The Umani Unit is our most recently built rehabilitation facility, and was created considering some of our more compromised elephant orphans, ones who have come to us with horrendous injuries that have left them unable to traverse vast distances in search of food in the dry seasons, so to ease them into a wild life, Umani is ideal.
Since the heavy rains in November there is a lot of nice fresh vegetation around for the orphan elephants. This means they can browse happily without having to walk long distances looking for enough vegetation.
Today Murera, Mwashoti and Sonje just disappeared into the forest and the next time we saw them was mud bath time around 11am, when it is bottle feeding time as well, and they came running into the clearing.
It was Lima Lima and Ziwa’s duty to lead them all back out again for the rest of the day. It began raining as the orphans were still browsing in the bushes along the Chyulu Hills. It was almost time to return back to the stockades and Mwashoti was struggling to find. It was raining very hard and there was a strong wind as well. Alamaya, with the help of Lima Lima, managed to trace the smell of the others and they found which way they had gone.
Instead of leaving the Lucerne pellet feeding area to go out into the forest to browse, Lima Lima decided to walk back to the Lucerne store and push some of the Lucerne bails down to the ground. The Keepers found her and she evidently felt very guilty, as she ran away to avoid being told off. Then she found none of the others had waited for her and they had all left for the forest ages ago. She looked around confused and raised her trunk in the air to try and locate the direction the others had taken. Ngasha trumpeted to respond to her rumbling inquires and they warmly welcomed her when she caught up with them.
Wild elephants came along to the stockades showing an interest in greeting the orphans. Mwashoti did not welcome the idea of the wild bulls coming to the stockade and was worried Sonje and Murera might leave with them. Mwashoti gave out a strong warning to the bulls by trumpeting loudly, which prompted Alamaya to do the same. Lima Lima and Quanza tried to calm the youngsters down.
The big boys, Ziwa, Ngasha and Jasiri, walked down the path taken by the bulls and found their dung, but they did not find the bulls again. This forced Faraja to lead the others away to go and browse along the Umani Hill circuit instead. They found a lot of nice food to eat here, with nice soft branches and grass too.
Murera and Sonje were very uncomfortable in the morning as all the rain during the night had made their bad legs very stiff and the paths very slippery for them to walk on. The slippery paths made it hard for the two girls and Mwashoti to climb the hills as they walked through the forest with the others. Sometimes we saw them reversing backwards when they encountered a patch of mud that was too tricky for them to walk through. At one point, Jasiri and Ngasha joined Murera to help push her from her bottom to see if that would help her negotiate the difficult path. The boys managed to push her out to the flat area, free from the slippery paths, where she re-joined her friends. She was very grateful to the young bulls, who are normally quite naughty, but evidently will still help their matriarch when she is in need.
There was no rain last night so the orphans had a very good morning as the pathways were a little drier, so Murera and her friend Sonje could walk along the paths without any trouble today. Mwashoti followed them with ease as well, to browse in the bushes along the Umani Hills.
The waterholes in the forest have been filled to the brim with all the rain, and Shukuru and Lima Lima found it very nice to wallow and play around in these natural waterholes. They found that some wild elephants had been wallowing in some of them over night and left their scent there. Ngasha came trying to join Shukuru but Shukuru left because she did not trust him in the water pool with her. She remembers the time they all tried to climb on her in the other mud bath and she has not forgiven them!
When all the elephants arrived and at the bottle feeding point, Shukuru drank her share and moved far away to the water trough to have a drink of clean water. When she saw the other boys following her, she confused them by walking to another area. She doesn’t like being associated with the naughty pushing boys because she is a nice quiet girl and not a trouble maker at all, so she likes to avoid confrontation if at all possible. The Keepers think she is the quietest and most kind orphan so far!
