Keepers' Diaries, January 2017

Umani Springs Reintegration Unit

Lima Lima is such a funny little girl and entertains us no end with her funny antics. Whilst out in the forest she never seems to shy away from wild animals but instead wants to scare them, one exception to this being a leopard. There was one up in the trees above the stockade one night and she made such a fuss until the keepers came out to see what the problem was, and scare it away from the compound area so it wouldn’t bother her and the little boys Alamaya and Mwashoti anymore. On any other day she scares the Crested Cranes from their perch in the trees, at other times chasing baboons or monkeys from collecting the acacia seed-pods, and, of course, chasing butterflies is always a favourite diversion. She is still the greediest elephant within the group, running whenever the keepers call the orphans in case they have a special treat in hand, and even managing to sneak around the Keepers whenever they are trying to feed the two youngest boys first. Recently she has been sharing Leadership of the little boys, Alamaya and Mwashoti, with the older Matriarchs, and although the little boys are still under the overall care of the older Matriarchs, Murera and Sonje, these two seem to be less fiercely protective of them nowadays. Sometimes the little boys can be found in the company of some of the other orphans rather than the females and, in fact, one day when poor tail-less Alamaya was struggling with biting Tsetse flies and was unable to swish them away using a tail, it was young bull Ziwa who came to his aid.

01 January 2017

After the early bottle feeding at six o’clock in the morning, the babies ran to the elephants loading bay walls for a scratching session. They all enjoyed scratching their bottoms and necks against the rough surface. Mwashoti turned to charge at Alamaya, blowing his trunk and trumpeting loudly. Alamaya however was not scared of Mwashoti’s trumpeting, and continued with his browsing activities picking up leaves and putting them in his mouth. Mwashoti took his frustration at being ignored out on the nearby bushes and when he got tired of kicking them he tried to mount on Sonje who was busy scratching her belly on the ground. Mwashoti took this as an invitation to play and tried to climb her, something which did not bother Sonje in the slightest as he is one of the baby boys.

02 January 2017

The naughty big boys Jasiri and Ngasha took on each other in a pushing and strength testing game this morning. Jasiri was trying very hard to push Ngasha over but had not counted on Ngasha being quite strong and putting up a fight. The two continued their pushing game until Zongoloni and Quanza came over to separate them. At the midday bottle feeding time, some of the boys decide to enjoy a mudbath as it was quite hot. Ziwa splashed some water on his chest before walking away leaving the young boys, Alamaya and Mwashoti, to enjoy a mudbath with Sonje and Lima Lima. Quanza also enjoyed some wallowing time with the young boys. After the mudbath Lima Lima approached the crane birds nesting area wanting to see if they had any eggs. She tried trumpeting to scare the sleeping crane bird away but was unsuccessful in doing so. The crane bird was not happy about being disturbed by Lima Lima and flapped her wings in an effort to get Lima Lima to leave her alone. The elephants stopped at the water troughs for a drink and found a big crocodile sunning itself. Upon seeing the orphans the crocodile quickly disappeared into the water so as to hide and avoid being accidentally stepped on.

03 January 2017

The orphans came out of the stockades and walked to the forest taking the paths that the wild elephants had used the night before. They walked to the Kenze Hills where they settled to browse on the fresh vegetation with Quanza enjoying feeding on some of the bigger branches. Lima Lima spotted some baboons and charged at them, and the nearby monkeys too, all of whom were looking for seed pods in the trees. Sonje joined Lima Lima as did the boys who wanted to get the baboons away from their browsing area. The charging continued for quite a while with the boys kicking at the tress and knocking over bushes.

04 January 2017

Alamaya and Mwashoti stood at the gates waiting for Sonje and Murera to go and say jambo to them to begin the new day. The boys led by Jasiri, Faraja and Ziwa joined Sonje who had just began gathering the babies together ready to walk to the Chyulu Hills. When all the babies reached the Chyulu Hills Zongoloni and Faraja were very happy to get the fresh vegetation and grass. Sonje was very close to Alamaya and Mwashoti, but kept walking away from them following the walking trails of the wild elephants who had passed through over the night. Murera decided to walk to Sonje and take Mwashoti back with her to the shade because it turned very hot for the little babies. While at the bottle feeding time around the waterhole, Ngasha today came running as if he was Lima Lima; he came running in for the bottles like Lima Lima always does at feeding time.

