Keepers' Diaries, December 2019

Umani Springs Reintegration Unit

Zongoloni has decided to stay with the three bulls Ziwa, Ngasha and Faraja and spends her nights out with them in the forest. It is as if she feels they need some direction and a decisive decision maker in their midst, and she has become Murera’s proxy overseer of their midnight antics.  Sometimes the babies return in the afternoon to have their milk bottles with the others, but usually they have their milk and then high-tail it back out to the forest to spend the night out fraternising with wild friends. 

01 December 2019

All the babies came out in the morning very happy to begin their new day. When they had their midday milk bottles, everyone went to drink some water and then decided to go for a swim. Jasiri played on the muddy ground after all the rain.

Shukuru walked off into the nearby shrubs as she didn’t want to be around the boisterous boys who might push her. Mwashoti tried his best to get close to her but she remained steadfast as she knew that Mwashoti was just pretending to be nice and would try and push her if he could!

02 December 2019

Many of the babies were very happy to come out of their stockades for a new day today, trumpeting all around the bushes, leaving only Shukuru behind who we never hear trumpeting or over exerting herself; she always likes to conserve her energy. Lima Lima came running out of the bushes looking for the Keepers and when she found them she slowly approached one of the Keepers. The Keepers are very good at reading Lima Lima and as they welcomed her and asked her what she wanted, just at that moment they saw a big snake python sleeping soundly under the tall grass, and they made sure not to disturb it and they all walked off to a different area.

Later the Umani orphans were approached by two wild bulls who turned out to be very friendly towards Faraja and the other young bulls, and we thought these might be some of the wild friends that the young bulls meet up with during their nights out. 

When the orphans went swimming in the mud bath in the afternoon, naughty Alamaya was trying to climb on all his friends who were trying to swim.

03 December 2019

Zongoloni has joined the three young bulls who like to stay out these past few nights and she remains out with them during the day as well. Perhaps she thought they were lacking leadership as there is always a female leading role model in an elephant herd and Zongoloni certainly seems to be keeping Ziwa, Faraja and Ngasha on their toes. Perhaps she wanted a taste of what it is like to be a matriarch and a leader and she seems to be very good, although males will not stay with a female herd forever. 

Today she did not make it in time to have some Lucerne pellets however as her little mini-herd arrived too late, even for the morning milk bottles again as well, and they decided only to join the others at mud bath time. Many of the babies enjoyed splashing and rolling around in the water at the mud bath having a great time, with only Shukuru staying away from the wallowing, instead standing to the side and splashing her body just with a little mud on her chest. Lima Lima enjoyed scratching her tummy on a muddy bank as all of her friends browsed in the afternoon.

04 December 2019

Jasiri and Ngasha were fighting over a branch this afternoon which Jasiri had just picked but Ngasha wanted it too. None of them wanted to give it up and they fought over it until Ngasha decided to leave it, when Zongoloni picked it up from the ground and walked off with it for herself! We did not see Zongoloni and the other young bulls for most of the morning as none of them came for their midday milk bottles and we started to worry slightly that we had not seen them for a while. We walked all over the place looking for where we might find them until, as usual, Lima Lima helped us to locate them in the forest. Alamaya, Mwashoti and Sonje were very happy to see the four and greeted them with loud trumpeting, welcoming them back with a lot of noise.

05 December 2019

Murera and the baby boy Alamaya are pretty inseparable these days, and when you see Alamaya you know that either Murera or Sonje must be around guarding him.

This morning the Umani orphans were walking along the base if the Umani Hills very early in the morning while Murera, with Alamaya following, checked that all the others were safe and ready to climb up the hillside. She found all the orphans were present and correct and even Mwashoti was read to climb up the hills, so she placed her trunk affectionately over Mwashoti then rumbled that it was time to walk up the hillside to find some fresh browse. As they walked up they were startled by some antelopes darting out of the bushes, and some baboons that yelled loudly which also gave the orphans a fright, but they continued on their way and had a lovely morning browsing. 

06 December 2019

It rained for most of the day today and while the orphans just got wet some of the Keepers turned back mid-morning to fetch their rain coats and umbrellas to keep the rain out. When Lima Lima and Faraja saw a Keeper approaching holding an umbrella, Lima Lima walked over to him and tried to put her head underneath the umbrella too, but it was impossible for her big head to fit under like it used to when she was a baby! The Keepers had to shoo Lima Lima away to give them space to walk.

