Keepers' Diaries, January 2019

Umani Springs Reintegration Unit

The orphans were able to socialise with many wild elephants this month, although the orphaned bulls in the herd were doing a good job of nearly ruining these encounters by being too rough and exuberant. On numerous occasions the orphans had to leave because Faraja and Jasiri were being too pushy, or Ngasha nudged one of the bulls or pulled their tails. 

01 January 2019

In the early hours of the morning, Sonje and Shukuru began to lead the orphans out into the forest but Ngasha and Ziwa seemed reluctant to follow her and went in their own direction. Sonje, followed by Shukuru, Murera and Mwashoti, kept going on their path. 

Whilst out in the bush, Murera seemed to call out to the other orphans by loudly rumbling; only Alamaya and Lima Lima came over to see what was happening. When the orphans were down at the waterhole for their midday bottles of milk, some bush bucks began to walk towards the water but were met by Ziwa who was reluctant to let them through causing them to eventually run away. Ziwa and Ngasha seemed to be left guarding the waterhole. 

02 January 2019

Murera and Sonje were very playful this morning as they left the stockades to head up to the Umani Hills looking for greener vegetation. Alamaya turned towards Shukuru, as if getting ready to push her, but his path was blocked by Lima Lima and Sonje who seemed to notice what he was up to.  

Once the orphans reached a nice browsing area on the Umani Hills, they came across a wild herd browsing. The wild herd welcomed the orphans, but Faraja and Jasiri soon saw to the end of this as they pushed one of the big bulls and later one of the younger calves. This seemed to aggravate the wild herd as they began to push back chasing the young boys, including Ziwa, Ngasha and Alamaya, whom eventually ran back to Murera and the Keepers who were watching from afar. 

03 January 2019

It was a beautiful morning with all the orphans ready to set out on their daily walk to the forest. The orphans walked along the Kenze baseline, when they came across some klipspringers. Mwashoti and Murera heard the klipspringers behind them and got a fright, running back to the Keepers where they appeared to calm down, before turning and continuing to walk with the others.  

The orphans had a lovely day at the Chyulu Hills, foraging, rolling on the ant hills and dusting their bodies by the roadside. They seemed to be having so much fun that they did not want to leave this spot for their midday bottle of milk and the truck carrying their milk bottles had no other choice but to drive around to them on the hills. 

04 January 2019

This morning the orphans were visited by a herd of wild elephants at the stockade water hole. All the orphans and the wild herd enjoyed some water before they all began to make their way out to the bush. Ziwa, Faraja and Ngasha tried to walk with the wild herd but as Ngasha playfully nudged in front of one of the large bulls, the young boys were pushed away and forced to make their way back to Murera and the Keepers whom were foraging under some trees. 

Lima Lima and Zongoloni seemed to figured out a way to stop Alamaya and Mwashoti from joining the bulls that were pushing each other around which the Keepers found very clever. In the meantime, Shukuru and Murera were breaking some branches to eat whilst they were making their way up the hills. As the day started to heat up the orphans moved faster towards the mud bath area, where some of them started to cool themselves off in the water. 

05 January 2019

In the late hours of the evening, some wild elephants could be heard loudly trumpeting along the water springs. The Keepers initially thought that the herd were fighting over water, but it was later discovered that it was a very large herd and the bulls were fighting over the females. 

The orphans appeared to be very disturbed by all this noise as they were pushing against the posts and gates, as if trying to get out. The wild herd later made their way up to the stockade water hole and one bull stayed near the gate for several hours almost as if he was waiting for Sonje or one of the females to come out.  

06 January 2019

This morning Shukuru took over from Murera and Sonje, whom had remained behind with Mwashoti and Alamaya at the spot where they eat their pellets, and led the orphans with Zongoloni through the pathways leading to the Umani Hills. At their midday feeding time, all the orphans came running down to receive their bottles of milk and later made their way down to the watering hole for a swim. Shukuru was the first to enter the water whilst her friends finished their milk, and when the other orphans came down for their swim, she had already left to go and have a dust bath. 

After their swim, the orphans moved back up the Chyulu Hills along the Kibwezi Forest. Whilst browsing, the orphans were joined by a herd of antelope and later a troop of baboons. Sonje and Mwashoti seemed to be unhappy with their new guests and chased them both away.

