Keepers' Diaries, August 2016

Umani Springs Reintegration Unit

There were tolerable temperatures this month in the Kibwezi forest - sometimes hot and sunny which meant that our albino boys, Faraja and Jasiri, had to frequently douse themselves in a protective layer of mud, but when it was cool and windy they raced from their stockades in the morning to collect the acacia seed pods blown to the ground during the night. This helps little boys such as Mwashoti and Alamaya who cannot reach the branches of the trees yet and if the seeds have not fallen they have to wait for a compliant older friend such as Lima Lima to pull a branch down for them. Lima Lima is a very caring little girl who looks out for the younger babies in a thoughtful way. On an occasion when she saw Alamaya about to follow Ngasha up Umani Hill, she prevented him from doing so, knowing that Ngasha can at times be rough with the youngsters. However, such caring can sometimes land her in trouble, for instance when the Keepers had to intervene to prevent her from charging at an unpredictable group of buffaloes one day.

01 August 2016

This morning as the orphans exited the stockades to begin their day they could hear many wild elephants charging about in the forest, making very loud trumpeting noises and blowing their trunks. The charging and noise was in an effort to entice the orphans to join them as they were led out to the forest by Lima Lima. Faraja went off the road looking for the wild elephants but was unable to see them and instead started to break branches and feed on the leaves before rejoining the rest of the group. At the waterhole Sonje took Mwashoti and Ziwa for a swim after they had drank their midday bottles of milk. Quanza walked to the side of the waterhole unsure as to if she would swim or not. She eventually made the decision to forgo having a wallow. In the forest Lima Lima found Mwashoti trying to walk over the big slippery rocks. Due to his bad front leg he was having difficulty getting across so she came over and pushed him a little to help him cross over.

02 August 2016

In the early morning hours, all the babies came running out of their stockades competing to see who would get to the acacia pods that had been dropped to the ground by the wind during the night. Lima Lima again took the lead of the babies as they headed out to the field and the babies Alamaya and Mwashoti began to follow her. Zongoloni however, had other ideas and stopped Mwashoti from following Lima Lima. Mwashoti then made his way to Sonje, grabbing her ear so that he could suck on it and comfort himself. Sonje leaned further towards the youngster who seemed to be whispering to her. A short while later Sonje led Mwashoti to the waterhole for a drink before all the rest of the babies began wallowing in the waterhole. After long day walking in the forest some of the younger orphans seemed to be very tired. Alamaya and Mwashoti’s eyes looked sleepy showing that it was time to return to the stockades so that the babies could get some much needed rest.

03 August 2016

Sonje came out from her night quarters together with Murera, and the two martriachs, made a beeline for Alamaya and Mwashoti’s stockades to greet the babies. It was a joyous moment for the two youngsters to see Sonje and Murera coming towards them. Sone was the first to greet the two, touching Mwashoti all over with her trunk, getting them ready for another day out and about in the forest. On the other side, Ziwa also seemed to be in a happy mood as he played pushing games with the rest of the boys in the group. At the gate entrance, Mwashoti waited for Lima Lima to come and drop acacia pods to the ground for him as he was not able to reach the branches as he is still too small. Lima Lima was happy to comply and pulled down a branch dropping acacia pods as she did so. The babies were quick to dive in and pick up the pods stuffing them into their mouths, quickly devouring them so that they could go back for more.

04 August 2016

When Sonje exited her stockade this morning she immediately went to see Jasiri who was busy eating. She tried to smell what was in his mouth so that she could find out what he was chewing on. When she found that it was nothing interesting she decided to go to the soil pile for a morning dustbath. Sonje stopped by the scratching rock, trying to reach the pods which were on top of the acacia tree in order to drop them down so that all the orphans could enjoy them. Alamaya, Zongoloni and Ngasha were the first to see what she was doing and quickly came over to feed on the dropped pods. At the bottle feeding area Alamaya finished his three bottles first and started looking around for more bottles but came up empty as the rest of the orphans were very quick to finish their shares on time, so that greedy orphans, like Alamaya, would not be able to disturb their feeding session by stealing their milk. Such action usually requires intervention from the keepers who shake their finger at Alamaya telling him to stop stealing milk. The orphans are very clever and always know when they are doing something they shouldn’t, especially when they get a finger waved in their direction.