The morning breakfast session began well with most of the boys being very playful and conducting their pushing games right up until it was time to go out to browse. The fight only ended when Sonje stepped in between them to put a stop to their games. Ngasha and Faraja took over the fighting from Ziwa, who they chased away to keep from fighting his friend Alamaya. Alamaya was showing real fighting spirit, and it was clear he wanted no one to underestimate him for being too young or tiny. Alamaya is very strong, and he took on the bushes surrounding them to further demonstrate his strength with back kicks and pushing against all the little trees in the stockade area. The Keepers tried to put a stop to their destructive games but Faraja just blew a big trumpet and ran off with his friends into the forest.
Just as the orphans came to the top of the hills they were climbing they heard some wild elephants up there as well. Some buffaloes that were browsing in the bushes gave the Keepers a fright as they had not seen them. As usual it was Lima Lima who was paying attention and notified the Keepers. She noticed the buffaloes and other wild elephants around who were browsing and grazing on the bushes. When Lima Lima and Zongoloni stepped back and charged towards them, the Keepers realised the buffaloes and elephants were very close.
Some bushbucks arrived at the waterhole to drink and lick some of the salt lick put there by the Keepers for the wild animals, but all the rain recently had washed most of the salt away and there was nothing there for them at the moment. This meant it was just the elephant orphans left in the mud bath area. Mwashoti saw the bushbucks leaving and decided to trumpet after to make sure they really left and went back into the forest.
Alamaya decided to hang back in his stockade this morning even though he had finished his milk bottles and his gate was left open for him to come out. Eventually Lima Lima approached him to understand why he was not coming out. Then we understood that he was hatching a plan to reach the Lucerne store and snatch four bails which he struggled to run away with! The Keepers went to stop him so he would not drop all the bails on the ground, but Lima Lima came up behind him and helped him run off with another bail into the forest. Then it was very big fight among all the orphans who were now fighting over the bails. Alamaya got pushed in the melee.
The ground is still very slippery whenever it rains, and it is still hard for Sonje, Mwashoti and Murera to keep pace with the others when the ground is like this. Murera managed to walk over to Shukuru, and join her to browse around the hills without the pushing boys that Shukuru don’t like to associate with; she mostly tries to avoid the trouble makers Ziwa, Ngasha and Faraja.
On the way home today, Murera found some very delicious branches and stopped all the babies to come and try them before reaching the stockades. Mwashoti and Zongoloni followed her to enjoy the branches before heading to the stockades for their bottle feeding time.
Some mongooses came along to the stockades which scared Quanza and Lima Lima, who were not comfortable with the mongoose running around their feet and making a lot of noise that they were not used to. The Keepers were also very surprised to see the mongooses inside the elephants stockades, running in and out under the fence line. Across the whole stockades the elephants were trumpeting loudly as some of them pushed on their walls trying to get out of their rooms. It was quite funny to see the elephant so scared of a little mongoose, but the Keepers came out to reassure them nevertheless.
Shukuru surprised all of the Keepers in the morning when they brought her her milk bottle, only to discover that she had managed to open her gate in the night and steal many bails of lucerne, dropping them all over the place just like Lima Lima does sometimes and like how Alamaya did the other morning! Shukuru knew she had done something wrong and looked so guilty when the Keepers walked up to her. The Keepers just called her name and she took off towards the gate, following her friends who had already walked out.
Ziwa followed Shukuru to the bushes, as did Sonje, but Murera went a different way, avoiding the path take by Ziwa and Shukuru.
The elephants were very happy in the morning after coming out of their rooms and walking into the forest to browse. After a short time some antelopes crossed paths with Lima Lima and Zongoloni, which gave them a fright as the antelopes were running very fast. The Keepers then noticed a leopard on a hunting mission, which is why all the antelopes running away and running infront of where the elephants were. When Lima Lima smelt the leopard she ran back looking for Mwashoti and the Keepers to warn them. Ziwa and Jasiri also received Lima Lima signal and came running over trumpeting loudly.
All the orphans were browsing along the Chyulu Hills enjoying the greens and soft fresh branches, when some wild elephants we heard trumpeting and charging around. The orphans all stopped and listened to them.
