Keepers' Diaries, August 2017

Umani Springs Reintegration Unit

The two smallest and most recent graduates to Umani, Mwashoti and Alamaya, are growing day by day, especially with all the succulent vegetation around, and are becoming more confident in their abilities and strength. Alamaya can already pick up his own bottle and feed himself and both boys engage their older friends more and more in pushing and wrestling games. Alamaya often plays with Zongoloni as she is fair with the youngster and knows not to push him too much, but the Keepers were surprised when Alamaya managed to push Ngasha as well. He is picking up on some of Ziwa’s naughty habits and the Keepers were worried that Ngasha would retaliate and push Alamaya back but thankfully that didn’t happen. Sonje often rumbles encouragement to the youngsters and makes sure to stay close by so as to offer support, should any of the others become too rough with them.

01 August 2017

When the elephants left their stockades this morning Mwashoti walked to look for Sonje and Murera, who came out but then went straight to get some acacia seed pods that had fallen over night. When he got there they all began picking up the pods from the ground trying to separate them from the soil with their trunks. Some wild elephant friend’s came along but Murera and Lima Lima were not interested and instead led their friend Alamaya away into the bushes. At the waterhole when all babies came for their milk, no one decided to wallow in the water because it was too cold and Lima Lima and Quanza led the babies away after their milk.

02 August 2017

When Murera and Sonje led the orphans all the way to the springs to have some fresh water there, some of the crocodiles were out of the water but before Lima Lima could smell them, one of the crocodiles jumped into the water as it was afraid it would be stepped on by an elephant. The elephants got a fright and then realised it was just one of the small crocodiles. The keepers kept an eye on Alamaya and Mwashoti. Whilst at the springs, Alamaya began pushing Zongoloni; he is feeling very big and strong these days and has a lot of energy, but Zongoloni pushed him back knowing that Alamaya is still a baby boy and is no match for her yet. The older bulls Jasiri and his friend Ziwa were watching how Alamaya tried to test his strength on one of the big girls!

03 August 2017

Overnight some buffaloes came around the stockades looking for water to drink and then they had some of the left over lucerne. After finishing the lucerne they walked around for a bit, which upset Murera because she could smell them but not see them very well and what they were up to. She did not want anything to hurt her babies Mwashoti and Alamaya. At 11am at the bottle feeding point all the babies ran towards their milk very fast, all wanting to be the first to have their milk. Alamaya is the third elephant to be feeding on his own, able to grab and hold his own bottle from the ground like Jasiri and Zongoloni always do. Alamaya enjoyed his bottle, holding onto it very tight with his short trunk, but when Mwashoti arrived he had to be fed by a keeper. Quanza and Faraja wallowed in the water and rubbed their big bellies on some wooden posts after to scratch some insects off their skin.

04 August 2017

It began raining heavily in the night, when babies were deep in their sleep. Alamaya and Mwashoti then heard their roof making a lot of noise and got up very quickly, not sure of what was happening on their roof. Mwashoti screamed loudly which Murera and Sonje worried about what was happening to them, and the keepers came to see why they were shouting so loudly. Lima Lima and Quanza pushed their gates to try and see what was wrong, and Ziwa with his friends Faraja and Ngasha also pushed their gates, which had just recently been repaired. In the morning when the orphans came out of their night stockades, the matriarchs Murera and Sonje patted Alamaya and Mwashoti’s bellies with their trunks to comfort them as they walked out to the forest.

05 August 2017

After the short rain we received recently, some of the wild elephants that were roaming around have left the area as the water holes further afield were replenished and they did not need to visit the springs every day. However some female elephants came around with the tiny babies which they showed to Lima Lima and Zongoloni. Ngasha also wanted to meet the new baby but was kept from touching it as the mother was very careful about her baby boy. As the Murera and Sonje led the others to Umani Hills they found it was not possible for them to climb the steep slopes with their bad legs, so they both decided just to be around the slopes while Jasiri climbed to the top and waited, looking for Faraja and Ziwa to follow him; when they did not follow he just went ahead on his own. At the milk feeding time all the babies arrived looking very thirsty for their milk bottles and after they walked away looking very satisfied.