05 January 2017

The tall grass now growing between the bushes in the Kibwezi Forest makes it hard for the keepers to see the babies walking. As Murera is one of the biggest orphans we were able to see her walking and heard her rumbling and calling Mwashoti to stay close to her. It was then that the keepers realised that the grass that they could see moving was Mwashoti walking next to Murera. Behind Murera at the far end of the group Ziwa was waiting for Murera to come out of the bushes to the dust bathing area. In the evening at around four o’clock all the elephants began walking back to the stockades for the night.

06 January 2017

Ngasha came out of his pen with Faraja who immediately began misbehaving with the other boys. He waited for Jasiri to turn his back before trying to climb on him but he got it rough from the big boy Jasiri who did not stand for this kind of behaviour. The fight started then and there and Ngasha also looked ready to join in. Jasiri pushed Faraja very badly after which Zongoloni and Lima Lima came to to separate the fighting big boys. They did not want them to fight because they all belong to one family under Murera and Sonje’s watch. In the forests, some wild elephants came and were very rowdy. They started pushing and charging at the orphans, making the keepers run away to avoid them. One rogue bull continued to follow the keepers while their young babies tried to get Murera to come with them. They were unsuccessful in their efforts as the keepers led the babies towards the hills which they slowly started to climb.

07 January 2017

It was very encouraging to see Murera and Sonje showing their abilities trying to push down big trees, compairing themselves with the big wild elephants that they see pushing down some of the big acacia trees around the stockades. Most of these are wild bulls which come to the stockades to establish a relationship with the orphans, particularly Murera as she is the oldest. Ironically Murera does not like this though because of her jealousy and the worry that some babies might be taken away from her herd. The young boys, Alamaya and Mwashoti, tried to charge and push the trees like the matriarchs, but found it hard because they are so much smaller; they could not push down any tree without Lima Lima or Sonje’s help.

08 January 2017

Quanza found a waterhole in the bushes and got in to begin wallowing. This appears to be the same waterhole in which the wild elephants wallow overnight. Jasiri and Faraja together with Ziwa also joined her in the waterhole, spraying their chests with muddy water as Quanza was busy scratching her bottom on the edge of the wallow. In the afternoon a fight began between rivals Jasiri and Ngasha, after a disagreement occurred between them over who got to climb on Zongoloni. Zongoloni was not happy to see them fighting over her and she turned and pushed Jasiri away from her. She fought back at them to leave her alone in an effort to keep the peace between the two boys.

09 January 2017

In the morning Sonje in the company of Lima Lima, Zongoloni and Quanza headed to the acacia tree within the stockade compound and started trying to push the tree down – this is the tree that provides shade for everyone in the compound! They began pushing it and peeling the bark off which would also harm the tree. The keepers shouted at Sonje to get her to stop what she was doing. She realised she was doing a bad thing and left running towards Murera who was peacefully feeding a short distance away. In the forest Murera rumbled trying to call Sonje to her side. Upon hearing her Sonje began raising up her trunk to locate where the rumbles were coming from. She followed Murera’s rumbles and found her with some of the babies. Suddenly Lima Lima went running with Zongoloni with their trunks above their heads. It seemed that they must of sensed that some wild elephants were with them in the bushes and very close to the keepers. A short while later two wild bulls appeared and the keepers just stepped aside giving them way to join Murera.

10 January 2017

Mwashoti and Alamaya had a hectic night blowing trumpets when they heard Lima Lima trying to move around the stockade making a lot of noise. When the keepers came out to see what the problem was they saw Lima Lima moving around together with young boys struggling to make noise, alerting their keepers to come out. When the keepers came out they looked in the direction Lima Lima was looking and saw a leopard in the tree near the stockades. The smell of the Leopard had made Lima Lima weary and she wanted to alert her keepers. They shouted at the leopard so that Lima Lima and the little boys would settle down. When the leopard moved away, all the babies calmed down and settled back to sleep. The leopard walked out along the electric fence to hide from the noisy keepers and elephants. In the morning all the orphans came out of their pens to begin their day. Some of the babies were still thinking that the leopard was around and they took a different path to the water springs to try and avoid the direction the leopard went in. At the bottle feeding time, Sonje brought Alamaya with Mwashoti; Mwashoti managed to hold the bottle with his short trunk in an attempt to drink on his own like Zongoloni and Jasiri do. Some wild elephants came walking to the bottle feeing point to meet the babies at noon. When Quanza saw them approaching she called Zongoloni and Lima Lima. Ziwa went and touched the wild elephant but he got some rough treatment from the bull who held his trunk and pulled him towards a tree, making it difficult for Lima Lima and to come in and help their friend. Ziwa managed to get away and they all ran away back to the keepers.