Later Ziwa and Faraja colluded with Ngasha and sneaked off away from the Keepers. They sneaked off to where the wild elephants were and Ngasha tried to join a play fight amongst the wild bulls. Ngasha found himself pushed down and Ziwa and Faraja ran away leaving him with the bulls while he shouted for help from the ground. When he eventually got up he ran so fast back to where the other orphans were with the Keepers. His back was covered in mud from being pushed down into the muddy soil by the wild bull elephants. It was an important learning curve for our poor Ngasha today!
The elephants tried wallowing but they found it too muddy and none of them were enjoying it so they all walked out. Shukuru did not stop and just walked straight to the water trough for more clean water to drink, and later followed Sonje and Ziwa. Ziwa is becoming a bit more polite to her these days and is starting to become more of a friend, but not Ngasha and Mwashoti who try to climb on her back and Shukuru hates that.
Alamaya was very naughty towards Mwashoti today when they met at the water trough. He pushed Mwashoti aside to give him access to the water as he did not want to wait for Mwashoti to finish, but Mwashoti was trying to drink there too. The Keepers had to intervene and shouted at Alamaya to stop pushing, which he did in a hurry as he knew he was in the wrong and not being nice to his friend.
The orphans’ morning activities were disrupted by the heavy rains that started around midnight and proceeded to continue right up to the point when the orphans were making their way out to the bush. All the paths, vegetation and branches were so wet that the orphans, led by Lima Lima, were forced to walk along the hills on the wet grass. The hills were very muddy and slippery which affected the orphans with bad legs, who walked slightly slower, mainly Murera and Mwashoti. All the orphans, led by Shukuru, came running down for their midday bottles of milk and once they were finished, they made their way back to the grasslands where they proceeded to graze side by side.
In the morning, the Keepers were worried that the heavy rains would return so they ran back to the stockades to get their umbrellas and rain coats. Mwashoti and Lima Lima appeared to notice the Keepers making their way back to the stockades. Lima Lima, seemingly agitated by this, managed to get all the orphans, including Murera and Sonje, to follow her back to the stockades. The Keepers were stunned to see Lima Lima leading the orphans back to where they were grabbing their things.
The orphans enjoyed long walks through the forests, along the Chyulu Hills, this afternoon. The younger smaller orphans seemed to rely on the matriarchs and larger orphans to pull the high branches down when browsing. Alamaya and Mwashoti especially waited for the branches to be pulled down before eating.
During the day, Ziwa decided to take over and led the majority of the orphans out of the forest in such a rush, that the Keepers struggled to see where they went. Zongoloni and Murera were the only two to remain with the Keepers. Whilst the Keepers were looking for the other orphans, they came across Lima Lima who began trumpeting, almost as if to call out to the others, and then the boys trumpeted in response from the other side. The Keepers then followed Lima Lima to meet up with Ziwa and the other boys. All the orphans were full from their browsing and finished their day with a bottle of milk each.
The weather was nice and cool today, and the orphans were able to browse nicely on the dry lands. Shukuru, who was being called by the Keepers, did not respond to their calls and continued to walk to the other side of the water springs. As she was walking around she came across some crocodiles basking in the sun. The crocodiles, having seen her approaching, jumped into the water.
Murera and Sonje seemed to be on the lookout this evening for anything that might frighten the young boys. Mwashoti stayed and followed the two matriarchs around.
It was another clear morning at the Umani Reintegration Unit, with the orphans starting their morning as usual with their Lucerne pellets. Shukuru proceeded to her usual spot where she receives her pellets without being disturbed by the other orphans. The Keepers stopped Alamaya and Lima Lima from disturbing Shukuru, so that she may continue to eat in peace.
Whilst the orphans were browsing on the hills, a surveillance helicopter from one of the Patrol Teams flew straight over them. The orphans, startled by the noise, all ran into the forest, and only came out once the helicopter had moved away. Such routine helicopter surveillance helps in the protection and preservation of the Kibwezi Forest.