06 August 2017

The orphans headed to the top of the Kenze Hills today to try and forage on new, fresh foliage there. Alamaya was seen in between the big girls trying to keep up with the pace, together with Mwashoti who was walking behind Murera slowly climbing the hills. Ziwa tried to push Mwashoti but he was unlucky as Zongoloni spotted him when he was trying to pull Mwashoti back with his tail. Zongoloni decided to discipline him and he was knocked down for trying to bully the little boys. In the Chyulu Hills there were some lizards coming out from the rocks and running around whilst the elephants were trying to browse there. Quanza and Ngasha could see something running out of the holes but they could not see them well and fearing what it might be they ran away before deciding to find out!

07 August 2017

The orphans were in a very active mood this morning and came out of their stockades into the forest trumpeting, trying to charge at anything that crossed their paths. Following the heavy trumpeting from the big girls, even the little boys joined them, blowing out little trumpets with their little trunks. Alamaya and Mwashoti did it for longer even after the Matriarchs’ stopped, charging around in the bushes. Some wild elephants were also heard trumpeting in the distance, blowing back in response to the babies who had changed to charging around after the antelopes and monkeys before them. When Sonje brought Mwashoti and Quanza for the 11am bottle feeding, a buffalo appeared, crossing to drink water on the other side of the mud pool. It looked scared by the presence of the keepers around the waterhole. In the evening after a day of long walks and browsing on the hills, the keepers called Lima Lima to lead all the orphans back home for the evening and for the last bottle feeding of the day.

08 August 2017

The orphans found no water in the water trough this morning. When Alamaya went to look for some water he found none inside because their wild friends had drunk it all in the night. The keepers turned the tap on so the babies could have some water. Zongoloni took some of the babies along the Umani Hills circuit, as some of the others headed to the side of the Kenze Hills for more greens because the slopes of the Umani Hills were getting quite dry after many buffaloes had come there to feed and had finished a lot of the green vegetation. After a long walk to Kenze hills, Quanza lost which way Ziwa and Faraja with Alamaya had gone. Alamaya shouted for some reason but Quanza was then able to find him where the other boys were hiding, and she found all the boys there together with Sonje and Murera browsing peacefully. At the 11am bottle feeding time, Alamaya came and picked up his own bottle in style just like Zongoloni and Jasiri do; a trick he has managed to master from watching them!

09 August 2017

The elephants walked a very long distance today, making it very hard to walk back for the midday bottle feed and we had to move with the bottles all the way to where Murera and the babies were enjoying the greens on the hills near the Chyulu Hills. When Lima Lima heard the vehicle she knew it would be the white one, which she knows is the one carrying their bottles as she is very clever! The bottles were being off-loaded from the truck to the ground as Mwashoti and Alamaya came running over and just grabbed the bottles before we finished putting them on the ground! Lima Lima, Zongoloni and Alamaya left after they had finished their bottles and started walking back towards the hills. Zongoloni accidentally touched a beehive and some bees came out and the keepers ran to avoid their stings but some got Alamaya on his little stump and he screamed loudly for help. Sonje and her friend Murera ran to see why Alamaya had screamed but a keeper called them all further away so that none of them would get stung any further!

10 August 2017

As all the elephants came out from their pens to begin their day, Sonje walked to the water trough looking for clean water but found none as it has all been drunk by the wild elephants in the night again, and the keepers had to turn the water on to make sure they got some too. When all the babies got to the water springs they followed the path of the wild elephants and even followed some of the dung droppings to find where the bull elephants had gone. Zongoloni put some pieces in her mouth to analyse them while Jasiri and Ngasha continued looking for the wild bulls to play with. When they found the bulls it was a question of if the young boys would be accommodated or pushed away by the wild ones. When Ngasha went to a big bull and touched his tail the wild elephant was not happy and he and Ziwa had to leave and run away back to the orphans where Quanza was with Faraja.

