Keepers' Diaries, August 2018

Umani Springs Reintegration Unit

The Kibwezi Forest was filled with wild elephants this month, and our orphans socialized with their wild friends on an almost daily basis. The wild elephants are drawn to the different array of vegetation and permanent fresh water on offer in the forest at this time of year more than usual, thanks to the fresh water springs, and the cool conditions of the ground water forest, when other parts of the Tsavo Conservation Area are fast drying out and becoming increasingly hot.

01 August 2018

We were quite surprised to see such a large number of wild elephants with young calves visiting the waterhole and the stockades this morning. The wild herd was heard trumpeting and rustling bushes and Lima Lima who is always the most attentive orphan was the first to spot them. Whilst the herd was unsure of the Keepers, they soon realized that we would do them no harm and gave us space to leave the waterhole before they came down for a drink, allowing the young calves to have a drink first as they seemed to be very thirsty. When at the stockades Ziwa and Faraja spotted the herd having a drink nearby and sniffed the air, reaching their trunks towards the wild herd in order to properly catch their scent. Once the wild herd had finished drinking they made their way back to the bush with the young calves walking beneath their mothers’ bellies.

02 August 2018

The Keepers and orphans were visited by a young bull elephant when they were in the forest today. They at first thought that this wild bull may have been Osama, whom the orphans already know, but upon closer inspection it turned out to be a different wild elephant. At first the orphans were quite panicked by the newcomer with Lima Lima running to and from the Keepers. When they saw Lima Lima calm down they realized that there was nothing to fear and that the wild bull just wanted to come and greet the orphans and introduce himself to them. Sonje, who wasn’t too happy with this new guest, went and pushed him, signaling that he should move away from the orphan herd.

03 August 2018

The orphans having had a good night’s rest got up eager to begin their day. They started their morning with the usual milk and supplement feeding. Shukuru who knew all too well how rough her friends could be whilst eating their pellets decided to stay back and just eat the ones that she found laying on the ground near the stores. Ngasha and Sonje ended up in a shoving competition as Ngasha stepped on Sonje’s pellets trying to get her to move away so that he could grab a few more. Murera, not bothered by the commotion, simply raised her head and then continued to feed while Alamaya patiently waited for the orphans to start heading to the bush. A group of bull elephants came to the top of the Umani Hills in an attempt to befriend and visit the orphans. Lima Lima went up to assess the situation and to alert the Keepers to their presence and to see if Osama was amongst the small herd of wild bulls. It was a particularly hot day so all the orphans, especially the albinos, made their way down to the waterhole for a mud bath. Faraja and Jasiri enjoyed wallowing in the water and when they were done they made their way back to the rest of the group who were relaxing under the shade of the trees.

04 August 2018

This morning there was a bit of a disagreement between Mwashoti and Alamaya as they both wanted to head out to the bush in different directions each one undecided as to whether to follow Lima Lima and Zongoloni or Sonje and Murera. In the end, Alamaya followed his favourite friends Zongoloni and Lima Lima while Mwashoti decided to walk with Murera as Sonje had decided to stop and enjoy a soil dusting game. During the 11am milk feed some bushbucks came to join the orphans at the mud bath area but the orphans were not too happy about this. Alamaya and Ziwa made their displeasure known by trumpeting loudly before teaming up to chase them away as they wanted the mud bath to be solely for Murera and her herd. All the orphans then proceeded to trumpet and charge at anything that tried to approach the waterhole. Not even the nearby trees were spared from their wrath.

05 August 2018

It was a cool morning with the orphans waking up eager to begin their day. Murera joined by Quanza led the orphans into the bush towards the Chyulu Hills where some klipspringers were grazing. Ziwa and Ngasha decided to move closer to the klipspringers and give them a fright causing them to run away. Later in the morning the orphans changed their browsing direction and headed towards Umani Hills. Lima Lima and some of the others followed the scent of some wild elephants, heading in the direction that their wild elephant friends had taken. The Keepers, however, called them back to rejoin Murera and Sonje’s who were headed to the Kenze area then back to the Umani Hills. Today, rather than head to the usual milk feeding area the Keepers brought the milk bottles to the orphans who were all busy enjoying browsing on top of the hills.

