Keepers' Diaries, August 2014

Umani Springs Reintegration Unit

It has been lovely to see the Umani herd really settle into their new home, and in just the two months they have been in the Kibwezi Forest and part of our new Umani Springs Rehabilitation Unit they seem to have mapped the place out. The Keepers too are learning the ropes and have settled in now and love their new home. Umani Springs has become a very sought after posting! The orphans here are doing extremely well and are looking healthy and plump despite the dry season. There is a great variety of vegetation for them, but Acacia pods are the most sought after delicacy in the dry season it seems, and the Keepers happily oblige when the demand outstrips the supply by climbing the Acacia trees close to the stockades to help dislodge more pods for the babies. Murera has asserted herself as the one in charge, the matriarch of the unit, but does not necessarily take the physical lead because of her compromised leg. She is more than happy to share this role with the others, but Lima Lima’s exuberance makes her most prone to leading the way. When it comes down to serious decision making however, that falls on the two older girls, Sonje and Murera, and the younger three, Quanza, Lima Lima and Zongoloni happily obey. Quanza is extremely happy in her new environment; she is wonderfully gentle but does remain a little more aloof than the others preferring to keep her distance from humans. She remembers her family being poached and butchered before her eyes and as a result is understandably not wholly trusting of humans.

01 August 2014

The elephants at Umani are doing well and are all settled and browse together exploring the forest daily. Lima Lima today was distancing herself from the rest and walked towards where the keepers were seated, the keepers realized something was bothering her, so they tried to examine what was annoying her, after a few minutes the keepers established a couple of tsetse flies stinging her back, after quickly removing them she seemed very relieved as she walked back to the other orphans. Later during the day Murera disappeared into the deep thicket of bush, after a number of hours the keepers were forced to search for her. Eventually she was spotted browsing a number of kilometers away, but in her own time she slowly walked back to the stockade for the evening, it seems Murera is quickly becoming much more independent and comfortable with her surroundings.

02 August 2014

The orphans spent their day browsing on yellow fever trees instead of their normal acacia pods. After the elephants were satisfied with their browse, Lima Lima led the herd into the forest to continue browsing on sweet branches from Acacia trees. Unfortunately Murera and Sonje cannot always keep up with the other girls, due to their injuries but this does not bother them as they go about their business in their own time now comfortable in their new home. Half an hour later Murera and Sonje appeared and were welcomed by everyone as they then all settled to browse together for the remainder of the day.

03 August 2014

The keepers lead the orphans into the forest heading towards Umani hills, where they fed on the different varieties of vegetations. Especially during this time of year acacia trees bloom and provide acacia pods, the elephants and the baboons seem to work together very well during this season with the baboons dislodging the delicious pods from the higher branches and the elephants deftly picking up pod at a time to enjoy. Our orphans who had never experienced an acacia pod before arriving at Umani have discovered a new favorite food. They all love the pods, but none more so than Lima Lima. After a midday milk feed and a mudbath the orphans were back deep in the forest feeding and enjoying the variety that Umani Springs offers them.

04 August 2014

Lima Lima, Zongoloni and Quanza stayed very close together as they all browsed happily, Murera and Sonje for some reason kept to themselves today. However as Lima Lima began to move off into the forest all the orphans joined together and walked slowly in order for Murera and Sonje to keep up. It seems that the 5 girls all have their own best friends whom they like to spend time with, but when it comes to re locating to different areas they all happily join together again, and are a happy Unit. For the rest of the day the elephants all stayed together as they browsed happily in each other's company before they walked home for the night.

05 August 2014

Today the baboons caused a lot of chaos amongst the elephants as well as the keepers, all the baboons joined together and made a lot of noise which distressed the elephants causing the babies to run to the safety of their keepers. The keepers too are little nervous of the baboons and their unusual behavior today, which the elephants noticed and this made them even more stressed. Murera and Sonje began blowing dust at the baboons through their trunks in attempt to scare the baboons away. Lima Lima, Zongoloni and Quanza stood by the keepers and watched the two brave girls try to fight the baboons. When the baboons finally left, the elephants then were able to enjoy the aftermath of their chaos and searched for all the acacia pods that had dropped from the trees. All the animals are dependent on one another in some way to survive these harsh wild conditions.

06 August 2014

It was cold and cloudy morning in the forest, but when the day begun none of us thought the elephants would bath in the mud, but as the day progressed and it warmed up the elephants were sure enough in the mud having a marvelous time. They love the black cotton mud, slippery and slimy and great for plastering on their skins to keep the biting flies and ticks away. All the elephants played with each other for quite some time before finally getting out and rolling about in the dust as they dried off.