11 January 2017

As soon as they came out of their pens this morning the orphans went off to fill up their empty stomachs in the forest during the morning browsing session. Along the path to Umani Hill they found many tsetse flies which made it impossible for Alamaya and Mwashoti to feed peacefully due to the stinging insects. Poor tail-less Alamaya didn’t have a tail to try and keep the flies off like the others! Alamaya shouted after he was stung and Ziwa came running to him to see what was wrong. Sonje also came to see what was wrong with the shouting boys and found Ziwa fighting Ngasha, because Ngasha wanted to climb on Zongoloni but Zongoloni denied him. After the bottle feeding, all the elephants stopped under the shade of the big trees to wait for the albinos to cool down their hot bodies, the journey then began again to the mudbath point where the wild elephants have their mudbath. The babies could smell the wild elephants that wallow in the small mud bath and enjoyed rolling on their backs in the muddy waterhole.

12 January 2017

Today Ngasha took over the leadership role from the matriarchs in the morning and tried to lead the whole group, including Murera and Sonje, to the top of the hills. Mwashoti did not have faith in Ngasha’s leadership abilities and he began rumbling in complaint to Murera, Sonje and Lima Lima to get them to lead the orphan herd. Alamaya started walking up to the hills following Lima Lima who had found some sweet branches to eat. Lima Lima had a bit of fun chasing the butterflies that she came across when browsing. Zongoloni later brought Alamaya down to the soil dusting area. They stayed near Murera, browsing together until Murera signalled that it was time to return to the browsing activities and they all followed her to the bushes.

13 January 2017

Sonje made her way to the browsing fields with the young boys following behind her as the rest of the group brought up the rear. From the browsing fields the orphans moved to the open fields in an effort to locate the wild bulls that they heard around the forest in the morning. The wild elephants had picked up the keepers smell and ran away as they are still very fearful of humans. Alamaya found himself very tired after the long walk and found a place to rest on the ground for a spell before Lima Lima and Zongoloni came to get him so that they could make their way to the noon milk feed and mudbath. Ngasha was very playful today, digging the soil with his toes before getting ready to take on Faraja to play their pushing games. Faraja however was in a serious mood today and was not willing to play with his friend. In the evening, as the babies were getting ready to go home, Ngasha made his way to the water trough for a drink of water after which he rejoined the group and they made their way back to the stockades.

14 January 2017

Quanza and the big girls, Murera and Sonje were feeling very hot as it was a scorching hot day. The group arrived at the mudwallow for their noon milk feed and they all immediately wanted to get in the water in an effort to cool down. Unfortunately they found that the wallow was dry and as such they had to move to a different waterhole that they could wallow in and cover their bodies in mud. Ziwa and Faraja could not stop pushing each other as they normally do around the mudbath area. Faraja touched Ziwa’s tail and Ziwa thought his tail was going to be grabbed by Faraja and he turned quickly to prevent him from doing so. Faraja then tried to initiate a pushing game which Ziwa tried to run away from but was not able to. Faraja continued to push Ziwa until Quanza came in to separate the two.

15 January 2017

The morning began nicely with the orphans very ready to get out and begin the new day. They followed their keepers and Lima Lima out to the forest towards the water springs area where they found a big tree that had been felled by wild elephants that had come from the Chyulu Hills in search of water from the springs. The crocodiles at the springs heard the elephants coming and quickly got in the water so that they would not be stood on by the orphans. Zongoloni got a fright when she heard the crocodiles entering the water as she could not see what had caused the splash. Sonje and Quanza communicated with Zongoloni to move slowly as they had found some nice branches to feed on in the area. At the bottle feeding point, Jasiri came rushing in with Zongoloni and grabbed their bottle as quickly as they could, leaving Mwashoti and Alamaya to be fed by the keepers. After finishing his milk Jasiri continued running with the empty bottle to make sure that not a drop was left. A keeper had to run and get the empty bottle from him after he dropped it on the grass.

