Keepers' Diaries, August 2015

Umani Springs Reintegration Unit

The forest has dried out significantly and the days are extremely hot, however the shade of the forest canopy helps enormously. The mud baths and soft earth dust baths are priority for the elephants with Sonje our swimming star. The resident terrapins and baby crocs who like to inhabit the dry season watering points have a turbulent time at this time of year, as aside from the orphans the resident wild elephants, and the buffalos are also converging on the permanent mud baths. The Umani springs are not used for wallowing as they are too deep with some very large crocodiles residing in them, so while the wildlife love to drink the crystal clear water; they refrain from wallowing in them.

01 August 2015

After a long night, the babies came out from their stockades for a new day. Ngasha found a fallen tree which he used to scratch his itchy trunk on and remove some ticks. The other orphans continued walking towards the mudbath for their milk bottles. Jasiri walked straight over to pick up his bottle and held onto it to finish all the milk before walking away to the wallow in the mud bath. Sonje is turning out to be the swimming star of all the orphans and tries to teach the other young ones the different swimming techniques. After mud bathing, Sonje took all the babies over to the dusting soil. Zongoloni immediately went down on her belly feeling the warmth of the soil, savoring every minute.

02 August 2015

All the orphans were very happy when their stockade gates were opened this morning. Everyone walked over to the dust bath near the stockade gate. After throwing some dust on their backs the orphans went to the lucerne feeding corner. Murera was posing nicely for a cameraman who was there to take pictures of the orphans – it was very funny to watch her! She could not have been more cooperative. Faraja came up trying to harass his friend Ngasha spoiling for a fight but Ngasha played it cool. Faraja insisted which eventually annoyed Ngasha so he turned round to face Faraja to play fight. At the mudbath point the babies arrived for bottle feeding. Greedy Lima lima ran for her bottle which she finished fast, before standing next to Zongoloni hoping that Zongoloni would drop her bottle with some milk still inside. Zongoloni was too clever though and she made very sure her bottles had no milk left in them. Lima lima, after noticing that Zongoloni finished all her bottles, walked away to join the other babies, kicking the bottles with her feet just to be sure.

03 August 2015

Due to the dry season, the forest is getting quite dry which forces the orphans to walk very long distances to get soft branches. Quanza was busy today breaking some soft branches and twigs from the trees looking to fill her tummy as quickly as possible. Faraja was walking close to Quanza and Zongoloni who were leaving the thick bushes. Lima lima noticed that she was being left behind so chose to follow her keepers who were not far from her, instead of going with the other orphans who were headed in a different direction to find some greener vegetation. Jasiri found nice sweet branches which Zongoloni was trying to grab away from him, but Jasiri is strong and Zongoloni could not take them from him despite trying.

04 August 2015

A leopard roared loudly last night for a long time near the forested spring area, but the orphans thought the leopard was closer to their stockades and even the keepers on night duty thought so. Lima Lima and Quanza were the most disturbed of all the babies because their rooms are the closest to the side where the leopard was roaring from. Lima lima paced around her stockade looking for a way to join Zongoloni and Jasiri who were in the next door one. Quanza was trying to jump clamber up the side when the night duty Keepers came over to them and Lima lima ran to the gate where the keepers were standing for comfort. In the morning when the babies came out for the day, Lima lima was still very scared. The keepers called all the orphans to their side and they walked together into the forest to browse. Ngasha and his friend Faraja were walking very close together, trying to protect each other from any strange animals that might approach them because of what they had heard during the night. They were certainly unnerved.

05 August 2015

After a long morning of walking in the forest it came time for the babies to take their bottles. Murera arrived and finished her share before just standing around wondering what do to next. Apart from Murera the whole group ran for the clean water trough to quench their thirst and fill any remaining gaps in their stomach. It was Lima lima who led them to the water trough, running as if she were a marathon runner competing with the other elephants. From the water trough, Ngasha walked away trying to lead the entire group back to the wallowing point. A big python, which was also crawling towards the water trough for water, was spotted by Zongoloni and Sonje. They were scared but the reptile was just calm. Even thought the python is harmless to them, Quanza and the keepers did not want to know if it was friendly or not and everyone went to look for Murera and Sonje as because of their disabilities they could not walk as fast. Some of the babies kept on running without even knowing what was going on, which was quite funny to watch.