When the rain stopped the orphans went to swim in the big mud bath because they were already wet and they didn’t mind getting wetter! They all went into the water hole and swam around, diving down and using their trunks as snorkels so sometimes we couldn’t even see their bodies! The crocodiles were amazed and were chased away by the elephants that were so thoroughly enjoying the water; the Umani babies certainly love to swim!

07 December 2019

Mwashoti grabbed some Lucerne pellets to run away from the big boys, and took some to where Murera was feeding on some shrubs. Murera had to help Mwashoti protect the pellets from the invaders like greedy Lima Lima who does not spare any food.

The elephants arrived back home looking very tired with their heads hanging low, a sign that they are feeling tired at the end of a long day! Those with bad legs like Sonje, Murera and Mwashoti struggled to walk at the speed Lima Lima was leading today, but when Quanza noticed she was walking too fast she walked up to the front to stop her and make her walk at a pace that was good so that Murera and Sonje were not left behind. 

08 December 2019

In the morning the rain started to fall just as the Keepers were letting the orphans out of their night stockades for the new day. Sonje and Murera did not want to go out into the rain but they were forced to when they saw Alamaya and Mwashoti leaving their rooms. Shukuru even walked out into the rain but she did it very quickly as if wishing to get that initial sensation over with! The orphans didn’t have any pellets this morning as the rain makes them wet and soggy and any left on the ground would go rotten; the orphans don’t like to eat them in the rain. Sonje enjoyed dusting herself later on in the morning with the wet soil.

When Jasiri walked over to the big girls to walk with them they turned and pushed him away but we are not sure why. The Umani babies heard some wild elephants from along the top of the hills making a lot of noise. We wondered if Sonje’s friend Osama was there but he was not among the wild elephants the orphans came across, and it was a wild female herd who came to spend time with the orphans for the best part of the day, later separating to go their own way.

09 December 2019

Shukuru stayed very close to the others in the herd today which took us by surprise. She was very friendly and close to Quanza today and they were both very sweet towards one another. We think perhaps now Shukuru is trying to bond with some of the other likeminded and gentle elephants in the herd. Quanza spent most of her time today staying very close to Shukuru; all the Keepers were happy and were very impressed by how Quanza was treating Shukuru so nicely. At one stage some baboons noisily approached Shukuru in amongst some thick bushes and Shukuru felt trapped and she rumbled for help. Quanza came to her and the whole herd joined forces to chase the noisy baboons away.

10 December 2019

The Umani babies and the Keepers were walking towards the Umani water springs when Murera detected the baby pythons that were on the ground; she stretched her trunk in their direction and smelt them, before warning the others and everyone including the Keepers all walked around where the baby pythons were, to get to the springs. 

When Lima Lima heard the Keepers warning one another, all the orphans began to assemble including Zongoloni and the older bulls, to see what was going on. With all the commotion, the baby pythons went back into their hole to hide. 

When the orphans returned home later in the day, they took another route so as not to disturb the baby snakes again. Towards the end of the day it started to rain and the orphans walked back home in the drizzle with Shukuru in the lead.

11 December 2019

The orphans found lots of sweet tasty branches in the Chyulu hills today which they had not been able to find for some time. It was Lima Lima and Zongoloni’s decision to change direction today and not go to the usual places; they thought they knew a better place where they would find a lot of nice vegetation to browse on and it was lucky everyone followed them there! Zongoloni enjoyed a nice scratch on a tree to get the top of her back.

Some antelopes crossed the path where the orphans were walking and later a small dik dik ran across the path where Zongoloni was walking. Zongoloni turned around so quickly to warn the others that something was in their way, but they were disappointed to find it was only a tiny dik dik that Zongoloni had been so concerned about! 

12 December 2019

All the orphans were very happy this morning, which made us happy too, to see them all playing with each another and sharing the pellets nicely; some were even sharing the scratching walls together. Mwashoti and Alamaya were together at the scratching wall with Sonje joining them slightly later. Quanza walked out to the forest with Lima Lima and Zongoloni who stopped to scratch on a signpost.

Swimming took up a very large part of the day for the orphans again who seemed as if they were trying to take part in a swimming competition. Alamaya emerged as the winner but Shukuru didn’t take part and stood to the side just observing them all swimming around and climbing on each other.

Jasiri was the first to leave the waterhole and we saw some of the boys joining him. Faraja walked over and pushed his bottom telling him to move out of the way, pulling Jasiri’s tail to get him to move. Jasiri didn’t appreciate that and it turned into a war of pulling tails!