06 August 2018

Alamaya and Mwashoti spent the better part of the morning in a show of dominance. After a while Mwashoti became overwhelmed by Alamaya’s strength and decided to run away having received help from Zongoloni and Ziwa who got between the two, leaving Alamaya sizing up the other orphans for some more pushing games. The Keepers and orphans came across a very large bull elephant dusting himself at the Kenze baseline, along the outer limits of the park and forest. Murera approached the large bull to greet him, while the Keepers anxiously and eagerly watched to see how the large bull would respond to her. Murera was quite confident in her approach walking towards the bull rumbling a greeting to him. The bull responded to her advances by walking away. Murera then headed to the bushes followed by Sonje and Mwashoti who came charging and trumpeting up to the two older girls.

07 August 2018

Lima Lima stood her ground this morning to ensure that all the other orphans followed the direction that she wanted to go along the water pipelines. Jasiri and Quanza, however, had no interest in following the pipeline and the Keepers had to direct them towards Lima Lima. There was water leaking out from the pipes at certain spots which attracted Faraja and Ziwa who wanted a drink of fresh water. The water, however, was at such a high pressure that it was shooting out above the orphans head with the spray landing on their bodies. As it was quite a cool morning the orphans deciding to continue moving rather than wait to get a drink. At the midday feed the orphans quickly drank their bottles of milk before enjoying some pushing games while taking a mud bath. Shukuru who didn’t want to partake in the group activities moved to her own little spot where she mud bath in peace. She didn’t realize that she had been joined by some crane birds and was happily splashing her body when she suddenly heard the crane birds scream, giving her a fright and causing her to dash off.

08 August 2018

Today the orphans left the stockade compound without having eaten pellets. Shukuru was the only one to stay behind and she enjoyed picking up the pellets taking her time to eat them as there was no one else around to disrupt her feeding. Ziwa led all the boys to the fields and their group was followed by Zongoloni and Quanza. Once there they found some wild elephants that greeted Ziwa and tried to engage him in some pushing games. The bulls however were much bigger than Ziwa and had longer tusks then him which made it difficult for Ziwa to play with them and he soon left to rejoin the orphan herd. At the mud bath the orphans downed their milk bottle and then entered the water for a wallow. As they were busy mud bathing Murera, who was set on browsing, returned to the forest. Upon seeing Murera leaving Ziwa approached Mwashoti from behind to push him and engage him a strength testing competition. Alamaya came charging in to try and protect his friend from Ziwa who still seems to bear a grudge against the two young bulls who get a lot of attention from Murera and Sonje as well as the other older females in the orphan group.

09 August 2018

This morning a wild herd of elephants with four tiny babies came to the stockades for a drink of water. The wild group was quite thirsty and walked straight to the water trough and started drinking. The orphan herd did not seem to be bothered with the wild herd with only Shukuru rumbling a greeting to them as the wild elephants responded in loud rumbles. When Faraja and Ngasha heard the rumbling they suddenly wanted to come out of their night quarters. They started pushing at the stockade doors and the Keepers had to come and get them to stop and opened the gate to the orphan’s stockades so that they could join the wild elephants. However when they were able come out Ngasha was the only one who did so but quickly reentered his stockade deciding that he wasn’t quite ready to interact with the wild herd without his friends.