06 August 2015

Zongoloni came out of her room in the morning feeling hungry. When she reached the forest she busied herself breaking twigs and soft greens to have her fill. Ngasha browsed with Zongoloni shoulder to shoulder as he was feeling too lazy to get the soft branches himself and relied on Zongoloni to help him select the best, soft ones. Ziwa also looked like he was having problems finding the best greens, so he relied on Sonje for help and guidance on how to select the softest greens around.

07 August 2015

Ziwa got scared today by some running bush bucks that were crossing near him. He shouted and ran over to Sonje and Murera for protection. When Murera heard him shout she turned and looked everywhere to see what the problem was before going over to him, putting Ziwa under her belly and stroking him with her trunk to calm him down. Quanza and Faraja who were browsing close to Ziwa also moved closer to the big mothers. When Quanza reached the other orphans, Ngasha stretched his trunk out to his mouth to smell what he was chewing, thinking that Quanza had something nice that he could try and take. When they could not find what the problem was, Murera and Sonje walked everyone away to browse in a different place.

08 August 2015

Quanza came across some dry twigs that were dropped by her wild friends who visited them over night and began chewing them. On the other side Ngasha was busy pushing down a scratching post, as he was trying to scratch his trunk which was very itchy. As he continued scratching, Faraja came from behind and pulled his tail which angered him and they began fighting. When the orphans arrived at the dust bath a baby buffalo, who was coming to lick salt, had a hard time when Jasiri started to trumpet and chase the baby buffalo away from their dusting point. Jasiri thought that it was their territory and not for any other animals; not knowing that of course buffalo and other animals come there every night when Jasiri and his friends are sleeping in their stockades.

09 August 2015

As the dry season continues the orphans feed on all sorts of edible branches before they head back to the stockades in the evening. The acacia pods are the favorite food, and thankfully for the Umani orphans we have many acacia tortilis trees throughout the forest dropping their much favored pods. After Ngasha finished chewing on a sweet branch, he picked up a piece of wild elephant dung and put it in his mouth trying to know what kind of sweet branches their wild friends feed on whilst walking in the Chuylu Hills forests before coming down to the Springs area in the evening for their fill of clean water. Sonje is the swimming star these days. When she feels it is too hot to be out she goes swimming again, chasing away all the terrapins who are basking in the sun shine. She was joined by the other babies who today got right into the water pool to cool their burning bodies with water, and the terrapins ran even further away to avoid being squashed.

10 August 2015

The day began with busy Zongoloni searching in the forest for the greener areas before her other greedy friends could reach the same fat branches and take them before her. On her left side there was Faraja with Jasiri, one of his best friends. Jasiri was putting his trunk into Faraja’s mouth trying to smell what kind of branches he was chewing. He kept doing this for awhile but they were communicating in such a way that we Keepers could not hear. Sonje pushed the other babies to her side leaving Murera with Ziwa near her. Sonje led them to thr waterhole for wallowing and found that Zongoloni had been in the water for a long time. When the other orphans joined she left them there and went to go and dust herself. She was avoiding Quanza who sometimes pushes her hard with her strong tusks. It was full fun mode at the water hole and the babies turned around for a second round of wallowing. Quanza finished and waited for Lima lima who was little bit stuck and started shouting so the keepers went to help her out.

11 August 2015

Quanza, after filling up her stomach with fresh lucerne in the early morning hours, decided to try and sit down on the lucerne that had been dropped aside. Lima lima and Jasiri were waiting behind for Quanza to get up so they could continue enjoying the sweet grass. Ngasha and the other boys felt that it was wiser to go their own way instead of following the girl’s directions. Some of the girls were already enjoying the fresh water lilies, Murera also decided to walk to the lilies, leaving Sonje and Quanza to take control of the young babies. As the babies started to walk away, Faraja tried to smell what Sonje had been chewing on that smelt so nice, but Faraja found nothing other than the same branches they collectively got together from the Umani Hills as they were walking for mudbathing. Sonje pushed Faraja away so he wouldn’t do it again whilst walking with her.