16 January 2017

Murera got very scared and began charging at everything around her with her big ears raised above her head. The keepers went to see what had scared her but the only thing they found were some crane birds that were in the bushes looking for their eggs. They had managed to scare Murera as their nest was not far from where she was standing. At the swampy area around the bottle feeding point, Faraja found some muddy soil for wallowing and enjoyed rolling around in it until his whole body was covered in mud. Ngasha saw what Faraja was doing and went to join him and the two were joined a short while later by Alamaya who also enjoyed scratching his bottom against the walls of the wallow. After they had enough of the mudbath they rejoined the rest of the group and they all headed off for the afternoons browsing session.

17 January 2017

Faraja with his naughty friend Ziwa grouped together in the forest and spent the morning browsing near Sonje, who had pulled down some sweet acacia branches to share with the young boys. And they all enjoyed feeding together peacefully. Murera had a lovely scratching session against the road sign posts relieving herself of all her itchiness. Mwashoti was left with Ngasha until Sonje, who did not have much faith in Ngasha as she felt Ngasha was not capable enough of taking care of Mwashoti, rumbled to the youngster to get him to follow her to the forest. Sonje managed to get both Mwashoti and Alamaya to follow her and the three of them went to join Murera. Lima Lima was not happy about the set up and went to get Alamaya back from the older girls. Ngasha had a lovely time at the dustbath today spraying dust all over his head and body.

18 January 2017

Lima Lima took off with the young babies walking them to the tall grass where it was not easy to see the little boys, Mwashoti and Alamaya. The keepers could see the grass moving as the elephants walked through it but could not see any of the youngsters as only Lima Lima was visible in the tall grass. The keepers made sure to stay close to the orphans so that they would not lose sight of the babies. As the day progressed it got very hot and the babies were all feeling the heat. They were busy flapping their ears in an effort to cool down. Zongoloni and Quanza consulted each other on what to do about the heat and they came to an agreement to go to the waterhole earlier than usual so that they could all cool off. At the bottle feeding point the orphans drank their milk and then headed for the shade.

19 January 2017

Jasiri was feeling very hot today and when it was time for the noon milk feed he made his way directly to the waterhole for a mud bath together with Murera and the little boys, Mwashoti and Alamaya. Mwashoti took advantage of being close to Murera to avoid being bothered by the rowdy boys. Zongoloni together with Ngasha joined them and they all enjoyed splashing their chests with the muddy water. When all the elephants finished wallowing, they headed back to the forest for another browsing session. Zongoloni and Quanza raised their long trunks up to catch the scent of some wild animals that were in the forest and were making their way towards where Alamaya and browsing together with Lima Lima. The orphans initially thought that some wild elephants were coming but found that it was only bushbucks in the company of some baboons. The orphans then decided to cross over the Umani Hills towards Kenze. Mwashoti and Ziwa came across a nice dust pile and decided to roll around and play for a few moments while Murera waited for them to finish.

20 January 2017

Ngasha waited and waited for the matriarchs to come up front and lead them out to the forest but Murera seemed to be taking quite a while. Ngasha was impatient and did not want to wait so took the lead of the group taking them to the Umani Hills circuit. Ngasha stepped over some posts that were on the path before coming across Sonje who was scratching her body on the road sign posts together with Mwashoti. Murera was busy breaking down some acacia tree branches for the little boys who were all around her when she sensed some movement in the forest and was a bit wary thinking it may be wild bulls coming to join her herd. She raised her ears and charged into the forest scaring the baboons that were the actual reason for her getting a fright. Lima Lima and Sonje came to help Murera chase the baboons into the trees and the three girls were soon joined by Mwashoti and Zongoloni. All orphans again came back to the waterhole where Mwashoti was protected by the matriarchs surrounding him at the waterhole, so he would not be pushed by the big boys; he was between Murera and Sonje on the left side while Mwashoti was in the middle.