10 August 2018

It was a good beginning to the day as the orphans exited their stockades for their milk and supplement feeding. A bull elephant came to the stockades and seemed eager to interact with Sonje who had no interest in him as she was no longer in season and as such was not interested in interacting with the wild bull. On closer inspection the Keepers saw that the bull was Osama and they quickly moved away as he can be unpredictable and aggressive at times. Thankfully today he seemed to be in a mellow mood and just stood watching as Murera and Sonje headed out with the orphan herd to begin the mornings browsing activities. At the Umani Hills the orphans enjoyed feeding on sweet branches until it was time to go to the waterhole for a mud bath. On arrival they found a buffalo rolling around in the mud to cool off. Ziwa and Faraja did not want to wait for the buffalo to finish wallowing so that they could have a turn and chased him away. Alamaya and Shukuru were the stars of the mud bath today, showing off all their skills. Zongoloni and Jasiri chose not to partake of the mud bath as they felt that the water was too cold.

11 August 2018

All the elephants came walking out of their stockades ready to begin a new day. It was quite cold which meant that Murera, Sonje and Mwashoti were moving slower as their legs were quite stiff. As the day progressed it became warmer and the keepers were pleasantly surprised to see Murera trying to run after Ziwa to reprimand him for misbehaving and touching Alamaya’s tail which upset Alamaya and had him screaming for help. On the pathway to the forest Lima Lima came across some dung that had been dropped by wild elephants. When Sonje came across the dung she put her trunk to it, smelling it before picking up some pieces. She seemed to become a little agitated by what she found and the Keepers though it may have been Osama’s dung so left her to her devices, knowing that she would catch up with the rest of the group when she was ready to do so.

12 August 2018

Murera together with the rest of the orphan herd made their way to the forest this morning walking very slowly so that they could browse as much as possible. Ziwa and Ngasha became engaged in one of their usual fighting battles. The Keepers had to wait until they finished fighting but they didn’t seem to be finishing any time soon. Jasiri and Zongoloni came to join the two, trying to bring an end to their game by standing between them. Once at the Umani Hills Mwashoti and Sonje headed off with Shukuru in the lead as they didn’t want to be around the bullying boys. Wild elephants were heard trumpeting loudly at the top of the Hills making a lot of noise as they walked through the forest. Quanza and Lima Lima headed towards the noise to find out what was going on and found some bull elephants with a few females and their babies browsing peacefully.

13 August 2018

At the waterhole once they had finished their milk feed, the babies had a lovely time wallowing and playing in the mud after which they enjoyed a dust bath. Shukuru seemed to be feeling particularly hot today and entered the water to cool off, pushing Alamaya and Mwashoti out of the way as she did so, wanting to have her own wallowing space. She began with splashing water over herself but found this was not enough and started rolling around in the muddy water. After the dust bath some of the boys moved away from Sonje, Lima Lima and the rest of the group. Alamaya stayed close to Sonje as they made their way up the Kenze hills moving along the forest line where Alamaya found some leaking water pipes and stopped for a drink. After an uneventful day the orphan herd returned to the safety of the stockades in the evening.

14 August 2018

Murera and her herd headed to the forest ready to begin their day. Sonje and Ziwa followed Murera closely while Faraja and Ngasha, who did not want to follow the older girls, chose instead to follow Jasiri and Quanza who were headed in a different direction making their way to the Chyulu Hills. Alamaya was with Lima Lima pushing Lima Lima to move faster so that they would not fall behind the rest. At the bottle feeding point the orphans came rushing in for their milk bottles with Shukuru running to get her share. When she was done she requested for more, then she spotted one of Mwashoti’s bottles still full on the ground and seemed to want to come and grab it, but he stretched his trunk towards her as if wanting to push her away so that she could not get to his second bottle.

15 August 2018

This morning the orphans made their way to the springs to have a drink of water before walking to the Kenze baseline. They were followed on their walk by bushbucks and baboons all of whom followed them in the hope of getting pods from the acacia trees which the orphans have a knack of finding. Lima Lima and Zongoloni walked quickly to get to the pods first as due to the long rains there was a short supply of pods to be had and they didn’t want to share with the baboons and bushbucks. Once at the hills, some buffaloes and their calves came out of the bushes and stood looking at the orphans. Faraja and Ngasha were not happy to see the buffaloes and started trumpeting loudly in an effort to scare them away and make sure that they didn’t approach the orphans and their Keepers.