12 August 2015

The time came and the babies came out of their night stockades and walked to the lucerne feeding corner. Upon reaching there the greedy babies picked up more lucerne than they could possibly hold in their trunks, and they dropped a lot of pieces as a result because they could not hold that much. Some of the babies came closer to Murera thinking that they would be safer near Murera, but she did not want a big crowd surrounding her and pushed them away fearing that they might hurt her bad leg while they pushed each other for more space. The pushiest were Lima lima and the naughty boys Ngasha and Faraja, who always push one another. Murera thought she would be safer without them. Jasiri, after filling up his big stomach, left and followed Lima lima to the waterhole to drink clean water because their throats were dry after chewing the hay. Murera and Sonje brought in the remaining orphans to the waterhole, to wallow for more fun in the muddy waterhole.

13 August 2015

The orphans changed direction today and did not go their normal route. They had noticed their usual path was becoming very dry and it was wiser to change direction to get better and greener branches. Because the forest is such a green refuge a lot of wild elephants had invaded the place including elephants coming all the way from the Chyulu Hills National Park, which is very dry at this time. Ngasha got the smell of wild elephant dung and began following them to see if he could join them in the bushes. When walking into the bushes buffaloes came walking out towards Ngasha and Ngasha thought that they might be the wild elephants’ walking to meet him. When he noticed that they were buffaloes he ran towards the other boys Jasiri and Lima lima. The keepers had to intervene and shout loudly to stop the buffaloes from coming towards the elephants who were beginning to charge at them, although they were scared by the big number of buffaloes. After walking away from there, it was time for Zongoloni and Quanza to lead the orphans to the waterhole after sensing that the weather was getting hotter and it would be a good time to wallow in the mud.

14 August 2015

Greedy Lima lima started the fight, when she grabbed a branch from Jasiri’s mouth. The keepers thought it was not a very serious thing and imagined it was just a normal pushing game they usually do. However this time the pushing game changed into a fight, forcing Jasiri to charge much more. Boys always believe that girls are not as strong as them, but Jasiri found it tough when he found Lima lima giving him hard time pushing him over, and it would certainly be bad for him if Lima lima won the fight. Murera was not bothered by the fighting babies and she did not even stop browsing to look on them. She continued enjoying the lucerne and after finishing she walked the babies to the waterhole for clean water. Zongoloni came out from the muddy mudbath, selecting the soft lilies which were besides the waterhole and looked very green indeed.

15 August 2015

The day began well and seemed very busy as the keepers and the orphans prepared to meet Angela Sheldrick with her son Roan. The orphans gave them a spectacular wallowing session, showing off in the mud for hours enabling Angela to take some wonderful photographs. After that they walked to the earth pile to bask in the sunshine. The dust compliments the mud, drying and caking it further, cooling their bodies and providing protection from the sun and insects. Ngasha followed Lima lima to the waterhole again to splash some more water on his chest as he pushed Zongoloni‘s bottom. Zongoloni turned to face Ngasha because she was not happy with Ngasha pushing her from behind. The babies went to the dusting soil where they joined Murera and Sonje who were already vigorously enjoying dusting.

16 August 2015

Wild elephants came in the night near the stockade waterhole and took more time over the night trumpeting and squeezing for space rolling in the dust and drinking from the water troughs. When they finished all the water that was inside the troughs they turned around for the dusting soil. The orphans were very busy pushing on the gates looking for their wild friends wallowing and taking dust baths. Sonje is the only baby who might be ready to join her wild friends soon. Murera is not ready yet and is very afraid of the big jumbos and is always thinking of her leg and the painful situation she went through during her rescue. Zongoloni went to the forest with full force, pushing down trees and kicking down the weaker branches using her hind legs. Sonje joined Zongoloni, and then Jasiri was caught by Sonje when he was trying to push Lima lima. Sonje went between them and separated them as they all belong to one family and have to behave. All the pushing stopped after sensing that Sonje was not happy with their games.