11 August 2017

Some of the orphans came out trumpeting and charging in the bushes this morning. Sonje joined the playful babies until Alamaya fell over knocking his knee, but he got up again and continued running fast to get away from Zongoloni who was trying to push him from behind in his bottom. The keepers tried to stop them from charging off into the distance but only Mwashoti stopped and walked back to join Murera who had not joined in the charging. The Chyulu Hills was the next stop where all the trumpeting babies stopped and started to browse on the hills there. Some impalas crossed their path on their way out to hills and scared a few of the orphans who then changed direction. It is usually Quanza and Mwashoti who are scared the most easily when something crosses their path!

12 August 2017

As the elephants came out of their pens this morning, Murera and Sonje stopped to pick up some acacia pods that had been blown down from the tree over night. Murera stretched her trunk higher to bring down some of these treats for Mwashoti and Alamaya, who could not reach them. A fight broke out over the pods when Ziwa came to grab them and deny the babies any of those that the matriarchs had got for them. Sonje chased him away and then they all went to have a drink of water before leaving the compound for the forest. The keepers called Alamaya to follow them but he did not respond. He rumbled to Zongoloni and we saw Zongoloni running to him to see why he had called her. Eventually, when all the babies were ready to go into the forest, Faraja was leading with Ngasha and they led the others almost to the hill side, avoiding the springs which felt cold to them due today due to cloud cover. We found big wild elephants drinking fresh water but when they heard the keepers’ voices they decided to leave.

13 August 2017

Murera and Sonje were the last babies to arrive at the milk feeding area today with Mwashoti, who did not want to be in front with Lima Lima today. As the orphans were waiting at the bottle feeding area, some monkeys and some baboons came to the waterhole looking for water to drink. As soon as Sonje smelt the baboons she raised her ears looking in the direction the baboons had come from. Then Mwashoti took off running after them, chasing them as he blew his trunk to scare them away; what a brave little boy! The keepers left the orphans alone when they interacted with wild elephant bulls who were playing with them in the bushes, but Murera kept her distance, watching Sonje trying to play with the big bull. After they all finished their milk bottles the journey began again for the last walk of the day to the Chyulu Hills. Lima Lima and a few of the boys did not like the direction they were walking in and she changed direction, splitting the group from Sonje and Murera. As the orphans were walking along looking for all they could eat, a monitor lizard came out from its hiding hole and ran across Ziwa’s feet. He got such a fright and screamed very loudly and but a keeper called him and reassured him and he soon settled down.

14 August 2017

When the elephant orphans were coming back home from a long day’s walk, they stopped by the gate where they found some pods that had been blown down by the wind during the day. Ziwa wanted to stop at the gate and pick every single one up. The keepers had to try and force him inside his pen but he refused and kept running away from the keepers to try and get back to the acacia pods! He walked outside followed by his friend Ngasha, but Ngasha came running back into the compound when he saw the keepers were planning to lock them outside! Ngasha then sneaked inside leaving Ziwa outside the gate. Ziwa eventually came back into the compound as the keepers tricked him by holding handfuls of acacia pods to get him to come inside. Murera, Sonje and the others had been so good and just walked inside for their milk as they usually do, because at midday they had had their fill of acacia seed pods whilst the keepers had their lunch under the tree by the mud hole.

15 August 2017

A very big wild bull elephant visited the orphans after mud bath at midday. They shared water with the wild bull who also looked very thirsty and had walked very far looking for water. Faraja wanted to play with this calm bull but he was just too huge to play with! Ngasha came and stood next to them both and they looked like such tiny babies next to the big bull elephant. Sonje and her friend Murera and the big boy Jasiri kept away, looking and smelling him from far away and not wishing to get close to him. None of the orphans went into the mud bath to play because the bull elephant scared every one away with his huge tusks and they didn’t want to get knocked by one in the water!

16 August 2017

Some noisy wild elephants came to the stockades during the night looking for water to drink. One of the babies in the wild herd was pushed by a bull elephant and it screamed loudly calling its mother to come and help it get more water as it seemed to want to climb into the water trough. The keepers heard the screaming and came out of their tents to see what the problem was, thinking that something may have been happening in the stockades with Mwashoti or Alamaya. When they saw the wild herd at the stockade they realized where the noise was coming from and were relieved that nothing was happening to their babies. In the morning Zongoloni and his friends headed to the water springs for some water before they walked to the Kenze Hills where they knew they would find some lovely fresh branches that they could feed on. Ziwa has become somewhat naughty and defiant and has taken to not listening to the keepers and going wherever he wants. Today was no exception and the keepers had to get Murera and Sonje’s assistance to get him to fall in line and follow the rest of the group.