05 August 2016

Today Ngasha and his roommate Faraja tried to climb Umani Hill. Alamaya saw what they were doing and tried to follow the two. Upon seeing this Lima Lima ran over and blocked Alamaya’s path preventing him from following Ngasha. Lima Lima knows that Ngasha can be very pushy with the babies of the group and wanted to ensure that Alamaya did not get pushed by Ngasha thus ensuring that the two would not end up in a tussle. After the morning milk feed and mud bath, Murera came to get little Mwashoti and the other babies and led them to rest under the shade of some big trees while the orphans waited for the keepers to finish their lunch. Once the keepers had finished eating the orphans separated into two groups with the bigger group making their way towards the Chyulu hills while the rest of them decided to remain browsing at the bottom of the hills as they were not in a climbing mood.

06 August 2016

Zongoloni walked to the thickest bushes today hoping that Ngasha would follow her. Ngasha however had other ideas and instead made his way towards the water springs so that she could have some clean water directly from the source. Ngasha was followed by his friend Faraja. When Mwashoti saw that he was being left behind, he went to Murera and Sonje standing between the two who were happy to have him with them. A short while later Murera raised her trunk to smell the air as she could hear rustling noises in the nearby bushes. It was not long before she realised the the orphan group was practically surrounded by wild elephants, both big and small, including a wild female with her calf who was bush nursing. Murera was quick to move the babies away from the wild group.

07 August 2016

Murera seemed to take a long time to pick the best place for the orphan herd to spend the morning feeding session. After a while she decided to walk the Kenze base line, an area that the orphans had not visited for some time, and where she thought there would be some nice green vegetation for the orphans to forage on. The keepers were worried that little Mwashoti would not be able to make it all the way and would lag behind but he proved them wrong. He was in a jovial mood as he walked along a little ahead of Sonje and Murera leading the group exactly where the two matriarchs wanted to go. Faraja who was walking slower than the rest got confused and started to make a wrong turn. Quanza saw what was happening and was quick to get him back and show him the right way to go. At the bottle feeding ground the orphans enjoyed their milk bottle before looking for some shade. Murera and Sonje provided shade for Alamaya and Mwashoti, who were tired following the long walk to the Kenze hills then back to the bottle feeding area and needed a rest.

08 August 2016

Today some wild bushbucks made their way into the stockades through the gate in the fence line which they found open and started demanding to be given some Lucerne as there was none left due to the fact that some buffaloes had come in and devoured any and all Lucerne that had been left by the orphans. The day was spent walking and browsing with Murera and Sonje pushing Mwashoti to walk after some time spent resting in the shade provided by the older orphans bodies. Zongoloni and Sonje teamed up to look for Quanza and Ziwa who were enjoying feeding on branches that they found which had been left behind by some wild elephant bulls that had been in the area. It was a long day for the youngsters in the group who spent the afternoon walking all the way from Kenze hills, to their night stockades. Both Mwashoti and Alamaya’s eyes appears dull and the two were quick to settle down for the night and were happy to get some sleep and rest.

09 August 2016

In the early morning as soon as the orphans were let out from their stockades to enjoy the lucerne put out for them they found some wild elephants grabbing the lucerne and devouring it before the orphans had a chance to feed on it themselves. The keepers decided to bring out some more in a wheelbarrow, which was something that the wild elephants were suspicious of. Murera and Quanza decided to lead the orphan herd away from the wild elephants and as such lead the keepers away from them too thus protecting their human family. After the orphan herd had downed their mid morning milk bottle they went in search of some clean water to drink before heading back to the bushes for an afternoon browsing session that would keep them full for most of the night.