17 August 2015

Murera took Lima lima with her around the dry forests. Lima lima tried to stretch her trunk but she could not reach the tallest branches, and was seemingly so lazy that she just waited for Murera to drop her some down. The dik diks were running through the bushes very often. As Sonje was busy struggling to break some leaves to put into her mouth, a dik dik passed through her legs and then another followed. Then a male bushbuck that was chasing a female girl friend ran through the bushes as well. The babies stopped very abruptly and turned to run all the way to the waterhole where they stopped to drink some water.

18 August 2015

Wild elephants have began streaming in, walking all the way to the waterhole near the orphans’ night stockades knowing that there they will get clean water in the troughs waiting for them in the night. After finishing all the water inside the troughs, the wild elephants turned for a dust bath, rolling in the dust and going for the scratching rock to rub their bottoms and rid them of the very big ticks. When Murera came out, and before she began her day walking to the bushes looking for good browsing material, she started to follow the wild elephants’ smell to the side of the forests where they walked to in the night, leaving their dung behind. Lima lima interfered with the program however and changed the direction back to the waterhole to look for clean drinking water. Murera found it nicer and relaxed in the dusting soil where her wild friends had also relaxed last night. The babies went for the bottle feeding time and had their bottles. Ngasha and Zongoloni saw some soft branches near them, but they did not see the vervet monkey that was hiding on top of the tree. The monkey jumped away to other big trees around, leaving Zongoloni and Ngasha to enjoy the branches before walking away on more daylong patrols. Then the babies headed back with their keepers; Jasiri and Ziwa took another path branching on the left side to go to the waterhole for wallowing again before heading back home.

19 August 2015

Faraja was trying to make Ziwa follow him, and leave his naughty friend Ngasha with the girls. Faraja was trying to trick Ngasha into not going following to where he knew there were good soft and greener branches for chewing. Faraja was shoving more pieces into his mouth before Lima lima could get there too, so much he almost swallowed his trunk! Ngasha changed direction though and saw them as was jealous so he began walking to his friends. Ngasha found a log blocking his way but used all his strength to move it aside and found that it made a good post for scratching his trunk and neck to get all the ticks off. The babies continued with their long day patrols in the forests. They came across water flowing from the broken pipeline. Zongoloni with Jasiri pulled the pipes together for more water to come out and drink with their friends together. Murera and Sonje gathered them together as one family under one matriarch. More water was spilling out with a lot of pressure and the babies enjoyed and thanked their wild friends for the good work they did to break the pipeline so that all the wildlife could get lovely clean water.

20 August 2015

Sonje came out in the morning and started to walk, leading Zongoloni to the picnic site area, a place still with lots of greens and a beautifully peaceful environment. The beautiful big trees there attracted Sonje and Zongoloni to go and admire that place. When Zongoloni reached there she was trying to measure her body, passing between the big trees as Sonje also tried to measure her size on the other side. Sonje did not pass between the two trees though because she has a bigger and wider body that could not pass there. Ziwa relaxed, chewing some dry branches that he found and brought down using his trunk. He was looking at Lima lima who was near him chewing much faster than him. Lima lima thought that when she had finished her branch she would find some from Ziwa who was not so fast in chewing. All the babies turned up for wallowing then went for dusting soil, throwing big chunks of dust on their back and rolling in the loose soil; it felt good to bask in the warm sun.

21 August 2015

Ziwa is slowly tuning into becoming one of the greedy boys of the Umani orphans. Every time at feeding he demands more milk than even his tummy will allow. This is a new characteristic which has only started since his friend and former roommate Balguda went back to the nursery. Now Ziwa tries to demand the two bottles that were being given to Balguda who was his best friend, together with Sonje. Now he is spending more time with Sonje and pleading to be adopted by her but Sonje ignores his requests because she already dotes on Zongoloni; Zongoloni would be very jealous and may try to fight him all the time due to ladies jealousy and because she and Sonje had been great friends since even before Ziwa came to Umani. Milk bottles were prepared near the stockades today since the babies did not go far for to browse. When they came back for bottle feeding Lima lima took off leading Quanza back inside their night stockades looking for the fresh greens that had just arrived by tractor. They thought they would take some out with them but keepers blocked them; Lima lima still managed to come out with some in her mouth though. Murera and Sonje, with the help of their loving keepers, took the babies to the water troughs because they were looking very thirsty and feeling very hot due to the sun shining all the day. The keepers were between the babies walking slowly to the waterhole when they saw them all raise their trunks high over their heads, smelling something in the distance. The keepers did not know that they had already got the smell of some wild bulls walking to the waterhole for clean water and wallowing as well. However the wild bulls stopped on way the way after sensing the keepers were with the babies. Sonje took off with Lima lima and found one bull was asleep. When Sonje pushed Lima lima to him he woke up to see them and pushed Lima lima and Sonje back to their keepers who were waiting close by. When they saw Limalima and Sonje being driven back by the wild bull the keepers decided to move away with the other babies so there would not be trouble.