13 December 2019

Sonje’s favourite wild bull Osama today showed up today with four new wild elephants, who made their way to join the orphan herd. Sonje and Quanza welcomed them to the herd as the Keepers watched how he and his friends interacted with the orphans. Mwashoti stayed close to Sonje. The new elephants didn’t seem to mind the Keepers being around which meant the orphans enjoyed a very nice interaction with them. The wild elephants did stay in the forest however and didn’t get too close to the Keepers as they are still shy, but at least they did not run away. Lima Lima kept walking between the wild friends and the Keepers, making sure they were okay. The Keepers were happy to see Osama again.

14 December 2019

Today Mwashoti was not behaving very well and was not being very nice to Shukuru and Lima Lima. He pushed every one away who tried to share the salt lick he was at making it very hard for the Keepers to tell him off either. Only Sonje was able go over and warn him to stop his bad behaviour towards his friends. 

Just as the orphans were walking back out to the forest facing the Umani hills a huge rain storm started with very loud thunder which made the Keepers crouch to the ground and even Murera looked for shade under the trees. The rain soon moved off and at mud bath time all the babies walked to the waterhole to swim as they enjoy the water so much, even after the rain! 

15 December 2019

Many wild elephants came to the compound fence line with the four orphans Zongoloni, Jasiri, Ngasha and Ziwa early this morning. The wild friends came for some drinking water and stopped at the water trough outside the stockade area. When Mwashoti and Shukuru heard them splashing water round and rumbling they responded with their own rumbles and Lima Lima wanted to go out to join them but it was still dark. The Keepers knew she would want to stay for her milk bottle in the morning as well! Sonje and Murera stood far away from the fenceline on the other side of their stockade, like they did not want the wild elephants to join them in the compound. In the morning when all the babies walked out and followed where their wild friends had been earlier, some of them smelt the dung of their wild friends and ate some too, to see what they had been eating recently.

Zongoloni, Ziwa, Faraja and Ngasha stayed with the orphans to browse today. Faraja led the herd back in the afternoon.

16 December 2019

Zongoloni, Ngasha and Faraja arrived close to the midday milk feeding time today, leaving Ziwa behind in the forest. Murera moved Shukuru to be with her at the far end of the mud bath to be out of the way of the boisterous boys, but when Alamaya followed her she accepted Alamaya to be with them too.

When the time for the midday bottle feeding came none of the orphans could wait to get to the bottle feeding point they were so thirsty. Shukuru was very eager to lead the whole herd, making her the first to the bottle feeding point. The Keepers blocked greedy Lima Lima and Zongoloni so they had to wait longer than expected to be in the second group to the feeding point. The bullish boys came in and all began to fight over the extra bottle on the ground that was meant to be for Ziwa, which they wanted for themselves. The Keepers kept a close eye on it however and did not allow them to take it, but instead they gave it to Shukuru who needs it the most. Ngasha showed off how good he is at picking up his own bottle, which a lot of the Umani orphans are good at, while Mwashoti walked off with his empty bottle, dropping it some distance away after he was done suckling on the teat and making sure he got every last drop!

17 December 2019

Many of the wild elephants we have seen in and around the forest recently have all disappeared with the onset of the rain. The water springs used to be an elephants paradise and meeting place but since the rains arrived we haven’t heard nearly as many wild elephants; many of them have dispersed across the wider Chyulu area now they know they can find water. Only Ziwa and Faraja sometimes know where to meet up with their wild friends at night. 

With all the water around we meet many little crocodiles along the paths while out walking with the orphans because they have so many water pools to choose from now. When the orphans decide to go swimming however all the crocodiles leave the water hole very fast as they don’t want to be trodden on or squashed! The orphans enjoyed some salt at the salt lick before their mud bath again today.

18 December 2019

The turtles and terrapins were in trouble today when Sonje and Quanza decided to march straight up to the water for a drink and then dived in for a swim. Sonje began the business and later every orphan followed her into the waterhole ready to swim; we could see all the terrapins scampering out for safety as they didn’t want to be squashed. When Mwashoti, who was on the edge of the water hole still, saw the terrapins running out he stopped and let them all come out of the water before he walked in. 

Faraja was being naughty and kept trying to climb on everyone. When he tried to climb on Lima Lima the Keepers told him off and to behave himself when in the company on his friends. When the Keepers called all the orphans to follow them Shukuru didn’t follow and kept herself separate as she knew Faraja was in a naughty mood.

19 December 2019

Murera was delighted to be walking behind the Keepers who were pulling down and breaking branches for those behind them to eat. Normally they have to reach up and break branches for themselves but the Keepers assisting them seemed to be very exciting for them and Murera seemed to be very happy. When one of the Keepers dropped a tasty branch Murera came and took it and shared it with Mwashoti and Shukuru. Alamaya missed out on all the fun because he was walking with Zongoloni who had moved off far away from the others. When they reached the dusting area Alamaya had a great time throwing dust on his back.