07 January 2019

The orphans seemed to be quite cheerful this morning as they all came out their stockades trumpeting and rumbling. Whilst on their way to the water springs, the orphans were briefly followed by a troop of monkeys and baboons that later went off in their own directions. Alamaya and Zongoloni went off in a different direction to the others orphans. The Keepers quickly went off and got Alamaya to come back to join Lima Lima and Quanza whom were enjoying some fresh acacia trees. 

In the afternoon, whilst the orphans were browsing, they came across some wild elephants that seemed to want to block the orphans’ paths and they even attempted to push Murera back. The Keepers shouted loudly at the wild herd causing them to move away and giving Murera the space to move on. When it was time for the orphans to make their way back to the stockades, Ngasha and Ziwa tried to ignore the Keepers and stay behind. The Keepers had to go back and lead Ngasha and Ziwa back to the stockades, but Ngasha seemed to ignore them and instead slowly made his way back to the stockades a little while after the others.  

08 January 2019

After their morning bottle of milk, Ngasha made his way out to the bush and was slowly followed by Ziwa and Faraja. The Keepers attempted to stop them, but as the boys are becoming more confident about going out into the wild, the Keepers feel that they may head off on their own sooner than they realise. 

After their midday bottles of milk, Shukuru attempted to run and roll around in the mud bath area. Alamaya seemed to get jealous and quickly made his way down to where Shukuru was wallowing. Shukuru, who had noticed Alamaya approaching, decided to move away to some nearby trees rather than remain at the mud bath area. 

09 January 2019

All the orphans seemed to have a very enjoyable day with no pushing battles; even Mwashoti left Shukuru alone in the morning whilst she ate her pellets and they later were happily browsing near one another. Murera and Sonje seemed to be keeping an eye on things but all the orphans were happily browsing and getting along. 

In the afternoon, whilst in the Kibwezi Forest, some crane birds landed near where Shukuru and Alamaya were browsing. Shukuru got a fright as the crane birds landed, and went running off leaving Alamaya on his own. Alamaya followed and ran towards Lima Lima and Quanza, who were both rumbling as if they were unsure as to what had scared them.

10 January 2019

In the early hours of the morning, the orphans were visited by what appeared to be one of Osama’s friends. He found the orphans enjoying their pellets and tried to get closer to Sonje and Murera, who were having none of it and kept running away from him. The bull spent some time near Ngasha and Ziwa, but they too moved away leaving him on his own. He eventually made his way back to the forest.

Once the bull had left, the orphans made their way to the Chyulu Hills to browse on some fresh greens. Alamaya and Mwashoti began to play fight, but the game quickly turned rough as Alamaya accidentally knocked Mwashoti down. Murera and Sonje ran to Mwashoti as he got up, whilst Alamaya seemed to run away to hide from the others. 

11 January 2019

There was a lot of fog this morning and it was very difficult to see beyond arms length. Elephants could be heard trumpeting throughout the Umani Hills and its surroundings; the orphans didn’t take much notice to this as they were busy chasing butterflies that were spotted right near them. The trumpeting continued throughout the morning, but it was the orphans who were now trumpeting and playfully charging some trees. 

Murera and Mwashoti struggled to follow the group once the others had stopped trumpeting, and began trumpeting almost as if they were trying to locate the others. The Keepers heard them and went to go and find them, and bring them to the mud bath area to join the others. 

12 January 2019

Some of the orphans wanted to walk to a different area to browse, but Murera and Shukuru did not want to follow them as they appeared to dislike the wet grass on their legs. Ziwa and Ngasha quickly walked off as they seemed to not want to wait for any of their female friends. The Keepers attempted to call them back but they had already walked quite far up the hills. 

During their midday bottle feeding time, as the orphans were having their mud and dust baths, a herd of buffalo appeared and began to watch the orphans as they played around in the mud. Mwashoti began to trumpet, almost as though he had picked up on the buffalo’s scent, as he began to trumpet louder Lima Lima looked up and also appeared to notice the buffalo. Once the orphans had noticed the herd of buffalo, they stopped dust bathing and began to move away with their Keepers toward the Hills. Later the orphans were joined by a young bull who was very friendly to all the orphans. 

13 January 2019

Whilst the orphans were walking along the Hills, greedy Lima Lima noticed the truck carrying the milk bottles pass them. She immediately made a run for the truck trying to reach the feeding point before the other orphans, but as she began to run so did the others. The Keepers had to stop Lima Lima from grabbing all the bottles from the vehicle. 