Through the night, Ziwa was pushing on the iron sheets covering his stockade. As he kept pushing, the sheets began to make quite a noise which seemed to frighten the other orphans, Shukuru and Sonje even began charging at the noise. The Keepers came out to see what was happening and called for Ziwa so that he would stop pushing the sheets. Although Ziwa stopped pushing the sheets for a little bit, as soon as the Keepers returned to bed he started up again. In the morning, when all the orphans made their way out of the stockades, the Keepers noticed that Ziwa’s stockade was damaged and needed to be repaired.
Quanza and Lima Lima began to play fight, as Lima Lima seemed to be blocking Quanza from reaching a scratching post. Quanza appeared to have enough of this game and got angry towards Lima Lima, whom eventually surrendered. Lima Lima ran off into the bushes to continue browsing for the rest of the day.
The orphans seemed to have increased appetites as of late, with Lima Lima and Shukuru eating a lot more greens. As Christmas day approaches the Keepers were trying to collect some nice treats for the orphans such as acacia pods, which they could enjoy whilst the Keepers had their celebratory Christmas Feast.
All the orphans came charging out their stockades this morning, seemingly very happy and playful, pushing trees aside as they ran. Murera and Mwashoti began to trumpet as they charged around chasing monkeys, and they were soon joined by Sonje. The monkeys and baboons remained in the safety of the trees watching the orphans from high up. As the orphans approached the springs some crocodiles came out the water, almost as if to see who was arriving. Many of the smaller crocodiles ran back into the water as the orphans got closer. Lima Lima and Zongoloni began to head back into the bush in the opposite direction of Sonje and Murera who were trying to guide them. Lima Lima, seemingly in a stubborn mood, continued on her own way, leading the orphans towards the Umani Hills circuit, where they continued to browse.
The orphans did not seem as lively this morning; only little Alamaya tried to show off his happiness a little bit by swinging his trunk as he walked out to the forest. Murera and Sonje were slow to come out of their rooms as it was quite a cold morning which always affects their bad legs, but as they got moving and the day warmed up they were okay.
At the waterhole, when the babies arrived for the bottle feeding time, Shukuru was the first orphan to arrive ahead of everyone else. Mwashoti and Alamaya came next, leaving Lima Lima still waiting for permission from the Keepers, who blocked her to allow the others to finish their bottles first. If Lima Lima comes at the same time then she misbehaves and tries to grab more than her share, leaving her friends with less bottles.
The orphans came running out of their stockades ready to head off into the bush. Mwashoti and Alamaya were play fighting, almost as if too see who was stronger. Whilst in the bush, Murera seemed to call the other orphans over and everyone but Ziwa and Faraja came over to her before continuing to browse. Lima Lima, who had been pushed by Sonje, eventually moved away where she joined Alamaya and Zongoloni in browsing a little further from the where the boys were browsing.
Shukuru seemed to be unwell today as she was sticking to herself and eating very slowly. The Keepers noticed her behaviour immediately and decided to treat her for her symptoms. Once treated, she seemed to perk up a bit but had lost some bodyweight which the Keepers will monitor.
At the midday bottle feeding, all the orphans came running down with Shukuru and Mwashoti once again arriving first. Zongoloni and Lima Lima had to again stay with the Keepers whilst the others finished their bottles of milk. Alamaya and Faraja came down second, but by this time Shukuru and Mwashoti had already started to make their way down to the waterhole to have their mud baths.
Christmas Day had finally arrived and the Keepers and the orphans both got to enjoy their Christmas Feast and treats. In the morning the Keepers gave the orphans the acacia pods they had been saving them. Lima Lima appeared to be so excited that she had received some pods that she made a very sweet rumbling sound whilst she was eating. After the feast the Keepers and the orphans continued their day browsing and walking through the forests. It was an enjoyable and peaceful day for all.
