giant bull was amazed that he had come so close to the stockades, as he could remember their first meetings with Osama and how aggressive he was, as he just wanted to move away with Sonje.

Today things were very different and he was not bothered by the Keepers in the slightest, just as he had not shown any aggression towards them at the beginning of the month. Today Osama was a very gentle boy indeed, and all the orphans welcomed him, especially the more independent four babies who spend their nights out in the forest. Sonje and Murera were not as interested in him as he interacted with the other orphans. 

Alamaya showed off how brave he is and what a courageous young bull he is becoming. He wanted to show off that he is the bull to watch in the near future! We couldn’t believe it when he walked up to Osama and tested to see if he would be open to play-fighting, or if he would resist, which was very brave indeed, but Osama was still very friendly and handled Alamaya kindly, even though he was dwarfed in Osama’s shadow! Osama stayed with the Umani herd for most of the day until it was time for them to go back to the stockades for the night, and Osama gave them the chance to go peacefully, and he too walked happily back into the forest.

11 April 2020

Shukuru seemed to make up her mind today that everywhere Murera went she would follow, be it to the slopes of the hills with plenty of food or anywhere else, she was always one step behind her today. 

At around midday the heat was suddenly unbearable for the orphans and they all teamed up to make their way to the waterhole for a swim to cool-down. Ziwa and Faraja took on one another for a fighting session which was a friendly game but Faraja knew that such a game could get swiftly out of hand and that Ziwa has a bad temper sometimes. Eventually he stopped playing and turned away from Ziwa so their game came to an end as Faraja didn’t want to generate any bad blood between him and his friend.

12 April 2020

When orphans came out from their night stockades this morning they were all in a very happy and jovial mood. Shukuru as always was very humble and calm. She looked right into the Keepers’ eye as if she had something she wanted to share with the Keeper standing next to her. The Keeper softly whispered her name and she responded with light rumbles. Alamaya then walked over to Shukuru but he didn’t want to misbehave, he just wanted to walk next to her and the Keeper she was walking with. Alamaya can be very kind to Shukuru when he wants to be.

Mwashoti was also hanging around as if waiting for the Keeper to come over and do the same with him, but he walked away when he noticed the Keeper was only focused on Shukuru. The matriarchs Murera and Sonje were wondering why Mwashoti didn’t want to walk with them today, and why he didn’t wait for them but just walked off out into the forest, but they didn’t know he was upset with the Keeper for not coming over to talk to him too. 

At the midday bottle feeding time when all the orphans had finished their milk bottles, Jasiri felt like he wanted to add some flavour to what he had just finished eating and he walked over to where the Keepers lay out the licking salts for them and other wild animals too, which are full of minerals.

13 April 2020

Faraja decided to pick on Mwashoti today for a little fight, thinking that Mwashoti would be a push over and easy to win against. Mwashoti really gave his all in that pushing match though to show that he isn’t to be so easily picked on and Faraja left knowing that Mwashoti is stronger than he gave him credit for.

Alamaya raised up his big ears ready in protest of the matriarchs’ not accepting him into the herd. Perhaps they were frustrated by his boisterous behaviour this morning. But Mwashoti saw Alamaya raising his ears and becoming upset and he walked over to him to comfort him and they walked off together. 

14 April 2020

Lima Lima walked over to the water trough to have some clean water as soon as she woke up this morning, to help her prepare for the day ahead.

Ziwa and the independent group were with the Umani herd this morning. Ziwa walked with his only best friend Ngasha leaving Murera with the rest of the Umani babies. Alamaya and Quanza were moving in the shade of the trees while the others were browsing when a good-natured wild bull we named ‘Ndugu’ appeared to join them all. The wild bull whose name means ‘brother’ is so friendly he even helps the Keepers control and move the herd through the forest which is quite funny, and it was this habit of his that made the Keepers give him the name Ndugu.

15 April 2020

Mwashoti watched Ngasha today following him everywhere, and he couldn’t keep his eyes off him, as if he wanted to know more about Ngasha and for Ngasha to give him some tips about life outside the stockades at night. Perhaps Mwashoti was wondering where they sleep in the crowded bushes, or when it rains how they find shelter and keep warm. We hoped that Ngasha was telling him how it wasn’t so easy and the forest can be a tense place at night and sometimes their wild friends push them around a bit. This shouldn’t be a joke to Mwashoti who isn’t old enough to leave the stockades and the Keepers just yet, and we hope that Ngasha added that out there they never get any delicious milk bottles either. Mwashoti wouldn’t have been happy with the story of no milk bottles, and later in the afternoon we heard him rumble in protest before we saw him walking off back to where other orphans were.