Mwashoti came in next and was followed closely by Alamaya; all the boys were well behaved. Shukuru remained at the back waiting her turn. Once she had had her bottle she made her way down to the mud bath area and began to splash herself with water before having a long dust bath while the Keepers enjoyed their lunch. 

14 January 2019

The orphans made their way to the Umani Springs to start their new day of browsing. Some of the boys stopped at the Springs after they noticed a crocodile along the banks. Lima Lima rushed back to the Keepers and younger orphans almost as if to warn them to not use that path. Ziwa and Jasiri decided to continue on their path and not follow Lima Lima, but Sonje and Murera turned back and brought Mwashoti back to the Keepers. 

When it was time for their midday bottle of milk, Murera and Sonje did not come down with the other orphans. Sonje and Murera came down after some minutes but just continued to browse and didn’t have their milk. The Keepers were not worried about this because they knew that as the girls are older they do not always want or need to have milk.

15 January 2019

There were lots of wild elephant herds on the Chyulu Hills today, making it difficult for the orphans to walk through the hills. The Keepers remained on high alert constantly watching their surroundings and making sure that none of the wild herds charged the orphans. Ngasha and Ziwa walked off towards some large bulls that were browsing in thick bushes. Everything was calm until Ngasha grabbed one of the bull’s tails. The bull immediately turned to Ngasha and Ziwa and was joined by another bull as they chased the young boys away. The young boys came running and trumpeting back to Sonje and the other orphans.

16 January 2019

All the orphans seemed to be the same size and height today, with Alamaya and Mwashoti also only having one bottle each for the first time. Alamaya and Mwashoti appeared to be confused by this as they both went to pick up another bottle of milk after finishing their first one. It took them some time to get used to this, but they eventually went and joined the others browsing. 

The Keepers wondered if Murera and Lima Lima were comforting the young boys as they remained near them while browsing, almost as though they were welcoming them to the next stage of being a teenager. Ziwa seemed to mock them causing Alamaya to move away and stay close to Lima Lima and Zongoloni.  

17 January 2019

This morning was quite disruptive with some of the orphans pushing each other around as they were coming out of their stables. Ziwa and Faraja seemed to be in big trouble with Murera, after Ziwa grabbed Alamaya’s tail, as she pushed them both away. This seemed to frighten all the orphans aside from Mwashoti and Alamaya, as quickly headed off to the forest away from the matriarchs. Murera seemed to be so cross that the Keepers had to intervene by shouting her name loudly, she eventually stopped but she appeared annoyed with the boys’ right up to the point that the orphans had their mud bath.

At the waterhole, the boys were only joined by Sonje and Quanza. Faraja and Jasiri were wallowing, whilst Mwashoti was splashing and kicking the mud so that it could cover his belly and back, protecting his skin from the sun. 

18 January 2019

The orphans began their morning by playfully running around the stockade waterhole. Whilst some of the orphans were rolling around in the dust Sonje kept interrupting Faraja and Ngasha whom were both trying to scratch their bodies against the wall. Murera and Mwashoti kept their distance from the group, eventually joining them as they all made their way down to the forest. 

In the afternoon, the Keepers led the orphans along the Kenze baselines. Whilst walking some of the Keepers began to sing. This appeared to please Alamaya and Shukuru, as they both stayed close to the Keepers whilst climbing up the hills.  

19 January 2019

This morning Lima Lima was very naughty as she scooped a bale of hay from the lucerne store and ran off holding it high in the air with her trunk dropping bits as she went making a mess of the stockade compound. She looked around to see where the Keepers were and hide from them behind the stockades before running back to steal more lucerne. Jasiri and Ziwa blocked her escape route as they fought to take the lucerne off her which resulted in the bale being dropped to the ground, which the Keepers had to clean up.  

Murera and some of the babies walked up behind Lima Lima who was hiding from everyone and gave her a push from behind in an effort to get her to behave as if she continued with her mischief it would result in her being disciplined by all the matriarchs in the orphan herd. Murera wanted to prevent this from happening by disciplining Lima Lima on her own using her tusks to do so. This had the resulted effect of Lima Lima moving away when she saw Murera coming as she was worried that she would be punished for her naughty behavior.

20 January 2019

Alamaya and his friends enjoyed a heated pushing game this morning around the stockade compound. Alamaya does not like his half tail being touched and whenever one of his friends does so he pushes them down. Though he was being tough on them it was all in fun as they all do respect Alamaya.