Later in the day Ziwa and Faraja had some fun in a wet, muddy patch, rolling around. When they were done, Shukuru went to play in the same spot. In the evening when the orphans returned home it was Shukuru and Mwashoti who led the way. Zongoloni and her friends just came and grabbed their bottles before walking back out of the compound to spend the night out in the forest. 

20 December 2019

All the orphans lined up preparing to go up the Kenze hills today to browse in a totally different area. All along the Kenze hills we found Klipspringers crossing on the lava rocks with such ease; we marvelled at how they so easily crossed the jagged harsh lava with such elegance. Ngasha walked to see where the Klipspringers were going, but he couldn’t walk as fast as they could along the terrain and so he turned back, walking to where Ziwa was taking a little rest under some big trees. 

Ngasha went and interlocked his trunk with Ziwa’s in a very nice greeting which was lovely to see. It was a very warm afternoon and most of the orphans went in search of some trees or bushes for shade, while the fairer elephants Jasiri and Faraja found some water they used to cool down with too; they always feel the heat the most! In the afternoon Ziwa had a very nice playing match with Quanza.

21 December 2019

After eating some acacia branches near the compound this morning, Shukuru made the quick decision today to lead the orphans around the Umani Hills circuit and Sonje followed behind her which meant she approved of her decision. We have noticed recently that Shukuru is really trying out her leadership qualities and likes to try and lead the herd, but she remains a very polite and quiet girl. 

Shukuru is the best behaved orphan, followed by Mwashoti even though he can be naughty sometimes. We think that when he is being naughty it sometimes might not be his fault as he has been antagonised by the other naughty ones like Alamaya and Ziwa who like to try and push him. When it comes to where the orphans eat the Lucerne pellets, that is where we find Mwashoti being naughty sometimes as he doesn’t like any of the elephants to come near the pellets he is eating, even his adopted mother and friend Murera! He will not share with anyone.

The Keepers took the babies out calling to them to begin the new day. Ziwa decided to go in his own direction but his friend Faraja walked to get him and bring him back to the herd, and Ziwa cooperated and followed Ziwa back to the others who were following Shukuru towards the Umani Hills circuit, and not in the direction of his wild friends. Later on in the afternoon some of the orphans enjoyed rolling around in a really muddy patch, coating their skin in a nice layer of mud.

22 December 2019

Today was the day that Jasiri thought he might experiment again and try to stay out with his friend Faraja and the others. Ziwa grabbed Jasiri by the tail in the afternoon and seemed to convince him to follow him and the other bulls, and later perhaps Jasiri could not find his way back to the stockades to have his milk. Late in the night we heard some elephants yelling outside in the bushes and the Keepers assumed it might be some wild elephants nearby, but the yelling continued and very loudly so the Keepers went out to investigate. They called Jasiri’s name and after ten minutes Jasiri came back with a very muddy head and tusks like he had been fighting. When we opened the gate for him to come in he came running in through the gate and into his room, where he found that Sonje had stolen and eaten all his branches so he just had to wait until his morning milk bottle which he drank very quickly indeed. It still seems like Jasiri is not ready to join his friends out in the forest at night quite yet!

In the morning Lima Lima and Zongoloni greeted their friend Jasiri and then proceeded to greet one another and have a light pushing game to start the day. Jasiri stayed close to Murera and the rest of the herd the whole day, enjoying browsing with them.

23 December 2019

Today Shukuru and some of the young boys were following behind the Keepers and their every step, while the others followed behind Murera and Lima Lima. The herd was divided in two following two separate paths but later Shukuru made the decision to change direction and re-join Murera and the others, leaving the Keepers alone under the trees to have their tea while they walked off to explore where they might go to fill their own empty bellies. At one point Shukuru got distracted and decided she would roll on the wet ground for awhile.

Just as it approached mud bath time and time for the orphans to have their next milk bottle, Lima Lima could be seen peeping through the bushes to see if the Keepers were still in the same spot or if they had moved which meant they were preparing for the mud bath feed. When she found the Keepers had moved off she went to collect Shukuru so that they could start to walk towards the mud bath area; Lima Lima never misses a milk feed!