10 August 2016

When Murera made her way to the lucerne feeding corner, this morning she was unaware that some wild elephants and buffaloes were around. As soon as she got wind of them she quickly turned around together with her babies Mwashoti and Alamaya. Later on Alamaya left Murera to join Lima Lima for some browsing time in the forest while the rest of the group had a drink at the water trough before heading off to join Lima Lima and Alamaya who were busy feeding in the bushes. At the midday bottle feeding point, Jasiri felt the sun beating down and on and due to his lighter skin was feeling very hot and looked for water to cool himself off with. Not finding much water he decided to cover his whole body with thick mud which would actually keep him cooler for longer. Jasiri misbehaved today towards Ngasha by trying to mount on Ngasha’s back while he was still enjoying the mud bath. At the waterhole Mwashoti seemed to be making a game out of grabbing soft grass from Sonje’s mouth while she was feeding so that he could taste what she was eating and find the same thing to eat.

11 August 2016

Lima Lima rushed straight to Alamaya’s stockade when she exited her stocked this morning and greeted him with sound rumbles which surprised everyone causing them to rush over to see what Lima Lima was making such a fuss about. When they saw that nothing was amiss they decided to start trekking to the Chyulu hills. Murera and Sonje guided the little orphans, advising them not to climb the hills, ensuring that Mwashoti with his foot impediment could rest and recuperate. Lima Lima on the other had was determined to not listen to anyone and stubbornly made her way towards the hills. She came across some buffaloes and looked as if she was ready to charge them but the keepers quickly intervened and prevented her from doing so as buffaloes can be unpredictable and dangerous and they did not want her getting hurt. As the day progressed it got very hot which meant that the orphans went in search of a waterhole so that they could have a wallow and cool down and get some relief from the heat.

12 August 2016

Since the arrival of Alamaya and Mwashoti at Umani, Ziwa who used to be the youngest has been abandoned in a way by Sonje and Murera who have become very doting of the two new arrivals who came to Umani about two months ago. Ziwa is quick to make his displeasure known and has made many attempts to push Mwashoti whenever the youngster gets close to him. Today he targeted, Mwashoti who was making his way towards Sonje, pushing him down making him cry out in pain as he landed on his injured leg. The keepers and Sonje were both quick to reprimand Ziwa with Sonje chasing him. The keepers, Sonje and Murera all made sure to warn Ziwa to behave and not bully Mwashoti. Lima Lima came slowly from the far end where she was enjoying the soft grass and some branches to help escort Mwashoti to Murera, as the keepers rubbed his leg to try and ease the pain and make him feel better following his fall from being pushed by Ziwa.

13 August 2016

This morning all the orphans seemed to be very thirsty. As soon as they exited their stocked they all went straight to the water trough for a drink. They assembled around the water trough and drank their fill, drawing water with their trunks, gulping down as much as they could before going back for more. Mwashoti and Alamaya were seen trying to drink as much water as Ngasha and Faraja but as they are smaller they were not successful in their endeavour, but they were still able to quench their thirst. Murera came to get Mwashoti and led him away from Faraja and Zongoloni to the dustbath. The older females were sure to put both Alamaya and Mwashoti between them making sure to protect them from the antics of the misbehaving older boys.

14 August 2016

The keepers were a bit late coming out of their tent this morning to join the orphans who were eagerly waiting for them so that they could begin their day. Faraja and Ngasha often still behave like little babies in the nursery, waiting for the keepers to lead them out to the forest, not wanting to go on their own. The two of them stopped by the gate side and waited for the keepers to come and lead the way and were followed by the rest of the orphans who were waiting nearby. Murera took Mwashoti and led him towards Sonje and the three kept pace with the rest of the group who were being led into the forest by the keepers closely followed by Faraja and Ngasha. As the orphan herd was walking along they are across a wild bull who approached them and the keepers. Everyone in the group got a fright and looked around for the best place to run and hide. The entire group, keepers included, converged around Murera and Sonje who are the biggest orphans in the orphan herd. The keepers were worried that the bull was one that they had nicknames Osama as he is a bit of a trouble maker. Thankfully however this was not the case and the wild bull simply wanted to greet the orphans and get to know them a little.

