Keepers' Diaries, July 2014

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Umani Springs Reintegration Unit

The five Umani girls, Murera, Sonje, Quanza, Lima Lima and Zongoloni are extremely content in their new stockade compound located in the Kibwezi forest. Every day they leave their stockades happily, ready to learn more about the Umani area and the keepers too. Each day brings new excitement as they explore their surroundings and all the new sights, smells, sounds and experiences.

The five Umani girls, Murera, Sonje, Quanza, Lima Lima and Zongoloni are extremely content in their new stockade compound located in the Kibwezi forest. Every day they leave their stockades happily, ready to learn more about the Umani area and the keepers too. Each day brings new excitement as they explore their surroundings and all the new sights, smells, sounds and experiences.

The baby elephants have a lot to learn and sometimes scare themselves unnecessarily. When it was time to return home one day the elephants accidentally came between a baby baboon and its mother, this led to the baby baboon screaming in fear sending the little herd hurtling back to the safety of the keepers, trumpeting all the way. This incident really freaked Quanza out who was extremely frightened for some time, Zongoloni too, with Lima Lima a little more casual than the others.

Poor Quanza seems to be the most fearful and was one day even frightened by a bush buck crossing the road. Another time during a mudbath session a terrapin popped its little head out of the water scaring Quanza and Zongoloni terribly. Murera also took off having seen Quanza and Zongoloni running away, and she ran straight to Lima Lima for comfort, who was of course eating away at the acacia pods hanging in the trees. The young orphans have even been scared by the noise of hornbills, guinea fowl and a crane; animals they did not encounter back at the Nairobi Nursery.

The young girls are however fast gaining in confidence as the days tick by. They didn’t run away the day they sensed a python, though it was too fat to move much, and they quickly alerted the keepers to its presence.

Lima Lima also enjoyed giving a vervet monkey a huge fright by trumpeting so loudly that the monkey took off in the opposite direction leaving Lima Lima incredibly satisfied.

Lima Lima, is a very social and extremely special baby who provides the keepers with much entertainment as she is always doing something naughty. One day after her milk bottle she walked very slowly to the keepers to show them that she had a thorn in her foot. It was quickly removed and she was back to her normal self; running around the place looking for food.

Lima Lima has an infectious enthusiasm which has filtered throughout the Umani herd, as she is always the first to come rushing out of her stockades in the morning beating the others to the milk bottles or any other tasty food she can find. Lima Lima is still a very greedy elephant and is always looking behind to see if anyone has left an unattended milk bottle. In the evening she runs at a sprint to the stockades for her beloved milk bottle in the hopes that if she gets there first she might get more milk. For Lima Lima her days revolve around the acacia pods, the milk bottle, tasty greens that Amos might pick for her, and almost anything else delicious she might find. She is adventurous, confident and is the glue that has cemented and settled this special little female herd together in their new home.

One morning all of the orphans were inconvenienced with a late milk feed due to two wild elephant bulls refusing to budge from the middle of the road. There was no safe way to get by, so the Suzuki milk vehicle had to sit patiently for a whole hour until the wild elephants moved off. It was lovely to see the wild elephants taming down.

The Umani orphans take turns in leading the mini herd through the bush to new places for a day of exploring and searching for new foods. The variety of vegetation in the Kibwezi forest is greatly appreciated by them all.
Murera is content and settled with her beloved Sonje by her side, and dear friends Zongoloni, Quanza and Lima Lima there to provide the confidence that she needs when dealing with a completely new environment.

After coming out from the stockades in the morning, Murera usually walks into the thick dry grass to graze whilst the rest of the orphans have their milk bottles. One day Quanza tried to lead the others to Murera so they could start the day, but Sonje was in a very lazy mood. She lay down in the stockade and even when Zongoloni tried to pull her up Sonje remained in her relaxed position totally chilled out.

Acacia pods and acacia roots were rare at the Nairobi Nursery but are now found in abundance on the trees or on the ground and the orphans without exception simply love them. These are the Umani treats enjoyed each day by them all.
This month Quanza led the young herd to the main water pipeline. The elephants were all very intrigued by the pipes and even sat on the pipeline, sniffed it and tried to taste it. The pipeline has since became a fun place for the orphans to visit almost daily especially because of the rich foods that are readily available close by due to the ever present water leakages. Quanza was delighted when she found a broken piece of pipe and she enjoyed playing in the clean water that gushed from it eventually forming a nice clean mud bath which all the orphans enjoy enormously. They now look to visit there almost daily.

Umani Springs has remained fairly warm this month and the elephants as a result love nothing more than to wallow in the water having spent the morning walking under the hot sun. After wallowing in the thick mud they emerge dark grey from the clay.

The mud isn’t just a source of fun; it also helps protect the babies from ticks and the tsetse fly. Murera likes to get on her knees and then rolls to scratch her belly, satisfying the all too irritating itches. Sonje loves swimming and spending much time totally submerged and has become quite the water baby.
The Umani girls have been regularly visited by wild herds of elephants at night and the orphans are always curious of their night time visitors, more often than not seeking them out during the day. The wild elephants in the Kibwezi forest while plentiful remain shy during the day time, but this will soon change once they grow familiar with the routines of the orphans and their Keepers.

The wild elephants push down trees and make so much noise some nights that the keepers have to check that their young charges are alright. The Nairobi National Park doesn’t have any wild elephant herds so this is the first time these babies have seen big adult elephants since they were orphaned. As these five are the first orphans to arrive at Umani they don’t have the advantage of older ex-orphans to initiate the meetings between them and the wild herds. Also with this new facility the wild elephants are not used to seeing the keepers and it will take time before they are totally comfortable with their presence.
The Umani babies are extremely inquisitive about their night time visitors and as soon as they are let out of their stockades in the early mornings they try and follow the scent of the wild elephants deep into the bush.

The wild elephants aren’t the only animals both the orphans and the keepers have to be careful of. The little herd frequently encounter buffaloes that can be temperamental and dangerous. When they cross paths with any buffalo the keepers quickly change direction and move off to a safer place avoiding any close encounters.

With days full of excitement, dust bath wars, mud bath games and scary but fun wild encounters most end with a herd of very tired elephants that sleep especially well throughout the night. It is lovely to see these babies so settled and happy within their new environment.

July 2014 day to day

01 Jul

The elephants stopping for lucern is now a routine thing at the beginning of the day. Zongoloni and Quanza were enjoying water before soil dusting and browsing. Zongoloni raised her trunk to smell the wild ones in the bush before Sonje led the group off to browse.

Dust time!

Play time

throwing dust everywhere