Keepers' Diaries, January 2016

Select your unit:

Umani Springs Reintegration Unit

The orphans have had a fun filled month with rain showers keeping the vegetation lush and green. The forest resembles a Garden of Eden, adorned with butterflies of every colour on water puddles and fresh elephant droppings. Murera and Sonje, the two oldest females, are very definitely the accepted Leaders of this herd, but since they have both been left physically compromised due to poaching injuries, they are not able to keep the required Leadership pace. However, they remain the decision- makers, with Lima Lima coming to the fore to take the lead when required. The herd remains mindful of Murera and Sonje and so they adapt a pace that is appropriate for the two disabled females. Ziwa continues to be the pampered baby and enjoys the watchful eyes of all the females at all times. Sonje is extremely tolerant and loving and often lies on the ground so that the naughty boys can enjoy clambering over her, something that Ziwa, Faraja, Jasiri and Ngasha simply cannot resist.

The orphans have had a fun filled month with rain showers keeping the vegetation lush and green. The forest resembles a Garden of Eden, adorned with butterflies of every colour on water puddles and fresh elephant droppings. Murera and Sonje, the two oldest females, are very definitely the accepted Leaders of this herd, but since they have both been left physically compromised due to poaching injuries, they are not able to keep the required Leadership pace. However, they remain the decision- makers, with Lima Lima coming to the fore to take the lead when required. The herd remains mindful of Murera and Sonje and so they adapt a pace that is appropriate for the two disabled females. Ziwa continues to be the pampered baby and enjoys the watchful eyes of all the females at all times. Sonje is extremely tolerant and loving and often lies on the ground so that the naughty boys can enjoy clambering over her, something that Ziwa, Faraja, Jasiri and Ngasha simply cannot resist.

Zongoloni has taught Jasiri how to pick up and hold his own bottle of milk, and as a result these two need no assistance at feeding times from their Keepers, aside from the odd shake of the bottle to get the porridge and other good things better mixed in the milk. Lima Lima, Quanza, Ngasha, and Faraja are now learning this technique as well, so it will not be long before they are all feeding themselves! Lima Lima is extremely cunning and resorts to sneaky tactics in order to try and get a head start towards the milk bottles. Her time-keeping is extremely accurate and she absolutely knows when it is time to hone in on the milk feeding venue, ensuring that she is first in line since that way she might get more than her fair share! However, all the orphans respond to a gentle reprimand in the tone of their Keepers, and obey orders whenever such mischievous intentions are spotted in time!

Wild elephants have been visiting the stockade compound under cover of darkness this month, and nights are filled with elephant rumbles as they communicate with the orphans. The water trough outside the stockades is a favourite watering hole for the wild elephants, despite the springs being close by. Murera still likes to avoid contact with wild herds during the day, mindful that they might kidnap members of her precious herd. The Keepers have sighted wild herds with tiny babies this month, obviously born within the gentle environment of the forest. Handsome wild bulls are growing bolder, now revealing themselves during daylight hours, but the presence of the human Keepers deters them and they shy away. However, month on month one can see them growing in confidence beginning to understand that the Keepers are ele- friendly. This month, Sonje with her favourite, Ziwa, exchanged trunk caresses with a huge wild bull within sight of the Keepers before the bull moved away. There have been some days this month that the orphans have walked up into the Chyulu Hills National Park to spend time in the more open country of undulating grasslands on the lower reaches of this beautiful National Park. Using the wild elephant trails, the orphans are always mindful to warn the Keepers of other wild animals, halting and testing the air with upraised trunks to decipher the scent, thereby indicating to the Keepers the need to be cautious. One day Ngasha and Faraja had a run- in with a large tortoise who was on the trail they were following, but they were extremely sensitive and cautious, careful not to step on him, or disturb him too much.

This month the butterflies have provided an endless source of entertainment, with Zongoloni particularly partial to butterfly catching games. The orphans share the forest with many other animals besides the wild elephants, but most regularly encountered are plentiful quantities of bushbuck, little klipspringer antelopes with spongy hooves adept at leaping around the rocky outcrops, and the ever present buffaloes. The diaries are filled with anecdotes from the Umani Keepers about all the individual orphans currently living within the Kibwezi Forest.

January 2016 day to day

01 Jan

It was a very nice day for the babies when they came out of their stockades to begin their day, walking in the forest looking for vegetation. Lima Lima came over to take full responsibility of leading the big herd, even the matriarchs were respecting her leadership role. After a long day’s walk with the keepers all the way into the Chyulu hills and back, Ngasha followed Lima Lima very keenly knowing that it was almost time for milk bottles and wallowing too. When the orphans saw Lima Lima running fast trying to overtake the keepers in front, they also knew it was time for bottle feeding and they knew Lima Lima would certainly try to grab more than her fair share; so all the orphans were trying to keep pace with Lima Lima so she could not grab their bottles on the ground. As for the keepers, they were trying hard to keep the greedy Lima Lima behind but obviously she was getting through or going a different way to them so as to get around them. After having their bottles it was a good time for all the babies to splash their chests in the water hole due to the very warm conditions.

Lima Lima leading the babies out

Ngasha following Lima Lima

Zongoloni rubbing her bottom on a tree trunk

Select your unit:
View keepers’ diaries for another month?