22 August 2015

The happy babies in the morning showed their happiness when they got to the bushes to browse on new vegetation after a long night in the stockades. The orphans were struggling to break down some of the big branches they came across. But they used their strong trunks to move break them. The keepers thought Zongoloni looked strong for an elephant of her age, but there are thousands of muscles in an elephant’s trunk that make it easy for Zongoloni to break down branches. If the branch is too strong for her, then she uses her legs too to kick and break it down too. Quanza and Lima lima pushed the orphans to another new browsing area near the water spring, the only place with greener pastures for all the orphans and the wild friends coming together in the night looking for what might satisfy them. As Quanza and her friend Lima lima were busy walking and pushing each other towards the water spring, the baby crocodiles were basking in the sun near the water. Lima lima did not know about them but she heard them jumping into the water as they did not want to be squashed by the elephants.

23 August 2015

Zongoloni and Lima lima were showing how great friends they were by putting their trunks together to grab some dry leaves together in solidarity. They are one family who came together as sisters after human killed their mothers in the wild. But Zongoloni could not trust Lima lima too much as Lima lima could not be trusted at feeding time. She changes her moods and sometimes chews very fast to grab more food; no elephant would attempt to trust Lima lima because of her greedy character. The day turned very hot after bottle feeding so all the baby elephants took off for the wallowing point. As the orphans were getting quick getting into the water pool excited for their wallowing session the turtles had to flee or be squashed by the running babies. Some turtles lost their direction of which way to run and jumped over the orphans who were rolling nicely deep inside the waterhole. The babies were a bit nervous of what was jumping over their backs whilst they were wallowing!

24 August 2015

Faraja and Ngasha, the naughty boys, came out into the bushes looking hard for what they could fill up their empty tummies with. They started by breaking down all the branches they came across as if they were competing with Lima lima who was already enjoying her browsing peacefully. Lima lima normally has a very strong ability of eating fast and no one could afford to be left behind or there would be nothing left! Ziwa was behind them dusting his back with the soft dusting soil, using his trunk to throw more dust over himself. Murera and Zongoloni stood together looking at how Lima lima was lying on the dusting soil enjoying the sunshine after splashing water on her body. Quanza with the other babies, led the big mothers Murera and Sonje to the waterhole to wallow. When Sonje reached there and saw how nice the mudbath was she jumped in and began wallowing in style – she was the swimming star of the day.

25 August 2015

Today the babies changed their normal browsing tactics. When everyone came out from their stockades they all came out individually walking to the forests; starting with Murera, followed closely by Lima lima who walked in another direction, then Zongoloni appeared going a different direction again to the other two. Quanza found a very nice place with soft greens and was kind enough to rumble to her friends to go to the side she was breaking the branches on so they could browse together. Lima lima changed direction and found her way to Quanza, reaching there before Jasiri could come. By the time he joined them he found Quanza and Lima lima already finishing the nice juicy branch Quanza had brought down. The pushing then started with Jasiri not happy with Lima lima. Jasiri knocked against a big, tall tree without knowing that high up in the tree a leopard had left a baboon carcass. This dropped on their backs as they were busy pushing each other and when the carcass landed on Jasiri’s back the fighting ended in a hurry as all the elephants stopped and ran to the keepers. The keepers had been standing and watching, but they had been thinking how strong Lima lima was getting and that Jasiri could not actually push her that easily.