17 August 2017

It was a cloudy day today which meant that the orphans did not play the way they do when it is warmer. Murera and Mwashoti feel the cold the most and they struggle first thing in the morning as they are both quite stiff making it difficult for them to walk and keep up with the rest of the group. It takes them walking for a while to warm up but once they do they are fine. Today Murera and Mwashoti tried to keep up with Sonje who was walking quite fast. Surprisingly the fast pace seemed to relieve the pain and stiffness in their joints as the babies made their way to the Chyulu Hills. Some crane birds were flying above the trees and the orphans today. Alamaya could hear them flapping their wings but could not tell where the crane birds were. He looked around to see if he could pinpoint where the noise was coming from but could not see anything. Lima Lima and Zongoloni were not happy with the situation and ran to the bushes followed by the rest of the orphan herd. The keepers knew that the Crane birds were simply protecting the eggs that they had laid which they did not want to be broken by the orphans.

18 August 2017

Several wild elephants came from the water springs to the stockades waterhole to drink and greet the orphans today before they all left for the forest. Sonje and Quanza smelt them before they saw them and they grabbed Mwashoti close to them as they were worried that the wild elephants would try and steal him away from them. Murera seemed to be oblivious of the approaching wild elephants as she was engrossed in breaking acacia branches to get to the pods on them which she was enjoying. Zongoloni, Quanza and Ziwa kept running away from a big bull that was following them wherever they went. The keepers made sure to keep their distance from the orphans and the wild herd so as to stay safe. Ziwa tried to engage the bulls in a strength testing pushing game but the bulls are more experienced than he is and have bigger tusks which they used to push Ziwa whose tiny tusks were no match for their large ones. He had to concede defeat and return to the orphan herd.

19 August 2017

The orphans were eager to begin the day this morning and were quick to exit their respective stockades and drink their milk so that they could head out to the browsing fields. Murera with her boys Mwashoti and Alamaya brought up the rear of the group while the rest of the girls took the lead. Zongoloni caught the scent of some wild friends on the other side of the water springs. She raised her ears and flapped them while Lima Lima made sure to lead the group away from the area so as to ensure that they avoided the wild elephants. The orphans stopped to browse in the Chyulu Hills area but as it was full of small rocks it was difficult for Mwashoti and Murera to walk there and as such the keepers led the group to the lower side of the Chyulus where there was some fresh greens that they could feed on as well as acacia pods in the trees. A fight between the naughty boys Faraja and Ngasha broke out when Ngasha grabbed Faraja’s tail which Faraja was not happy about and encouraged by Ziwa, he engaged Ngasha in a pushing fight to stop Ngasha from grabbing his tail and biting it.

20 August 2017

After the morning bottle feeding at 6am the orphans Sonje and Murera were the first to walk over to the acacia trees to feed on the pods that had fallen during the night. It was not long before they were joined by the rest of the orphans and they all picked at the pods not wanting to leave for the fields until all the pods had been eaten. The keepers waited for them to finish after which they led them to the Lucerne feeding area where they found that a lot of the Lucerne had been eaten by Quanza and Zongoloni who had been feasting on the Lucerne while the others were looking for pods. Once the babies had left for the browsing field a buffalo came to the stockades and finished the little bit of Lucerne that was left behind by the orphans. At the midday mud bath all the babies came running for their milk bottles after which Alamaya and Zongoloni went straight to the waterhole and began swimming and rolling around in the mud, turning their bodies a darker colour closer to the colour of a buffalo.

21 August 2017

During the night some wild elephants were heard around the stockade compound. The keepers heard some loud screaming and came running out of their tents. The keepers first checked on Muerea and Sonje and found them sound asleep. They then went round the rest of the stockades and found that Lima Lima was lying on the ground shouting while Quanza stood watching. The keepers could not see anything wrong and figured that Lima Lima must have been dreaming and was reacting to something that happened to her in her dream. Alamaya and his friend Mwashoti seemed a little on edge in the morning following Lima Lima’s yelling last while Ziwa and the rest of the orphan herd seemed to be more relaxed. At the mudbath the babies took their time wallowing with Zongoloni pushing Ngasha out of the way so as to create room for Alamaya to enjoy a wallow by her side.