Whilst the orphans were browsing on the Chyulu Hills some buffalos and antelopes that were nearby started making a noise. The orphans went to investigate and found the male antelopes fighting for the females attention while the buffalos stood nearby watching. The fighting antelopes ended up quite close to Ziwa, Faraja and Ngasha who were busy browsing. As the antelopes approached them the three boys turned and charged towards them trumpeting loudly. The antelopes and buffaloes were surprised to see the elephants running towards them and scattered as they ran away.

21 January 2019

As it was a very cold morning, Murera and Sonje exited their stockades slowly as their legs were stiff and sore. Once they got moving and warmed up they were able to walk faster and Sonje got to enjoy playing with the young boys who climbed over her back as she lay on the ground stretching.

Ziwa and Ngasha took the lead of the orphan herd to the forest. Lima Lima and Zongoloni were not happy about this and went up to Ngasha pushing him back so that they could take over the lead position as they felt that the orphan herd should be led by a female. The two older girls led the group to the Kibwezi forest where they browsed until it was time for the midday milk bottle and mud-bath.

22 January 2019

The orphans had a restless night sleep as two leopards came around the stockade area and rested in the trees surrounding the stockade fence line. Mwashoti pushed at his gate making it clang like a bell in order to get the Keepers attention. The Keepers came out of their tent to see what was happening which alerted Lima Lima to the fact that something was up. She managed to get the rest of the orphans riled up and they all began trumpeting and pushing at their stockade doors wanting to be let out.  The Keepers shone their torches around and found two leopards in the trees watching them. They also found that the leopards had killed a baboon and had dropped it at the base of a tree. It seemed as if the leopards were waiting for the orphans to quiet down and the Keepers to leave so that they could enjoy their meal in peace. The Keepers managed to quiet the orphans who spent the rest of the night on alert waiting for the leopards to eat and leave.

23 January 2019

Last night at around midnight the orphans were visited at the stockades by some wild friends. Among the wild herd were some big bulls that had the females trumpeting loudly while they watched the bulls vying for their attention. The orphans really wanted to leave their night quarters so that they could greet their wild friends and seemed upset that they were unable to, and had to make do with rumbling greetings at them.  

While on the hill behind the water springs the orphans came across a wild bull who wanted to join them. Zongoloni and Quanza went up to greet the bull and welcome him into the orphan herd. The bull started pushing Ngasha and Jasiri away when they approached him and it was not long before they went their separate ways with orphans following the Keepers to the browsing fields.

24 January 2019

Sonje and her friends exited the stockades and followed Shukuru and Alamaya who were headed to the pellet feeding area. On arrival they found baboons there trying to steal the pellets. Sonje was doing her best to keep the baboons away and putting up a brave fight. Ziwa and his close friend Faraja arrived with the Keepers and together they managed to chase the baboons away so that they could enjoy their pellets in peace and quiet.  

The orphans spent the morning browsing on the Umani Hills and from there made their way to the noon bottle feeding area. Along the way they found some buffaloes blocking the path making it difficult for them to get through.  Murera walked back to the Keepers together with Mwashoti and then they all managed to get past the buffaloes with the help that they received from their human family. This however did mean that they arrived at the milk feeding area later than usual.  

25 January 2019

It was a cold and foggy morning as the Keepers and orphans made their way to the Chyulu Hills today.  The Keepers put on some warm clothing as they followed the orphans who were being led by Lima Lima who was on the search for some soft branches to feed on.  Lima Lima was closely followed by Ziwa, who instead of finding his own braches to feed on chose to steal any branches that Lima Lima found and was browsing on, by snatching them from her mouth.  Ngasha saw what Ziwa was doing and came in to help Lima Lima by pushing Ziwa away so that she could enjoy her browsing session in peace and quiet.  

The orphan herd came to the waterhole for their noon milk bottle. Once they had each downed their share they entered the water and rolled around in the mud in an effort to cool off.  Sonje, Faraja and Jasiri were very happy to join wallow with the rest before they all headed to the soil piles for a dust bath. The Keepers tried to get the orphans to come and relax under the shade of the trees but only Jasiri and Faraja joined them. The two boys are both albinos and have lighter skin than the rest of their friends which means that when the sun is at its peak it is best for them to stay under the trees with the Keepers.   

26 January 2019

It was a cold and cloudy day today and as such the orphans were in a much more subdued mood than normal.  The orphans made their way to the forest moving slowly so that Murera and Mwashoti, who were struggling with stiffness in their legs due to the cold, could keep up with the rest of the group.  Sonje made her way to the front of the group so as to direct the younger orphans to head in the direction that she preferred.  Alamaya was in the lead and took direction from Sonje while the rest followed with Mwashoti trying his best to keep close to Sonje so that he would not fall behind.  