24 December 2019

It’s Christmas Eve and the orphans and the Keepers had a lovely morning as a family. To celebrate the Keepers brought out the orphans’ favourite, acacia seed pods. After the babies finished those and had their milk, they walked to the waterhole to cool off and drink some water there. Later the Keepers took some pods to the mud bath so the orphans could have some more with their milk there too. While waiting for the milk vehicle to arrive, Lima Lima knew there was something special to eat and was trying to put her trunk into the bag of acacia pods because she could smell them! Greedy Lima Lima always makes us laugh. Ngasha followed Lima Lima’s example and then they were both fighting over the sack full of pods as the Keepers tried their best to distribute them equally to all the babies!

Zongoloni and Jasiri browsed away from the others later in the afternoon, enjoying the nice lush grass.

25 December 2019

Christmas Day and the orphans seem to be on their best behaviour today and again they all celebrated with additional treats as the Keepers brought out their favourite acacia pods, while the Keepers had their own Christmas feast. All the family therefore celebrated together. 

When walking out to the forest Murera took the young boys Alamaya and Mwashoti as well as Shukuru to walk beside her, separate to Faraja and Ziwa who were fighting and climbing on each other. Zongoloni did not want to be part of the boys club today and instead she chose to be with Alamaya throughout the whole day. Later in the afternoon some of the orphans decided to enjoy a Christmas Day swim.

26 December 2019

Lima Lima thought she might be lucky enough to have acacia pods three days in a row but she didn’t know they were just a Christmas Day treat from the Keepers! Not every day is Christmas Day the Keepers said to her. When she realised there were no pods waiting for them she led all the babies out to the forest and they walked very far, until they met some wild friends. They decided to follow the wild elephants which made it very hard for the Keepers to keep track of them; only Shukuru stayed with the Keepers along with Murera and Mwashoti, but the others walked off very far with the wild elephant herd. The Keepers wandered if it was punishment for not giving them more pods in the morning! They eventually found them later all mixed up in the wild herd who did not like the Keepers approaching them at all. The Keepers struggled for ages to call their babies back and eventually they followed them and everyone walked back to the stockades for their milk. 

27 December 2019

All the orphans began their new day nicely and when the Keepers put the Lucerne pellets out for them they all walked out of their stockades straight to the pellet feeding area to make sure they got some before the greedy ones took everything. Shukuru was taken to her normal corner where greedy Lima Lima and the others cannot disturb her while she quietly eats her own pile of pellets. The Keepers keep the gate closed so she can eat in peace and not be chased off by the others. 

Ziwa, Faraja and Ngasha arrived from the forest where they had spent the night and started pushing some of the others around, forcing the Keepers to intervene and stop them from misbehaving. Faraja and Ngasha stopped being rowdy and listened to the Keepers when they told them off. The well-behaved Shukuru then came out and walked to the scratching wall to enjoy a morning scratch. 

28 December 2019

The orphans came running in for their milk at midday and those that can pick up their own bottles just picked them up with no trouble, making it easy for the Keepers to feed the others. Shukuru run over and stopped, waiting for her Keeper to pick up her bottle and give it to her as she cannot do it herself. When Alamaya finished his bottle he refused to drop the bottle but when the Keeper approached him he dropped it, however he kept the teat inside his mouth and was chewing on it. Eventually he dropped that too and moved away to where Murera and Lima Lima were going to go for a mud bath. 

29 December 2019

Some wild elephants showed up at the mud bath time wanting to have some water and swim in the water hole as well, but they were a bit nervous of the Keepers and they didn’t come any closer. 

Faraja, who is used to socialising with wild elephants these days, went right up to the herd and wanted to interact with them. He was surprised when one of the young babies, who was with its mother, came and pushed him in his tummy. The herd became agitated, thinking he was doing something to the little baby, and chased Faraja away and he ran back to the Umani herd for safety. 

30 December 2019

As the year comes to an end we reflect on this being the year that some of our orphans decided they were independent enough to live without their Keepers and start to live their lives out in the wild, which is so exciting. We are delighted that Ziwa, Faraja, Ngasha and Zongoloni are starting to take this next step, which is the whole mission of our project. We are happy that Zongoloni is helping to lead the young bulls out there in the forest too, and we have seen Zongoloni bravely disciplining their bad behaviour which means they listen and respect her; we are sure she will be a good young matriarch. 

31 December 2019

As we prepared to enter into the New Year all the babies came back to their stockades in the evening for their milk bottles. Ziwa, Faraja, Ngasha and Zongoloni chose to walk back out to the forest after having their bottles and the Keepers watched them walk out with big smiles on their faces, and a warm and happy heart knowing they are going to be okay. Murera arrived back in the company of Sonje and Shukuru but she walked very slowly and looked tired from the day’s adventures. The Keepers enjoyed their yearend watching the four orphans out in the forest, ready to welcome them back in the morning in the New Year.