22 August 2017

While the orphans were browsing in the fields, breaking braches down to peel the bark and leaves off of, some wild bulls joined them and seemed to show a particular interest in Sonje who was not happy with the attention she was receiving and ran to her keepers knowing that the presence of the keepers would ensure that the bulls would not follow her. Faraja and Jasiri decided to head in a different direction to that taken by the girls, thus disrupting their plans. The boys became very naughty and began climbing on Ngasha who was lying on the ground relaxing. Ngasha managed to get to his feet, despite the Faraja and Jasiri making it hard for him to do so, and was able to get away from the two who thankfully did not pursue him to pester him further. Before it was time to return to the stockades for the night, Mwashoti and Ziwa walked to the water trough near the Umani Springs lodge for a drink of water. The rest of the orphans soon followed and they all had a refreshing drink before making their way to their night quarters for their evening milk bottle.

23 August 2017

The acacia pods that the orphans enjoy eating are now becoming scarcer as it is nearing the end of their season. Lately the orphans can only find a few pods on the ground that they are able to enjoy as they are not the only animals who enjoy them. The monkeys, baboons, bushbucks all enjoy feasting on them as do other wildlife. When Mwashoti and Alamaya exited their night quarters in the morning they found Lima Lima, Murera and the others feeding on pods that had dropped during the night. The two babies quickly joined the others so that they could get some as well. Today a female elephant came out of the bushes with a little baby and followed the orphans to the water springs. Ziwa came up behind the baby and tried to grab its tail. The young calf cried out in fright which made its mother turn around to see what the problem was and Ziwa quickly ran away not wanting to be reprimanded by the wild elephant. The wild cow followed the orphans for most of the day going wherever they went and browsing with them. Ngasha tried to befriend her and she was happy to walk side by side with Ngasha allowing him to touch her little calf.

24 August 2017

Once the orphans had finished their morning milk bottle they headed to the Lucerne feeding area and found some buffalo and dikdiks feeding on the supplements that had been put out for them. Quanza came running in and found that there were no pellets or lucerne left for the orphans to enjoy, but the keepers were quick to bring more! Zongoloni wanted to head towards the Chyulu Hills to browse today but when she saw that Ziwa and Alamaya were not with her she decided to stop and join up with Lima Lima who had the babies with her and was headed in a different direction, while Sonje and the boys seemed to want to go in a different direction entirely. The orphans browsed on the Umani Hills until it was time for the noon milk bottle and mud bath. As they were headed down the hill they came across some army ants. Some of the orphans stopped and carefully sniffed at the ground being careful to make sure that no ants would go up their nose and bite them.

25 August 2017

Some wild elephants came to the stockade during the night to quench their thirst at the waterhole. Before they could finish their drink some hyenas called which brought the wild elephants activities to a halt. The hyenas’ noise woke the orphans who got to their feet and listed intently, wanting to know from which direction the screams were coming from. Alamaya and Mwashoti rushed to their stockade door wanting to see what was going on but all they saw were the wild elephants leaving the waterhole. As the orphans headed out to the browsing fields in the morning they came across a bushbuck carcass near the water springs with explained why the hyenas had been in the area the night before and had been making such a racket. The keepers and orphans were quick to leave the area so as to get away from the carcass and the smell that emanated from it. It is likely that the bushbuck had been killed by a leopard that often comes to the water springs.

26 August 2017

After a peaceful night in the stockades the orphans exited their quarters looking refreshed and ready to begin their day in the forest. Two wild bulls that often come to visit the orphans at the stockades in the night were today found by Murera, Sonje and Mwashoti breaking branches from an acacia tree. Sonje came to a halt and communicated to Murera that they should change direction and the three of them did an about turn to browse in a different part of the forest away from the wild boys. However, Faraja and Ngasha walked towards the bulls and greeted them. The two boys stayed and browsed with the bulls for a few hours until it was time for the noon milk feed. The keepers whistled to call the babies to come out of the bushes so that they could go the mud hole and have their milk. Murera and Mwashoti were the first to join the keepers joined a few minutes later by Sonje, Lima Lima and the rest of the orphans.