16 April 2020

Faraja seems to be copying his wild friends that he spends so much time with out in the forest during the night. In the morning when he came to join the Umani herd he sidled up to Lima Lima and started to follow her. Zongoloni passed by him but he didn’t take a second glance at her because she knows that she doesn’t joke around or entertain the boys that much. When Lima Lima crossed in front of him he stopped her by walking in front of her then placed his trunk on her shoulder. Despite only being eight years old he then tried to mount her, but he is still far too young. Sonje didn’t like the way he was messing around and picking on Lima Lima so she trumpeted very loudly making Faraja leave Lima Lima alone.

17 April 2020

Mwashoti went to inspect what Sonje was eating and crunching on as it sounded very delicious to him. He put his trunk in Sonje’s mouth to smell what she was eating and enjoying. Sonje allowed him to do his inspection as she knew it is important still for the young bull to learn more about what foods are good to eat. After finding out all he wanted to know about what Sonje had put in her mouth, Mwashoti left her and walked over to where Murera was browsing to the hills. 

Lima Lima hid in the thick bushes so that the older bulls would walk past her, but when she detected Alamaya walking close by she rumbled to make Alamaya come towards her. Alamaya only responded however with a rebellious rumbling and folded his big ears, telling Lima Lima that he didn’t want to follow her but go in his own direction. Alamaya is really showing off that he wants to do his own thing these days and not follow the older females.

18 April 2020

We couldn’t help but admire how big Faraja looked today as he came wandering through the bushes on the way to the water hole to join his friends after a long night away from the herd. When he linked up with friends we heard happy and joyful rumblings from almost the whole herd. It was Sonje who initiated the happy greeting and then all the others loudly rumbled to welcome Faraja to join them. It seems like they had missed him overnight and were happy to see him back and hear his news. Faraja showed love and affection towards Sonje for when they met he put his trunk in Sonje’s mouth and patted her with his trunk on her back.

19 April 2020

Zongoloni came out from the bushes with a branch on her back which seemed to be her method of keeping the tsetse flies from biting her. Around the slopes of the Umani Hill just before the noon milk feeding, Murera came across a small mud pool that their wild elephant friends had obviously been using. She got into the cool mud bath and covered her body to cool down as it was not quite time for them to go to the main waterhole and she was feeling hot. When the orphans finished their milk bottles none of them chose to go into the main waterhole for a swim because they had all already found smaller mud baths to enjoy and they were already all covered in mud. 

20 April 2020

When Faraja and his friend Ngasha came to join the Umani herd in the morning along the slopes of Umani Hill they began play-fighting. They were enjoying their game until Ngasha started to get a bit more serious to keep Faraja on his toes. Faraja is always tough when playing with anyone however and he didn’t back down, so their wrestling game went on for some time. 

Alamaya found himself a very nice spot around the Umani Hill where he found some soft shrubs to eat all to himself. He ate the shrubs so fast, picking the leaves and throwing them into his mouth, before a friend could find him and come over and want to share the delicious food he had found!

Sonje eventually found Alamaya however and walked over to join him. Sonje is always trying to protect Alamaya from the older boys especially Ziwa. They never meet well, for Alamaya is out to prove how tough he is within the herd, but this can land him in hot water with the other bulls who are bigger than him! Ziwa also thinks Alamaya should be showing him some respect. Whenever the bulls get into pushing fights and Alamaya loses, Sonje is always there to comfort him. 

21 April 2020

The Umani herd walked past where a family of crane birds were headed for their nest but Zongoloni walked in-between them and their nest by accident, keeping them from going to sit on their eggs. 

Faraja the big boy came along from the forest after spending the night out. He is choosing to spend a lot of time out in the forest at the moment. Murera was inspecting him and putting her trunk in Faraja’s mouth to know what he had been feasting on during the night. 

Out along the plains of the Chyulu Hills, which are some of the nice foraging areas, Murera lay down on the ground to try and please the others and invite them to come and play rolling games. When Murera was done with the game however she struggled to stand up. Eventually after a few goes and rocking back and forth she managed to stand up and she felt relieved. Then it was Mwashoti’s turn to stand up and in between all his friends he didn’t have enough space to stand. Eventually he got so frustrated he yelled out for help from the older orphans who came over to help him stand up.

22 April 2020

As always with Alamaya, whenever he wants to scare the older elephants around him, he raises up his ears big and high to make himself look much bigger in size, not be underrated by any of the other older orphans. Within the Umani herd none of them will pick on him for a wrestling match, but when he saw Faraja joining the herd from where he spent the night out, he greeted Faraja in such a way, just so that Faraja didn’t think to pick on him so easily for a push and strength-testing game. Murera then soon decided it was time to head out into the forest and rumbled to the rest of the herd to follow her.

23 April 2020

The rain today prevented the orphans from climbing the hills and foraging along the top where they like to go for the delicious vegetation to be found there. They stayed browsing on lower ground all day today, but as a result they played vigorously in the small pools of water that formed everywhere after the rain. 