The orphans walked out to the forest with very full bellies today after their Christmas treats and having had a good long sleep in their stockades during the night. The Keepers and Lima Lima with the help of Sonje tried to push them further towards the Umani Hills to browse there. Zongoloni and Mwashoti were hopeful they might get some more acacia seed pods today as well, but there were none left. They all just had their noon milk bottles instead, and then Quanza with Alamaya took over to lead all the babies to the water pool to cool down due to the hot sun. Shukuru turned very playful at the water hole, and was more active than any of the others, then she went to the soil pile to dry her body with soil after mud bathing.
After the mud bath and dust bathing, Murera led all the orphans out to the forest again. Meanwhile, Ziwa and his friend Ngasha just walked directly towards the Chyulu Hills where they found some wild elephants browsing there but they could not join them. They were very big wild bulls and seemed very pushy. When Ngasha tried to get closer, one big bull turned against him and he quickly ran away.
There were some wild elephants causing trumpeting and charging around in the bushes close to where our de-snaring ground team has their base, and where the orphans were heading this morning. If they become very rowdy, Shukuru and Murera cannot run very fast away because of their weak legs, so they took a different path. Shukuru was a very nice girl who just came back to walk beside her Keepers through the bushes, and Murera and Mwashoti walked together.
All the orphans looked forward to wallowing today as it was very hot. As the others were busy swimming, Ziwa and Faraja began their fighting spirit that never ends, being teenage boys and trying to test their strength all the time.
The elephant orphans today were very happy and playful after their bottle feeding today. For some reason they were in a very jovial mood! Shukuru and Ngasha were the first orphans to walk to the waterhole after having their milk. Sonje later led Shukuru to the dust pile and they both enjoyed the dust bath, followed by Mwashoti and Alamaya who really enjoyed it too.
All the orphans took their morning walk heading towards the Umani Hills, where some wild elephants were trumpeting as they played in the hills having fun. Some wild bulls were climbing on their friends and messing around. Ziwa and Ngasha approached them, trying to inquire what they were doing, but they just found their wild friends were in a happy mood and playing.
Lima Lima and Mwashoti browsed together on the Umani Hill. Alamaya and Zongoloni joined their friends too, as they all tried to get the best soft branches to eat. The Keepers later called all the orphans to be ready to walk to the bottle-feeding area as it was their milk feeding time. Mwashoti and Murera walked slowly as they know their bottles will be there waiting for them and they were not in a hurry to rush anywhere. Lima Lima on the other hand always rushes to the milk feeding point as she is afraid that one day perhaps her share might not be there! She is a greedy little thing and always needs to rush for her milk.
Shukuru was very happy and playful today which surprised the Keepers as she is not normally like that, but more quiet and docile. After she was done with her pellets she happily walked out into the forest, and Ziwa and Faraja followed suit once they were done with their own share. This left only Lima Lima to walk back to pick up Shukuru’s left over pellets.
At midday, Murera did not want to come for her milk bottle, but she escorted her friends, the youngsters Mwashoti and Alamaya, and then turned back to the shade. When Lima Lima saw that Murera was not coming for her bottles, she demanded that she be given Murera’s bottle instead. She was very demanding and was kept far away from the extra share, and instead the extra one was given to little Mwashoti, which was such a surprise for him he never thought he would receive an extra share, and he rumbled with joy.
All the orphans walked out of their night stockades and went straight to the corner where they know the Keepers lay out their Lucerne pellets for them. Shukuru went to her own corner as usual, where some pellets where there in a wheel barrow waiting. The Keepers kept an eye on the pellets there, guarding them from the greedy Lima Lima and any naughty boys who might try their luck before Shukuru could get there.
When the orphans went out to the forest they came across a little snake along the pathway. It was trying to slither away and hide but Ngasha and Faraja stopped and tried to stamp on it. Ngasha then picked it up with his trunk and threw it very far away to be sure they were all safe from the snake.
The Umani Keepers and all the orphans wish everyone a very happy new year.