16 August 2018

Mwashoti and Alamaya changed tactics today and behaved as if they were rivals rather than friends, with Alamaya pushing the posts along Mwashoti’s wall in an effort to prevent anyone from getting to the pellets that had been put out for him which had fallen between the posts. Mwashoti saw that Alamaya was in a strange mood today and made sure to stay away and give Alamaya time to calm down. Murera came up to the two and managed to appease Alamaya and the group was able to leave the stockade and make their way to the browsing fields . When the orphans were in the forest they heard some wild elephants with their calves trumpeting in the hills but did not go to investigate as they had their own agenda for the day. When it was time for the noon mud bath and milk feed some of the orphans did not want to come for their share. Murera and Sonje headed straight to the waterhole and mud bath. When greedy Lima Lima saw their bottles sitting untouched she grabbed one as did Mwashoti and the two celebrated the fact that they had acted so quickly and had managed to have more milk than the others

17 August 2018

While out in the forest for the day the orphans spent their time browsing and were joined by Osama and some of his friends. Osama spent some time browsing peacefully with Sonje and Murera who were very relaxed around him. Jasiri came and tried to play some pushing games with Osama who was quite gentle with the younger bull. In the evening five bull elephants came to the stockade waterhole after the orphans had returned for the night following a long day out browsing. Sonje’s boyfriend Osama was among the wild group and continued with his good behaviour. The younger orphans however are all still very wary of him as is Shukuku and the keepers who stayed on high alert until he left.

18 August 2018

Alamaya was in a greedy mood this morning and was aggressively grabbing as many pellets as he could get his trunk on. Mwashoti seemed to be a little upset as he was not eating as fast as Alamaya who was taking more than his share. Mwashoti went to complain to Sonje and Murera who came to chase Alamaya away and give Mwashoti time to enjoy his pellets in peace and quiet without having to worry about his share being taken. When the orphans were browsing along the Kenze baseline some dik diks came running from different directions to join the babies. Sonje was caught off guard by them and started running away. The rest of the group saw her running and thought something was wrong and started running towards the keepers worried that there was some unseen danger in the forest. Murera spread her ears wide in an effort to defend her herd and Sonje came over to help while the Keepers investigated to find what was agitating the orphans. When they found nothing was wrong they were all able to calm down and continue with their browsing activities.

19 August 2018

The mud bath time was full of fun and games today as the orphans came running into the water following their midday milk feed. Lima Lima and Ziwa were the first to enter the water with Mwashoti coming in next, splashing muddy water all over the place including onto the keepers who moved back to avoid getting dirty while still watching the fun that the orphans were having. When Sonje came into the water she sat down on her bottom and began raising her trunk over her head showing herself with water. Murera on the other hand waited until the rest had finished mud bathing before entering the water to enjoy a leisurely bath. After the mud bath Ngasha, Ziwa and Jasiri walked to the dust bath where they threw clouds of dust to over their bodies.

20 August 2018

This morning Shukuru was busy feeding on pods and pellets and showed no interest in her milk bottle and as such the keepers decided to give her share to Mwashoti. When Shukuru realized what they were doing she suddenly came up and demanded her share of milk so that Mwashoti would not be given extra. Mwashoti was not happy about this and tried to fight her for the milk. Sonje then came over and led Mwashoti to the rest in order to stop him from fighting. Murera also came and joined them and warned Mwashoti to behave. Once out in the fields Zongoloni and Quanza walked over to Alamaya and found him pushing Faraja who turned and pushed him hard letting him know that he was not Lima Lima or Zongoloni with whom he normally plays pushing and strength testing games The hard pushed that Alamaya received got him to back away and resume with his browsing activities.