07 August 2014

All the elephants sheltered under an acacia tree as noon approached. It was hot and the elephants had chosen not to go to the mud hole so instead they had to compromise to try find an area to cool themselves down. We found all the elephants busy flapping their ears in attempt to cool themselves down, the elephants even began to draw water from their trunks; this is another method for an elephant to try cool themselves. Lima Lima eventually led all the orphans in the direction of the mud hole. As they approached every elephant lay in the mud for quite some time as they all wallowed together happily and cooled down.

08 August 2014

After the midday mudbath Lima Lima led the orphans into the forest, suddenly she rushed ahead and it was soon that we realized she was following the scent of the wild elephants. Lima Lima is really quickly becoming very independent and obviously remembers her wild herds well. She is a great leader for the others, but the group shares that responsibility with Murera very much the matriarch but not always in a physical position to lead the group. The Umani herd always defers to the older girls for advice though. The elephants all followed Lima lima in search of the wild elephants, it wasn’t long after the search started that Murera stopped following the young girls, it seemed both Murera and Sonje were tired of this adventure and decided to go back home. Lima Lima then turned around and followed Murera and Sonje back to the stockades.

09 August 2014

It was a new day, and it seemed Lima Lima was still on the quest to find wild elephants, except this time all the elephants were interested to take part in the adventure. The orphans raised their trunks up high in the air to try pick up a scent of the wild herd, however the scent was too faint and the elephants had no choice but to once again abandon their expedition. Instead the elephants had their milk, and shortly afterwards Murera led the orphan herd into the bush to play in the soil and dust, it was quite a cold day so sadly there was no mud bathing to be done. After soil dusting, the orphans walked towards Umani hills. Quanza took the lead, and on arrival not a moment was wasted as Sonje browsed on fresh palm trees.

10 August 2014

In was a peaceful day, but that didn’t last long. A sudden outburst of trumpeting and charging broke the silence with Lima Lima charging towards the keepers, the keepers were alert and watching the bush to see what could have caused this sudden outrage. Zongoloni and Quanza were on edge with their ears flared up waiting for some movement. Eventually we spotted what all the chaos was about it was a wild bull in the area which surprised, frightened and excited our orphans, so the keepers managed to get all the orphans to move off into a different location to calm things down. Most of the orphans enjoyed their midday mudbath but Zongoloni seemed to be far more interested in scratching her bum on a nearby rock. As for the other orphans, Quanza decided to annoy poor Sonje by blowing dust into her face and running away, Sonje chased after her but a few minutes later they happily returned together. Later during the day, the orphans came across another wild elephant herd, this time Murera ran for safety amongst the keepers. It was odd to see strong and confident Murera running away, so maybe she isn’t quite ready to become wild yet. Our orphans are incredibly interested in the wild elephants, but it seems they are shy when they do encounter them. All this will change in time of course.

11 August 2014

Murera led the orphans out of the stockades in the morning after a very chilly night. During the night loud wild sounds echoed around the Kibwezi forest, the elephants didn’t seem to mind as it seems they are getting very used to all the wild noises found in the bush nowadays. Murera attempted to lead the orphans to the waterhole, but she seemed to get them lost, so Lima Lima took the lead and within 20 minutes the elephants were happily browsing by the waterhole. Lima Lima rolled around the dust for quite some time entertaining herself with all the dust and soil. The keepers began to call the elephants in order for them to move location, Lima Lima quickly got up and ran towards the keepers hoping for an extra bottle of milk but was sadly disappointed to find no milk bottle waiting for her.

12 August 2014

As the elephant went out into the forest, Murera and Sonje have to negotiate certain routes as they find it difficult to walk in and out of the lava rocks and fallen down logs due to their injuries that they suffered at the hands of poaching. Both Murera and Sonje walk with a limp and find it difficult to move as quickly as the other elephants. They have adapted remarkably well and know their own limitations, and so do the other orphans who are always on hand to offer help, to lead the way or slow down depending on their needs. The life in the forest continued as normal as the elephants browsed happily and played amongst one another.

13 August 2014

Zongoloni and Quanza led the orphans to the Umani hills for the morning before going back to the stockades for their midday feed. The orphans had a productive day as they walked to the mudbath and played in the mud altogether. It was a fairly warm day so they all got into the mud to cool themselves. Lima Lima stayed in the mud for quite some time enjoying herself. Murera and Lima Lima stood under the shade of one of the trees and flapped their ears continuously in an attempt to cool themselves. The wrinkles on the elephants help the elephants to keep mud on themselves to protect their skin from the sun and insects.