Murera had managed to get left behind by the rest of the group as she stopped to enjoy a scratching session against some ant hills.  The rest of the group stopped and enjoyed browsing on fresh vegetation while they waited for her to catch up.  While feeding Ziwa and Ngasha were not happy to have their browsing activities disturbed by some crane birds that flew overhead and followed them in an effort to keep them away from their feeding area. They trumpeted loudly at the crane birds and tried to chase them but were unsuccessful in their efforts as whenever they got close to them they flew off leaving the orphans standing there with nothing to chase.  

27 January 2019

Today greedy Lima Lima got a bit of a nasty shock while browsing in the forest. While she was pulling vegetation from a tree, she managed to disturb a hidden bee hive which resulted in the bees swarming around her. Lima Lima was very clever and ran straight to a nearby waterhole, submerging herself in the water which prevented the bees from stinging her and they soon dispersed. By the time the rest of the orphans came to join Lima Lima at the waterhole there wasn’t a bee in sight.  

None of the orphans wanted to be taken to the bottle feeding area today which meant that the vehicle carrying their milk had to come to them instead. When the milk arrived Mwashoti and Shukuru led the babies to the car where those that could grabbed their bottles before the Keepers could even offload them and give each one their share.  

28 January 2019

Today on the way home, some of the older elephants separated from the rest of the orphan herd and arrived back at the stockades a little later than normal. Murera, Sonje and Ziwa came across some wild elephant dung while returning home and the scent of the wild elephants had them heading off down a different path in an effort to find their wild friends. They walked for a while before coming across two female elephants who they greeted from a short distance away, before turning to make their way home.  When they arrived at the stockades, they found Mwashoti and Alamaya already there as they had come back under Lima Lima’s care for their evening milk bottle.  Murera, Ziwa and Sonje were happy to have seen the wild female elephants though Ziwa was not quite so friendly at first and had to be warned by Sonje to behave.  

29 January 2019

Some light rainfall greeted the orphans as they exited their stockades to begin another day. They were all hungry as they had all finished the greens that had been cut and placed in their stockades the night before.  

The rain had made things quite wet and slippery which had the orphans avoiding the grass and wet patches. Lima Lima and Zongoloni tried to keep to the middle of the wider pathways in an effort to keep their legs dry. Ziwa and Faraja however headed straight to the forest to browse as they were hungry and didn’t much care if they got wet as they wanted to start browsing as soon as possible.

When it was time for the midday feed none of the orphans wanted to wallow in the mud-bath choosing to return to their browsing activities once they had had their milk bottle and a drink of water.

30 January 2019

There were some wild animals at the base of the Umani Hills today, which Lima Lima brought to the attention of the Keepers. Upon checking the situation the Keepers found many buffalos sleeping on the ground while getting a spa treatment from birds that were picking ticks off them. There were also some wild elephants in the area who were breaking branches from the trees and dropping them to ground for the smaller elephants in their group to enjoy. Lima Lima wanted to join the wild elephants but was prevented from doing so by the Keepers, who were headed back to the rest of the orphans, and did not want to leave Lima Lima behind, as she may have not been able to find her way back.

At the noon mud-bath some antelopes came running up to join the elephants in the water. Alamaya and Quanza who were standing at the edge of the waterhole prevented the antelopes from joining them for a drink. Alamaya trumpeted loudly which brought Ziwa and Sonje running in to support their friends in keeping the antelopes away. 

31 January 2019

The Orphans made their way to the Chyulu Hills to browse, with young boys Alamaya and Mwashoti in the lead. They came across some of their wild elephant friends who were returning from the forest. After exchanging greetings, Quanza walked away, leaving the herd with Sonje, who went to greet their new friends. Murera later arrived with Mwashoti and avoided the wild herd as she was worried that they could get hurt by their wild friends who very energetic in their playful pushing games.

As it was a very hot day, the orphans downed their noon milk bottle in the shade then immediately made their way to the waterhole for a cooling mud-bath. Shukuru was the first one to enter the water and was swiftly joined by the rest of the orphan herd. Once they were all in Shukuru exited the water and made her way to the dust bath where she managed to enjoy a few minutes of solitary dust bathing, before the rest once again joined her.