27 August 2017

Today a strength testing pushing game broke out between the two naughty boys Jasiri and Ngasha. The pushing game took place at the waterhole when all the orphans were fighting for space in the waterhole to enjoy a mud bath. Lima Lima went to intervene and separate the two but was not successful as the mud was quite slippery and while making her way towards them she slipped and fell into the mud. The keepers were happy to watch Lima Lima get to her feet and continue with her attempts to separate the two boys and were very proud of her when she succeeded in her endeavour. She then made her way to Alamaya who was busy enjoying a dustbath while Quanza and Ziwa went to feed on acacia pods that they had seen some baboons drop to the ground when they were jumping around in the trees.

28 August 2017

During the night some wild elephants were looking for acacia pods and when they couldn’t find them they started knocking the trees in an effort to shake the remaining acacia pods loose. The orphans and keepers were all woken up by the commotion taking place near the stockade and got up to see what was going on. They saw two big wild bulls pushing a large acacia tree over and feeding on the branches and bark while simultaneously looking for the pods. After the noon bottle feed Lima Lima, Ngasha, Faraja and Murera joined forces and went in search of the acacia tree that had been pushed down but the wild bulls during the night. They came across the tree around the Umani Springs lodge and enjoyed feeding on the leaves and branches. They were soon joined by the rest of the orphan herd and they all busied themselves with picking up any pods that had been missed by the wild bulls while the keepers had their lunch under a nearby tree and watched their charges.

29 August 2017

Today Ziwa and Alamaya seemed to be in a defiant mood and did not want to listen to the keepers as they made their way to the hills. Murera, Quanza and Zongoloni saw Ziwa and Alamaya heading off in a different direction and ran up to them. The two stopped in their tracks and rejoined the group at the water springs where they saw some crocodiles basking in the sun on the other side of the springs. When the babies arrived at the noon bottle feeding area they looked both hungry and thirsty. They rushed to their milk bottles, downing the contents as quickly as they could. Alamaya picked up his bottles from the ground and once he was done with his share he headed to where Mwashoti was and tried to steal one of his bottles as Mwashoti is unable to hold his own bottle and drinks slower than the rest.

30 August 2017

Alamaya is becoming a rather naughty boy these days and likes to engage the other orphans, including the older orphans, in pushing games. Alamaya was in an energetic mood today and the keepers kept a close eye on him at the Lucerne feeding area and watched him engage Lima Lima in a strength test. He then went and pushed Zongoloni who was happy to play with him and allow him to test his skills on her, safe in the knowledge that he could not really do her any harm as she is bigger and stronger than he is and this way she also keeps him occupied so that he doesn’t engage the bigger orphans who may not be as accommodating as she is. The big boys Jasiri and Ngasha would not do Alamaya any favours if he decided to play strength testing and pushing games with them and Zongoloni and the other older girls make sure that he does not try to engage them in any such games. When the babies had finished their noon milk bottle Sonje and Quanza led the rest of the group to the Chyulu Hills where they found some wild bulls browsing on bushes in the area. They did not go to greet the wild boys choosing instead to concentrate on their browsing activities.

31 August 2017

Like all babies the orphans are growing day by day and the two smallest ones, Mwashoti and Alamaya, are becoming more confident in their abilities and strength engaging their older peers in games. The keepers were surprised when Alamaya managed to push Ngasha and then Zongoloni. The keepers were worried that Ngasha would retaliate and push Alamaya back but that did not happen. Sonje often rumbles encouragement to the youngsters and makes sure to stay close by so as to offer support should any of them become too rough with the youngsters. When the noon milk bottle feed was over Mwashoti made the mistake of holding Alamaya’s half tail which Alamaya did not like and he quickly turned around and pushed Mwashoti to the ground. Murera was not happy with what Alamaya did and ran to Mwashoti to ensure that he was okay and was able to get back to his feet. Sonje also came over to ensure that he was okay and once they established that he was fine the group left to head back to the fields for the afternoon before returning to the stockades for the night.