15 August 2016

Today Murera was busy trying to feed Mwashoti. She was seen carrying grass in her trunk and taking it to the youngster and putting in his mouth. While she was doing this she was also keenly listening to the noises around her and smelling the air as she sensed that there were some wild elephants in the nearby bushes. It seemed that a group of wild elephants was making their way towards the orphans. The keepers are always happy to have wild elephants interacting with the orphans and being friendly with them as this will help them with their transition back to the wild. Sonje and Murera were happy to have the orphan herd interact with the wild elephants today, some of whom were around the age of the orphans. Jasiri especially enjoyed some pushing games with a wild friend before being chased away but a big bull elephant. At the waterhole there was a bit of drama when Mwashoti decided to come and touch the remnants of Alamaya’s tail, something which Alamaya does not like being done as it reminds him of the hyaena attack that he endured. Alamaya was quick to push Mwashoti and reprimand him for his actions making sure to remind him that he did not like being touched in this way.

16 August 2016

Ngasha tried to take the lead today wanting to take the orphan herd out into the forest in the morning. The females in the group were not happy about this and refused to follow him. Even The young bulls Mwashoti and Alamaya who like Ngasha, did not want to follow him and they made their way back to Sonje. Ziwa was the only one who seemed to be willing to follow Ngasha although he made sure to keep an eye out for Ngasha’s friend Faraja as Ngasha often likes to push Ziwa, especially when the two are alone and close together. The orphans were thirsty this morning and headed straight to the water trough as soon as they had finished feeding on the Lucerne that had been put out for them by the keepers. Soon after they had quenched their thirst Murera caught wind of wild elephants walking in the bushes. Sonje had also smelled the bulls and signalled to Murera to lead the babies away so that they would be well away from the water trough by the time the wild elephants arrived for a drink of clean water.

17 August 2016

Murera took off this morning with the young ones keeping them in front of her as they headed to the water springs before browsing their way to the Umani hills view point. Most of the orphans walked all the way to the view point to feed leaving Sonje, Murera and Mwashoti foraging at the bottom of the hill as they could not make it to the top due to their injuries. It was a hot day and the babies felt the heat which made them look for shade and a wallow so that they could have a swim and cool down. Alamaya, who had been following Lima Lima got separated from her and as not able to see the route that had been taken by Lima Lima. The keepers noticed that he was feeling lost when he raised his trunk, trying to smell where she was. When he could not find her he started rumbling and calling her so that she would come out from where she was and get him so that the two could browse together.

18 August 2016

Lima Lima in the company of naughty Ngasha headed towards the gate to take the lead of the orphans out to the bush so that they could begin their day. Some of the orphan herd started following them but soon turned towards the water trough for a drink before the group made its way to the Chyulu Hills Park boundary, where they came across some buffaloes. The keepers were quick to call the orphans, keeping an eye out for Mwashoti and Murera to make sure that the two were following them to safety. The buffalo herd was very big and as such the keepers shouted at them loudly to make sure they stayed away. Some of the buffaloes stood there shaking their heads but they all watched as the keepers and the orphans moved away.

19 August 2016

After the babies walked around the waterhole, looking for water to drink in the morning, the dusting soil was their next stopping point where they all had a lot of fun. Quanza who is quite shy and likes to be in the company of Ziwa or Zongoloni surprised everyone today when she joined Alamaya and Mwashoti. It was not long before Mwashoti heard Sonje’s rumbling call and made his way to her. The orphan herd had a lovely time at the midday mud bath today. They all enjoyed a particularly energetic wallow as the kicked the water, making sure to kick up as much mud as they could so that it would mix with the water and they could get a nice thick layer of mud all over their bodies. While the orphans were wallowing naughty Ziwa tried to mount the other orphans. He jumped onto Sonje’s back while she was swimming but she did not mind as she knew he was just playing and he was not hurting her in any way.