The orphans were so excited and happily rolled around in these watery pools. The Keepers tried to get the orphans to move back into the forest to browse but they were having so much fun they didn’t want to listen to the Keepers, and kept playing hide and seek games with them – every time the Keepers thought they were going to go back to browsing they would dodge them and turn back and run back to splash and roll around in the water, eventually forcing keepers to leave them do what they wanted until they grew tired of their own games and wanted to go back to eating!

24 April 2020

Alamaya was hanging out in the forest with his friends when all of a sudden there was a commotion and loud splashing sounds. As they turned to look, the orphans saw a few crocodiles rush back into the water of the Umani Springs. It seems the arrival of the orphans had startled the resting crocodiles. All this noise caught Lima Lima’s attention too, and she thought perhaps something had happened to the Keepers. When she got there, she saw all was well and the Keepers were moving the herd away from the spring.

Ngasha followed the Keepers and his friends out of the forest to the new foraging area. As he walked he plucked a branch from a fallen tree and carried it with him for the rest of the morning.

25 April 2020

As the orphans exited their stockades this morning, Sonje was in a very playful mood. She knelt on the ground, rubbing her cheeks and tusk on the red soil, enticing the younger ones to join her in her rolling games. Lima Lima started to walk towards her, but changed her mind and walked away. Sonje was happy to see Alamaya and Mwashoti looking interested but they too by-passed Sonje in favour of starting their morning browsing activities.

The herd settled to browse on the slopes of the Chyulu Hills. After a while, some of the big boys decided they wanted to do their own thing, and not follow Sonje’s directive on where to carry on browsing. Faraja and Ngasha broke away and found their own browsing spot further away.

26 April 2020

Independent Zongoloni was a little late arriving to the stockades this morning. She arrived to find all her friends had already left for the day. Eager to catch up with them, Zongoloni put to test the skills and knowledge she has learnt during her time away, to find her friends. She put her trunk to the ground to catch the scent of the orphans and set off in the direction of the forest. Zongoloni soon spotted them. Alamaya was already busy foraging so Zongoloni decided to join him and Quanza. After a while, Quanza broke away to find a waterhole, where she spent quite a bit of time quenching her thirst and enjoying the cool sweet water.

27 April 2020

As soon as the orphans exited the stockades with their Keepers, Sonje took the lead and directed them towards the Kenze baseline. This is not always their favourite spot to browse but Sonje had discovered some sweet acacia she wanted to share with her friends.  

The orphans continued to browse in this area but as the weather got hotter, they decided to take a break from their browsing and cool off instead under the shade of the acacia trees. As they waited for the temperature to drop, some of the orphans napped whilst others enjoyed the cool breeze.  

As the sun started to dip in the horizon the orphans made their way back to the stockades peacefully. Surprisingly today, the usual naughty brigade of younger orphans behaved themselves; to everyone’s relief, there was no fighting or pushing around.

28 April 2020

It seemed, as Alamaya walked to the Kibwezi forest this morning, he was in the mind-set of challenging Quanza to a pushing game. This is something Alamaya enjoys doing with whoever he finds walking next to him. He quickly made is his way to Quanza, ready to push her, when Ziwa stepped in front of him blocking his access to Quanza. A few rumbles from both the older orphans signalled Alamaya to behave, and saw the young bull back off and carry on with rest of his day, ideas of all pushing games set aside.  

As soon as the orphans were done with their 11am milk feed, they rushed to the waterhole. It had been a really hot morning and they could not wait to cool off. They stayed for quite a while, playing in the water and wallowing in the mud.

29 April 2020

Murera decided her midday nap would be on top of the dust pile today. Mwashoti walked her to the dust pile and was happy to stand and wait for Sonje to join them. Both Sonje and Murera the matriarchs continue to look after and keep an eye on Mwashoti and Alamaya.

After dust bathing Mwashoti went off to browse. He was evidently quite hungry and found some delicious green leaves to eat. Ngasha was watching him browse but from the shade of the forest as he was feeling the heat and later decided to go for a mud bath on his own.

30 April 2020

The orphans woke up this morning to business-as-usual of filling their empty stomachs. Mwashoti was quick to take the lead and take the orphans, much to their surprise, to an area where a big herd of buffalo were browsing. Realizing that perhaps he had not made the best decision, Mwashoti looked to the Keepers for help. The Keepers stepped in and chased away the buffaloes but in all the confusion, the orphans ran out of the forest blindly causing some panic. The Keepers managed to settle the orphans, and they carried on browsing just outside the forest until it was time for the 11am feed.

The orphans were happy to make their way to the dust pile after having their bottles of milk. Murera, a bit tired from the mornings’ excitement, decided to take a well-deserved nap on top of the dust pile. Mwashoti had the same idea but the lack of space left him watching over Murera as she napped.