21 August 2018

Today a group of young wild elephants walked up to the orphans trying to make friends with them. Some of the orphans thought that Osama was in the group and the keepers stood back to see if they could spot Osama among those having water but thankfully he was not with the wild group today. Murera and Sonje came up to the wild group to greet them and see if there were any wild orphans in the group that they had previously met. At the mud bath two buffaloes came to the waterhole for a drink but before they could have one Lima Lima, Ziwa and Ngasha teamed up and chased them back to the bushes. Alamaya and Mwashoti also came running up to help their older friends get rid of the buffaloes so that they could have the waterhole to themselves. Sonje was the star of the show at the mud bath today and was able to showcase some of her swimming tactics. Zongoloni tried to copy Sonje’s moves but needed practice. The two thoroughly enjoyed wallowing today as did the rest of the orphan herd.

22 August 2018

All young boys were very playful this morning. Even Mwashoti was annoying his friend Alamaya by trying to climb on him all the time and even pushing him in the back. Later Alamaya warned him to stop and Murera went and stood in between them to prevent what she saw as a situation that might quickly escalate, and Mwashoti could end up getting pushed which would not be good as due to his compromised leg he is unstable. In the Chyulu Hills we saw some spotted hyenas and considerate Lima Lima thought she would inform her dear Keepers to be aware of the potential danger. Zongoloni and Jasiri then saw a baby giraffe and they decided to let Lima Lima lead the group as she is such a good judge of character and is always able to tell if the strange animal they have encountered is going to misbehave or not.

23 August 2018

Sonje and Faraja took off in the morning , leading all the orphans to the bushes, leaving Ziwa behind to follow his own path. None of the others decided to follow him. Alamaya shouted to alert the matriarchs upfront that they should come back to assist him. Little Mwashoti moved with speed to Murera’s side when they heard Zongoloni rumbling loudly in the the forests, when keepers got there Zongoloni was with Shukuru, trying to keep her going onto the hills, as some buffalos stopped watching them closely and very curiously ready to run away. Limalima rushed to the need to end of the forests to be sure if all was good and nothing was to worry orphans when they joined the buffalos, two boys, Faraja and Jasiri teamed up ready to scream the buffalos away but found the buffalos stood their ground and were not moving.

24 August 2018

A wild bull elephant made his way to the stockade area very early in the morning, when then orphans were at the lucerne feeding area enjoying their morning treats. Lima Lima scooped some lucerne to carry on her head and eat in peace to the side, so that Ziwa would not be able to steal any of her share. She was unable to escape with her lucerne however, as she was ambushed by Jasiri and Ngasha, and she dropped it to escape the boys. The bull wild elephant feared being around the orphans when the Keepers were there, so he decided to walk away after smelling Murera and Sonje and finding they were not in season. He thought the females would be welcoming but all the orphans stayed away from the wild bull. At the waterhole the same bull came again to wallow in the water, but now he felt more comfortable to join the babies in the mud bath. He enjoyed rolling around and splashing water on his body, and then he left, walking back into the forest.

25 August 2018

The same wild bull elephant came to the stockade compound today. The stockade gate was left open for the orphans to come out from their rooms. The wild bull was not aware of the Keepers that were in the compound clearing out the stockades from the night. The sweet orphans came forward to protect their Keepers, and Lima Lima, Zongoloni and little Alamaya blocked his way to in to the compound, so he turned away and disappeared into the bushes, leaving the orphans alone. Quanza took over the lead with Shukuru on their way back to the Umani Hill. They walked around the hills today and none of the orphans wanted to come back for their noon milk bottle, so the Keepers drove the bottles to where they were browsing. Later, as the orphans began to make their way back to the stockades, they all decided to walk by the mud bath to cool themselves down as it had been a hot day. Shukuru turned a very dark colour from rolling in the mud, and it became hard to even identify or distinguish her when she was running at top speed with the others. Shukuru lead them all home to have their milk bottles before even Lima Lima! She has lost the red colour she arrived from the Nairobi Nursery with and is looking and acting so much better since she arrived here.