14 August 2014

Lima Lima has grown to learn the exact time of which the milk is brought to them, and now her time keeping skills are remarkable. She remains extremely greedy so when the milk arrives she cannot be stopped as she races towards her bottle. She came to us emaciated and extremely thin, and has not forgotten those days, so over compensates now. During the day all the elephants rushed off to browse for pods that had been dropped from the acacia trees by the baboons, luckily there was no sign of the baboons, which can be very disruptive, so it was a peaceful time searching for the delicious seed pods.

15 August 2014

One of the keepers climbed high up the acacia trees in order to get the pods to fall to the ground for the elephants to eat. The elephants all stood below the tree and watched the keeper climb as they waited for the pods to fall, all understanding what he was about to do. The seed pods are definitely the favorite food for these elephants, and in the dry season sustain life for so many animals throughout the forest. Once the pods began to fall Zongoloni began to push Quanza away from what she thought were her pods. Quanza was quick to push back leading the two to start fighting, however Sonje and Murera continued feeding on the pods and poor Zongoloni barely got any pods by the end of the fight. This the keepers compensated for later. It was a hot day, so Sonje led all the orphans to the waterhole where they spent some time drinking water and playing in the mud. It had been a busy day and the elephants seemed relieved to finally head home at dusk.

16 August 2014

In the early morning, all the orphans gathered under the acacia trees waiting for one of the keepers to provide them with pods. So a keeper climbed high up into the trees and once again supplied the elephants with delicious pods. Once the elephants were satisfied with the pods that they had eaten they slowly moved off into the forest. The keepers walked behind the elephants but Lima Lima seemed anxious and waited for the keepers to catch up. Murera on the other hand stopped right in the middle of the keeper’s path and refused to walk any further. Sonje realized what Murera was doing and quite gentle pushed her, insisting her to move forward, eventually Murera began to walk as Sonje followed behind with the keepers walking alongside her.

17 August 2014

Murera has proven to be the matriarch in the little orphan herd, today however Sonje led the orphans out with Murera following her closely behind. She took the babies to an area of thick dry bush where she must of known had no lava stones. Since Sonje was leading the elephants they were all able to browse on vegetation along the way because they were walking at a leisurely pace. Lima Lima is always in a rush going from and to! The elephants explored the bush in search for wild elephants and other interesting things that the forest may have had to offer. Murera played in the dust until she was completely covered in brown soil, then she then led her family home safely where they all slept happily together.

18 August 2014

It had come that time of month when all the elephants had to be sprayed with a frontline ticks control spray, it is a harmless spray and has the benefits of getting rid of ticks and tsetse flies. The orphans hate the spray, Quanza in particular hates it and insists on running away from the keepers. Quanza had a very difficult start to life after she watched her mother being slaughtered, so she still finds it hard to trust in the keepers or any other human. After quite some time the elephants had all been sprayed, however almost immediately after being sprayed the elephants had all rolled in the dust to try get rid of this foreign matter on them.

19 August 2014

The Elephants all eagerly ran out of their stockades in the morning in search for pods, but instead of pods they found Lucerne which was still a brilliant treat. Once they had all had their fair share of lucerne they all walked happily into the forest. The elephants played endlessly in the mud hole and it was naughty Lima Lima who began to spray mud at everyone causing complete chaos.

20 August 2014

Sonje walked out of her stockade this morning in a very annoyed mood, she went straight to find a rock where she proceeded on scratching her stomach very vigorously, poor Sonje had ticks on her stomach which were obviously causing her to become very annoyed. She displaced them on the lava rocks as she scratched and rubbed the rock situated outside the stockades. Later in the day the orphans went to the mudbath and today it was Quanza who walked very slowly and prevented Lima Lima from racing ahead. Lima Lima pushed Quanza to try forcing her to move forward to catch up with the other orphans but it seemed that she wasn’t interested in the slightest to catch up with the others who were so far ahead that they couldn’t even be seen. Once all the orphans were together they enjoyed playing with one another and even playing hide and seek in and amongst the trees in the forest.

21 August 2014

The forest was drying. Murera led all the babies to the mud hole in attempt to quench their thirst, however on arrival there was a very limited amount of water left in the hole for the elephants to drink. The keepers quickly opened the taps to allow the water to re-fill some of the water holes. The elephants seemed so fascinated in the water pouring out of the tap, eventually all the elephants had drunk water and were feeling quenched and happy Suddenly Lima Lima picked up her ears and trunk, smelling the air, it seemed we had visitors. A wild elephant herd had come to drink but Lima Lima suddenly got very protective of where they were and even attempted to charge at the wild elephants. Murera quickly stepped in and led the orphans away.

