Keepers' Diaries, February 2017

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Umani Springs Reintegration Unit

This was certainly a milestone month, insofar as our orphans meeting and integrating with the wild elephants in the Kibwezi Forest. Due to the current dry conditions there have been numerous wild elephants in the forest enjoying the vegetation and water from the Umani Spring. The elephants aren’t the only ones taking refuge in the forest during these dry months, for many other species of wildlife have found refuge here and had come into contact with the orphans and their Keepers this month, especially buffaloes and baboons. As they forage for the acacia pods, the orphans enjoy watching the baboons in the trees for they dislodge the tasty acacia seed pods in the process which the elephants can retrieve.

This was certainly a milestone month, insofar as our orphans meeting and integrating with the wild elephants in the Kibwezi Forest. Due to the current dry conditions there have been numerous wild elephants in the forest enjoying the vegetation and water from the Umani Spring. The elephants aren’t the only ones taking refuge in the forest during these dry months, for many other species of wildlife have found refuge here and had come into contact with the orphans and their Keepers this month, especially buffaloes and baboons. As they forage for the acacia pods, the orphans enjoy watching the baboons in the trees for they dislodge the tasty acacia seed pods in the process which the elephants can retrieve.

The wild elephant bull given the name ‘Ndugu’, who is particularly friendly with the orphans, appeared several times this month to meet the orphans and their human family, sometimes accompanied by other wild bulls.. During one such encounter the orphans ran to greet the bulls; and Jasiri, (the big boy), tried his best to push one of the bulls but since he was much smaller only reaching the bull’s belly, it was a futile attempt! Lima Lima and Zongoloni would have liked the wild bulls to play with them, but Matriarchs Murera and Sonje were wary and made sure to keep the orphans a safe distance from them, especially babies such as Alamaya and Mwashoti. The Keepers have been pleasantly surprised to see the wild elephants browsing out in the open and becoming more accustomed to their presence with the orphans in the forest.

Lima Lima, who is very greedy, always manages to devise tricks to get around the Keepers and access the milk. This month she joined Mwashoti and Alamaya who, being the youngest get their milk first. Lima Lima knew the Keepers would have difficulty restraining her, as they sometimes do due to her greedy nature, since she would be helpful in leading the boys along the path to their milk! Furthermore, not once, but twice this month, naughty Lima Lima managed to pull down some hay bales for herself and for all the others to enjoy as well. Zongoloni and Quanza followed her on the first occasion and the three pulled as many bails down as they could and started feasting on them! The second time Ziwa got upset and started pushing against the acacia tree in the compound which unfortunately housed a swarm of bees at the time, so elephants and Keepers alike had to make a run for it out of the compound as the angry bees came out to look for what was disturbing them!

Sonje has grown sufficiently tall to be able to make a noise against the roof of her Stockade using her trunk when she gets bored during the night. One night she pulled down the water guttering and started kicking it around and when the Keepers came out to investigate, knowing that what she had done would not have their approval, she tried to hide the evidence! Lima Lima can also be noisy during the night, pushing on her stockade, and one evening this irritated Quanza who rumbled a complaint loudly that the Keepers came out investigate. Naughty boys Ngasha and Faraja decided to emulate her and pushed so hard that they managed to get out of their stockades! It was very difficult for the Keepers to get them back in, but when they started closing the gates having given up, the two boys panicked and rushed in, fearful of being locked out all night!

Murera is changing her behaviour, beginning to show signs of wanting to stay outside of the Stockades at night, although she is still eager for her milk and rumbled in irritation when she thought the keepers had forgotten her. Jasiri is still up to his tail biting antics and often the females do not want him too close fearful that he might grab their tails! Even other bulls such as Ngasha give up the fun pushing games when they believe Jasiri might resort to tail biting! During one mud bath he Keepers were surprised to see Jasiri rolling his tongue around the inside of his mouth several times, and noticed that one of his molars had fallen out! This was the first time the Keepers had seen an orphan losing a molar, and were reassured when told that another larger one would replace it.

February 2017 day to day

01 Feb

It was a very playful day today. As soon as the orphans exited their stockades they headed straight to the scratching rock where Faraja scratched his bottom while Sonje climbed the rock in an effort to get the keepers attention. Alamaya rumbled at Lima Lima and Zongoloni to who were moving far ahead of him. Lima Lima heard his rumbles and stopped, turned and came back to get him followed by Zongoloni. The two touched him reassuringly before escorting him to the waterhole and midday milk bottle after which they all enjoyed a dustbath.

Ziwa and Mwashoti drinking their milk

Ziwa gets ready to wallow in the mud

Orphans at the water trough

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