26 August 2018

The orphans came out of their bedrooms ready for the new day out in the forest. Mwashoti and Alamaya lingered around and their intention was to get some lucerne and pellets from the store; they did not want to go and eat together with their friends in the normal area. By the water springs the orphans found some crocodiles getting ready to jump in to the water as they felt the elephants approach and feared they would be stepped on! The Keepers made sure they all walked through the Springs area carefully. The orphans walked very far today compared to other days towards the Chyulu hills. Shukuru and Ziwa were looking for branches to eat while they walked along. They came across some klipspringers jumping along the rocks which gave the elephants a fright and it was hard to calm them down again. Quanza lost her way with Alamaya and Zongoloni who just took off before seeing where Sonje and Lima Lima went with the other babies. It took the Keepers some time to find them again until they just pitched up at the bottle feeding point looking very confused after getting lost while running away from the tiny antelopes.

27 August 2018

The night was full of trumpeting elephants. First it was Zongoloni who started because she heard some wildlife walking along the fenceline, which set all the other orphans off within the stockades. A wild cow with two babies was drinking water at the water trough which made Sonje and Murera pushing on their walls and gates to try and get out to see them. Lima Lima started pushing on her wall as well. Behind the compound some hyenas started whooping which diverted the orphans’ attention from their wild elephant friends to stop and listen to what the hyenas were making such a noise about. Lima Lima pushed on her gate and came out running to Alamaya to make sure he was safe. She charged at the hyenas from within the compound and trumpeted to scare them away. Ziwa too pushed on his gate and walked out but he found the darkness very scary and turned back to walk back to his room.

28 August 2018

In the forest today all the orphans made their way to the hills trying to get some new and fresh branches from different trees to enjoy on the way. Jasiri started to break even those trees that were not edible; he picked some branches and just dropped them down on the ground, we were not sure why! Ngasha went back to pick up the branches that Jasiri was just dropping down. A fight shortly later broke out between Ziwa and Faraja who fought over a branch that Jasiri had just dropped and left uneaten. When Lima Lima came across the fighting boys, she stopped to watch them but both boys stopped fighting immediately when they saw Murera approaching looking as if she was ready to discipline them. All the boys still fear Murera but later they took up their fight again. Quanza tried again to separate them but was unable to stop the fighting duo!

29 August 2018

The elephants left for a new day when Sonje took some of the young boys out, together with Lima Lima, Zongoloni and Quanza, leaving Murera far behind. When Murera realized she was left alone, she rumbled to complain about being left behind. All the elephants who had walked off into the bushes came back to see why Murera was complaining. They came back to find Murera was alone without her friends like Sonje and Mwashoti as all the babies had left with Sonje and Lima Lima, even Mwashoti who she is used to walking along in the forest with followed Sonje. Everyone came back to comfort Murera and escorted her to the forest. Some wild bulls came again to find Murera and Sonje who were very welcoming, but Zongoloni and Quanza are still so tiny in comparison and they left quickly, running away from the big elephant bulls.

30 August 2018

The orphans left to go into the forest a little later today as just as they were about to walk out of the compound, quite a number of wild elephants came to drink water from the water trough and the Keepers kept them back for a bit. Not after long some were ready to leave, but the tiny babies in their group were busy enjoying the muddy water around the water trough and were rolling in such funny styles under their mothers who provided protection from the Keepers, who were curiously watching them. At some stage some of the orphans started to complain, as if they thought the water in the trough was just for them. When they were finally let out, Ziwa went rushing over to the trough to see if there was any water left for him!

31 August 2018

All the orphans walked along nicely to browse around the Umani Springs area, only Jasiri turned back and indicated for the other boys not to follow Sonje and Lima Lima who were in the lead. Mwashoti stuck with Murera and could not be separated from being close to her. Murera walked slowly behind to negotiate the steep hills. Some buffalos approached from different directions and Sonje came back to help Murera blow big trumpets to warn any wild animals away. In the hills, Alamaya lost his friends Lima Lima, Zongoloni and Quanza and he was rumbling loudly, calling for them. Faraja came over and took him to where Murera and Sonje were, then Lima Lima arrived as well.