22 August 2014

It was a hot morning, Murera wasted no time in leading the orphans to the mud hole where they all wallowed for quite some time in a desperate attempt to cool off. While the elephants were busy wallowing Lima Lima suddenly got up and ran to keeper Amos trumpeting in distress, and Amos quickly got up from sitting under a tree to see what was bothering her, only to find a tsetse flies biting her back. Amos reassured her by blowing in her nose and stroking her face, once she had been settled she went back to the mud hole to continue playing with her friends. Lima Lima is becoming incredibly attached to Amos.

23 August 2014

The elephants browsed for the better half of the day, however it was hot and the keepers wanted the elephants to go to the mud hole, so they called by saying ‘kwata kwata kwata’ once the elephants heard this call they all assumed it was feeding time, so eagerly ran to the keepers. On arrival the elephants noticed that there was no milk but realized the keepers were ready to move on. Murera then led the orphans behind the keepers to the mud hole where they spent the rest of the day playing in the mud and browsing on the nearby bushes.

24 August 2014

Today Sonje led the orphans to an area where they barely ever go to, it was further to walk to but the vegetation is far tastier. So one elephant behind the other walked to the green fields and browsed there for many hours. Murera came to keeper Aden and stood there as Aden helped remove ticks from her belly, she began rumbling in appreciation. After Murera was satisfied with their day of browsing she led the orphans to where they met their milk. After feeding on their milk Quanza led the orphans to another place in attempt to find acacia pods.

25 August 2014

Once the elephants left their stockades in the morning, they all went to feed on the remaining lucerne. However on arrival it seemed that a wild herd of elephants had beaten them to it, they were eating all the orphans’ lucerne and the night before buffaloes had also come to feast on their lucerne. After such disappointment the keepers led the orphans to the acacia trees where they happily browsed on pods and forgot all about their lucerne. After the midday feed the elephants browsed happily in the forest, but then suddenly the elephants charged back towards the keepers in great distress. The keepers braced themselves to see what was going on. They discovered the orphans had run into a wild herd of buffalos, so after spotting the buffalo the keepers took the babies to a safer location.

26 August 2014

Sonje left the safety of the herd in search for a tree to itch her belly on, after about an hour she returned to the herd feeling satisfied. The day was quiet as the babies rolled in the dust and browsed on the nearby vegetation; none of them entered the mud hole but instead focused of feeding with some play in between. Zongoloni and Quanza led the way home and felt very good about it.

27 August 2014

When the elephants left their stockade this morning they all went in search for water, it seemed that they all were very thirsty. This is strange as they all have water within reach of their night stockades. Maybe they were preparing themselves for a long day. After quenching their thirst the orphans headed into the forest where the keepers supplied them with acacia pods. Later during the day, the elephants came across the pipeline, Quanza found an area where the pipeline had burst, so she quickly led the orphans to play in the water and mud, the elephants slid in the mud and rolled around playing together for a good hour or so. After the very entertaining day the elephants were exhausted and seemed relieved to be finally going home

28 August 2014

The elephants finally had their lucerne waiting for them in the morning and this time luckily no animal had eaten it during the night. It didn’t take long for the elephants to indulge in their tasty treat, but about 10minutes after they started feeding a wild herd of elephants attempted to join the orphans. Murera refused and charged them, chased the herd away until all the orphans were satisfied with their feed and only then did they allow the wild herd to enjoy the lucerne. The elephants walked to the springs where they came across a number of crocodiles sun bathing on the banks, the elephants were cautious about this.

29 August 2014

Murera took the responsibility to lead the orphans into the forest as she definitely did not allow Lima Lima to take the lead. Lima Lima was desperate for the elephants to follow her so she even tried to change direction after noticing the keepers were quite far behind. Lima Lima decided to go off on her own and wait for the keepers, only later did she join the rest of the herd at the mudbath. Quanza and Zongoloni really enjoyed themselves and spent a long time throwing mud all over their bodies. The rest of the day was peaceful and they were all ready to head back to their stockades in the evening, ready for a rest.

30 August 2014

The babies seemed very thirsty in the early hours of the morning, so as soon as their stockades were open every single one of them raced to the waterhole to quench their thirst. It seems acacia pods make them very thirsty. Murera then scratched her bottom on the lava scratching rock before she led the elephants into the forest. Young Zongoloni was in a very happy and excited mood as she browsed on the vegetation and ate acacia pods. After wallowing, Murera and the orphans headed into the long grass to enjoy feeding on the green grass for a change.