21 January 2017

Ziwa realised he had become separated from his friends, he panicked and began looking round to see where they were. He spotted Murera who was holding a big branch in her trunk and was peeling the bark so he made his way to join her. Sonje enjoyed a scratching session against the sign posts before throwing dust over her body in an effort to keep the flies away. Lima Lima was enjoying a quiet browsing session in the fields. Sonje had fun playing game of rolling in the grass. She was watched by Zongoloni and Ngasha who know that Sonje was trying to get Alamaya to come and play with her and climb on her back. When all the orphans arrived for the mudbath they all entered the waterhole for a swim and to roll in the muddy water. Some of the orphans went as far as to submerge their heads in the water, swimming around as if they were hippos.

22 January 2017

Today some wild elephants walked to the Umani water springs making a lot of noise as they and their babies had a drink of water. The Chyulu hills is beginning to dry up following the drought being experienced throughout the country, making it very hard for all the wild life living within the Kibwezi forest but at least the Umani Springs is a permanent water source. From the water springs, the keepers called the leading matriarchs but only the fastest girl, Lima Lima responded to their call. Perhaps she thought that that had a special titbit for her. She ran straight to Amos to see what he had for her and upon seeing that his hands were empty she rejoined the orphans who were making their way to Kenze for the morning browsing session. In the evening, the keepers came with the orphans to the waterhole for a drink before returning to the stockades. A few of the orphans felt it was very hot and decided to go for a swim. A crocodile that was sunning itself was quick to enter the water to get out of the orphans way.

23 January 2017

The elephants exited their stockades in the morning, looking forward to the new day. Mwashoti and Quanza walked out holding a dry stick as they chewed on it to try and remove the bark. Alamaya was also holding a stick but was dragging it on the ground as if marking the direction that the rest of the orphans should follow. Ngasha came over to Quanza and grabbed the twig which she was holding. Quanza turned to confront Ngasha as to why he had taken the twig from her. The orphan herd then made their way to the grazing fields looking for fresh foliage, following the paths that the wild elephants had taken the night before. Lima Lima found a place to stop and play. While she was getting ready to begin Zongoloni came rushing past, pushing Lima Lima who got up and followed Zongoloni who was headed towards the pushing boys. In the afternoon, Jasiri seemingly ready for a fight, came over to Ngasha who had earlier stepped on his tail. Ngasha turned quickly to prevent his tail from being grabbed by Jasiri who is a known tail grabber. Sonje had to come in to separate the two when she saw that there was not going to be an end to their fighting and pushing today.

24 January 2017

When the elephants woke up and exited their stockades Zongoloni made a bee line for Murera and the two pleaded with Sonje to go to Chyulu Hills for the days browsing activities as they always have a peaceful time browsing there and they often come across dung from wild elephants which they can show Mwashoti and Alamaya so that the two can taste it and learn what vegetation is good to eat. At the waterhole in the forest, Ngasha found plenty of muddy water to splash on his chest, before the other babies arrived for mud bathing. Lima Lima stood away from the waterhole with Alamaya and the two then went for a scratching session before Lima Lima escorted Alamaya back to the wallow. Today Ziwa had a rough time with the two naughty boys, Ngasha and Faraja, as they pushed down their gate and invaded Ziwa’s room, forcing Ziwa to run away to the stockade fence line. The keepers tried to bring him back to the stockades but he declined. The keepers then decided to leave Ziwa outside to see what he would do. He stayed there till dark at which time he began screaming to be let back into his room. Hopefully this will teach Ziwa to listen to his keepers in the future to avoid getting upset.

25 January 2017

Ziwa came out of his stockade in the morning and went straight to the other babies to let them know what had happened when he spent some time outside of the stockade compound last night. They were all interested to listen to the story of his short adventure. While the babies were in the fields browsing on the long grass, Faraja and Alamaya decided to separate themselves from the rest of the group for a private browsing session, rejoining the herd when it was time to head to the mudbath. The orphans arrived at the waterhole for their milk feed and mudbath on time today. Quanza was the last in line to get her milk after which she ran to the waterhole to join her friends who were all having a lovely time in the mudbath.