20 August 2016

In the morning sessions before the babies headed to the forest to begin their day, Sonje walked to Mwashoti while at the same time trying to keep an eye on Alamaya who was having a drink at the water trough. Mwashoti was given some loving attention from Sonje, who put her trunk across his back holding him close in an effort to keep him calm as he seemed upset that Murera was not close to him and was rumbling in distress calling her. As Murera was not around Sonje ensured that she stayed with Mwashoti which seemed to calm him down and keep him happy.

21 August 2016

Ziwa was in a jealous mood today and kept trying to push Mwashoti, so the keepers and Murera were on high alert and kept a close eye on him to ensure that Ziwa would not get close enough to push the youngster. Murera kept the two younger boys by her side so that no one would bother them. At the mudbath all the orphans had a fun time playing and wallowing. They had a lot of fun in the water after which they headed to the dust bathing area. After a quick dustbath Mwashoti followed Sonje for a mudbath before the orphans made their way to the Chyulu Hills where they stayed for the rest of the day before returning to the stockades for the night. The orphans did not encounter any wild elephants today but did come across some of their droppings which Alamaya smelled and tasted, which elephants do so as to know which vegetation they can feed on.

22 August 2016

The day started well with the orphans spending the morning browsing until it was time to go the mudbath for their midday milk bottle. Lima Lima, who can be greedy at times tried to rush to the milk feeding area before the rest of the orphans who were walking behind her. As she got there first the keepers wanted to wait for the others to arrive before feeding her, so that she would not bother their feeding session by trying to steal their milk. After finishing her milk Lima Lima went to scratch her bottom on the ground and lay down to entice Alamaya to come and climb on her. Alamaya knew exactly what she was doing and went to climb over her back and scratch his belly on her.

23 August 2016

Today the young bulls decided to take a different route out to the forest. Instead of walking in the direction of the water springs, Ngasha and Faraja made a turn behind the stockade fences and headed in the opposite direction from that the keepers and the orphan matriarchs expected them to take. As none of the rest of the orphans followed them the group of boys had no option other than to turn around and rejoin the group and follow the lead taken by Murera and Sonje. The orphan herd once again headed to the Chyulu Hills today where the babies were happy to get some acacia pods which had been dropped by baboons during the night, making it easy for Mwashoti and his friend to feed on them as they did not need to try and reach the branches and work hard to enjoy them.

24 August 2016

Alamaya grows stronger and stronger every day and today after he woke up he decided to try his strength in a pushing game with Zongoloni, who is older and stronger than him. Zongoloni played with him gently as she knows she is much stronger and as such wanted to make sure she didn’t hurt him. The orphans arrived out at the water trough for a drink in the water with Mwashoti being led by Murera who has taken him under her wing. After a drink the orphans made their way to the bushes where Murera raised her trunk to catch wind of a wild bull who was nearby. Lima Lima saw that the wild bull was Osama and as he can be unpredictable the orphans were a little scared of him and retreated to a safe distance so that they would not cross his path.

25 August 2016

While out in the bush this morning Lima Lima heard Alamaya screaming; he was stuck in the middle of the big naughty boys, and she rushed over to see what was wrong with him and find out what had happened so that she would know who she needed to discipline. Ziwa seemed a little confused and was unsure of which direction to run in when he saw Sonje and Lima Lima rushing over to him. He got a bit of a fright thinking he was going to be reprimanded when he had done nothing wrong. Alamaya was just screaming because he had got squashed between the moving big orphans who were pushing one another as they made their way to Chyulu Hills for the day, so the girls did not need to discipline him today. Even though it was a warm day none of the orphans wallowed in the mudbath, choosing instead to have a drink of water at the waterhole before resuming their browsing activities.