26 August 2015

Jasiri was clever and followed the path they used yesterday while walking to the forests towards the water spring area, a place with very many green types of vegetation. The babies followed Sonje and Murera who walked them to the lovely point yesterday with the fresh water and rock minerals. Jasiri remembered the path so well too, using his trunk to smell the right directions. Because Jasiri was very thirsty he went in the direction that led him to the clean sparkling water and the other babies followed him too to quench their thirst in the early morning. Above them, on the hill side, there was a wild elephant that came with her baby to drink water with the orphans at the same time. The wild elephant with her baby tried to wait for the orphans to drink and leave the water point, but the baby was trying to charge Zongoloni and Quanza who trying to play. The baby turned to her mothers’ breast to suckle for milk and as the keepers were talking not far away, the mother pushed her baby in front and they walked away peacefully. The wild elephants still need to get used to the presence of the orphan’s keepers too.

27 August 2015

The first stop for the babies in the morning was again the spring water point to quench their thirst with the clean sparkling water coming all the way from Mount Kilimanjaro. Lima lima decided to go on a different side of the spring while Murera and the other babies were busy enjoying the clean water. Lima lima was struggling to pick up some dry leaves and put them in her mouth, while Sonje was trying to calm Ziwa down who was pushed back by Ngasha. Sonje believes that Ziwa might be her next favourable baby boy to adopt after Balguda was taken back to the nursery. When they arrived at the water troughs, looking for the clean drinking water near their stockades, Jasiri started a fight with Ngasha who he did not want near him. He began signalling Ngasha with his long trunk showing him to keep away from the water trough. Ngasha tried so hard to put in more efforts so Jasiri could not fight him easily and the fighting continued until Limalima came to intervene; because they all belong to one family under Murera. When the fight stopped Lima lima turned happily around and ran to the dusting soil and sat down showing a very big smile.

28 August 2015

It was too hot for the babies today which forced them into the shade to stop their bodies from burning. Zongoloni did not follow Sonje because she was jealous of Ziwa who Sonje took closer to her. Zongoloni decided to keep away from them and she went away selecting some leaves that were dropped by baboons jumping between the trees searching for pods. Lima lima headed for the milk feeding point running at top speed to be fed first before other friends. She wanted to finish her share and look for more that she could take from her friends. She only managed to get some from Ngasha after grabbing the bottle from Ngasha’s mouth whilst he was drinking slowly. Greedy Lima lima!

29 August 2015

At midday Lima lima took off walking away from the bottle feeding ground to the waterhole. She was sneezing trying to remove some dust from inside her trunk and the keepers panicked, thinking that there was wild elephants surrounding them in the dense undergrowth, but as it turned out there was no wild elephant it was only the sneezing Lima lima. Jasiri and his friend Faraja ran to the water hole to cool down their hot bodies under the hot midday sun, due to their light albino skin they need to cake themselves in mud more than the others, and are aware of this. Living in a forest environment has been helpful for them. Jasiri kept smearing his body with heavy thick mud to help prevent the strong sun from burning him. Jasiri and Faraja turned their body colour very dark and no one would be able tell the two albinos apart; their keepers had to call their names to recognize them.

30 August 2015

Sonje and Murera took on the leadership from the young Lima lima to lead all the babies to the forests following the paths that led them to the water spring to quench their thirst. After drinking water from the springs, Sonje kept on walking to browse, as Murera was also walking around patiently looking for greener bushes. Murera continued walking around the bushes and came across a rock hyrax which seemed to have lost its way and where the rocky areas were within the Kibwezi forest. When it was time to go wallowing, Ngasha was leading before he was overtaken by Faraja who was competing with him to be the first to open the wallowing session. From there, Ziwa, who is turning out to be a strong and active baby boy, ran away to start dusting. Sonje was trying to blow very big dust on her back to chase away the horrid teste flies that were biting her.

31 August 2015

Jasiri came out from the stockades early in the morning looking strong. When Jasiri reached outside the gate he faced Lima lima and showed her a very big smiling face. Lima lima responded to the big smile and they interlocked their trunks together as a sign of happiness or saying hello in the morning. Lima lima changed direction to get ready for a pushing game behind her, but Murera was on the other side dusting, carefully watching the two babies pushing, and she got up from the ground to intervene in the pushing game before it became a proper fight.