26 January 2017

Which vegetation to choose from was the beginning of the orphans programme to start their day today. Lima Lima took Faraja a little bit away from their friends to find some soft branches before they were joined by Sonje who was taking care of Mwashoti and trying to help him climb the hills to look for more foliage. When the bottle feeding was over, Ziwa walked to the waterhole to splash water on his chest as it was getting hot. Lima Lima and Zongoloni came rushing to join Ziwa in wallowing and everyone was happy inside the waterhole. Alamaya got into the middle of the wallowing babies and rolled his whole body in the mud, turning into the star in the waterhole.

27 January 2017

All the babies began to walk out towards the Umani Hills on the path that winds its way around, looking for nice foliage to browse on. It had been quite awhile since the orphans had walked on the hill circuit. Mwashoti was very energetic and turned to play with Sonje, trying to climb on her back. When the babies arrived at the bottle feeding ground Murera arrived very late and found all other babies had already taken their bottles and were waiting for Murera to come, as she is the matriarch, so they could all walk to the dust bath together. Sonje threw soil on her back and head and after some minutes she and the other orphans body colour had changed completely from the grey colour they arrived in, to the brown colour of the soil there.

28 January 2017

Sonje walked out of her stockade to the waterhole near the stockades where she found wild elephant dung all the place and looking very fresh; seemingly the wild elephants had walked around the waterhole to drink and say jambo to the babies but had found them still in their pens. Whilst walking towards the water springs the keepers and orphans heard wild elephants shouting deep inside the forest in the direction they were walking for fresh foliage. We all decided to continue walking but Zongoloni and Quanza had their trunks raised above their heads smelling. Lima Lima came back with her usual warning, trying to alert the keepers to be aware and stay away from the wild elephants around them. Three wild bulls came out with very big tusks and walked over to Alamaya, and very interestingly today all the orphans decided not run away like other times when wild elephants approach them. It was very encouraging to the keepers that Murera and her group are beginning to socialise with wild elephants and know that they belong in the wild, and should accept wild elephants as friends.

29 January 2017

Zongoloni thought that she was a big girl and could go it alone in the forest to look for vegetation without her friends around. As soon as she went deeper into the bushes though she started to become fearful, after hearing the loud trumpeting of wild elephants. Her friends also heard them and Quanza sped up with Lima Lima to go running there and see what was happening, and if there might be problem with Zongoloni being alone there with wild friends. The keepers heard the trumpets echoing around the forest too. Murera did not follow the herd and stayed with Mwashoti but Sonje defied the calls and went running after Zongoloni as well. They all returned safe and well and in the company of Zongoloni too who decided she liked it better with her friends. When it was time for mudbath Lima Lima tried to run in first for her bottle but the keepers tried to hold her back to allow the little babies to feed first. However clever Lima Lima sneaked around and away from the keepers using a different path, and the other keepers saw her drinking her share next to Alamaya before they could do anything about it!

30 January 2017

The keepers opened the gates for the elephants to come out and begin their day in the morning. Some of the orphans did not want to listen to Lima Lima and the path she wanted to take. Ziwa and Ngasha showed her some rudeness and disrespect when Lima Lima rumbled and Ziwa just continued walking away with Ngasha; they know they are all becoming big boys and the girls would not stop try to stop them from going where they wanted to. Today we had a very long walk and the matriarchs were walking quite far ahead, but we called Mwashoti and Alamaya to stop as we knew that if they stopped eventually the matriarchs would stop and come back to join them. Later on in the day more than about nine wild elephants mixed up with Sonje together with Jasiri as everyone was planning to come back to the stockades to rest after the long walk. The wild elephants followed Murera’s family all the way to the stockades but found the gate was closed and they couldn’t get in, but they spent the night close to where Murera was with Sonje and the others in their pen.

31 January 2017

Many wild elephants are now coming all the way from inside the Kibwezi forests as it is quite dry all over the Chyulu Hill and Kiboko areas. Wild animals from those places are now coming into the forests to survive, with water and green pastures all around. Murera and the families are now getting to know about the wild elephants coming round to the Kibwezi forest and mixing with them on a more regular basis, making the keepers so happy and hopeful that eventually our orphans will settle back into the wild after the long and gradual process of reintegration; giving hope back to the orphans after losing their mothers and families in one way or another, but mostly due to humans.