26 August 2016

As soon as the orphans had exited the stockades and drank their morning milk bottle Murera and Sonje led them towards the path that they usually take to go to the Chyulu Hills. The keepers who had started making their way to the Umani hills were quick to change direction and join the orphans. The keepers are happy when the orphans take the initiative and decide where they would like to go for the days browsing activities. This is especially true of the older orphans Quanza, Murera and Sonje how are now wanting to venture further afield and it may only be a matter of years before they start to spend evenings away from the keepers and take the next step to returning to the wild.

27 August 2016

The babies woke up early this morning and were very thirsty as they had finished all the water in their stockades during the night. Ngasha with Faraja and Ziwa came running out of their stockades and made a bee line for the water trough to quench their thirst before the group headed to the Chyulu Hills for the morning. It was not long before the rest of the orphan herd joined them for some water with the little boys Alamaya and Mwashoti trying to squeeze between the older orphans so that they could have a drink. Murera, Sonje and Lima Lima kept a close eye on the two youngsters to ensure that no one was pushing them. The orphan herd made their way out to the bush in single file. As it was a hot day it was not long before the orphans were thirsty again. Murera approached the water pipes that take water to the communities and started to break the pipeline so that water would spill out for them to have a drink. The orphans were very clever in using their trunks to smell where the water was and their tusks and feet to break the pipes and get access to the water within.

28 August 2016

Ndugu the friendly wild bull elephant made his way to the orphans today. He tries to visit them as often as possible so that Murera and her orphan her will accept him as their friend. Today even the keepers were surprised to him standing very close to Murera and everyone was surprised to see Murera and Sonje trying to interact with him and the other elephants he was with. It is incredible to see how small Murera is in comparison to the big bull. Mwashoti was also trying to walk closer to the wild elephants to greet them but the keepers were worried about him getting too close and were quick to call him back.

29 August 2016

Lima Lima was very upset today when she could not see Alamaya and Mwashoti who were hidden actually perfectly in the company of big mothers Murera and Sonje. The four of them were behind some big trees and Lima Lima was unable to see them so she raised her trunk to smell the air and find where they were. After a long day walk from the browsing field to the milk feeding area the babies stopped by the keepers to wait for their milk bottles. Ziwa had an amazing time wallowing in the waterhole and showed off his swimming skills. Ngasha and Faraja got jealous of Ziwa and they made their way to the waterhole where they tried to push Ziwa out of the water so that they could have a turn showing off their bathing skills.

30 August 2016

It was a hot and sunny day today and the heat continued up until the evening hours. As such the majority of the day was spent browsing under the trees where the orphans could take advantage of the shade which shielded them from the sun so that they could stay a little cooler. Soon after the milk feeding time Alamaya went to the mud wallow so that he could splash himself with water and mud in an effort to cool off and stay cool for some time afterwards. At about 5pm Murera took the orphans to find water and was to find some spilling from the water pipelines. The over flow had created a lovely wallow and she took her time bathing making her the swimming star of the day. After she had cooled off she led the group back to the stockades for the night.

31 August 2016

Alamaya is always going to the keepers for the comfort and the attention that he would have received from his natural mother. He enjoys nothing more in the evening than grabbing their fingers and sucking on them. One can always see how happy this makes him as he closes his eyes and becomes very sleepy and not long after goes to bed. Today Mwashoti was spending quite a bit of time picking up Lucerne from the ground which had been left behind by the older orphans who were busy rushing around feeding on vegetation that had been cut from them by the keepers. Greedy Lima Lima was disturbing her keepers by her constant demand for pods from the acacia trees. Sadly there were none to be found as the baboons had been feasting on them. Lima Lima went as far as to check the keepers jacket pockets to see if they were hiding some from her. The keepers were quick to turn her away and send her to browse on the cut vegetation.