Keepers' Diaries, July 2016
Umani Springs Reintegration Unit
July was a hot and dry month in the Kibwezi Forest so there has been a lot of mudbath wallowing, especially for orphan Faraja and his albino friend Jasiri who feel the heat more than most. The Forest’s butterflies have been increasing in number despite the dry conditions and have provided much fun and games for the babies who love chasing them around the stockade compound and on the paths during their daily sojourns.
During the month the Keepers were surprised when Alamaya began picking up and holding his milk bottle with his trunk independent of anyone, just like how Zongoloni and Jasiri do during their milk feeding times. The first time they saw him do this was at the beginning of the month, and it has amazed them all given Alamaya’s young age. He continued to practice his new skill over the following weeks and is now quite an expert, and extremely proud of himself.
01 July 2016
This morning Lima Lima went to get her little friend Alamaya before leading the big group out of the stockades to the Chyulu Hills. Later on at the waterhole after all the babies had their milk bottles, Mwashoti went to the pool and began splashing himself using his little trunk trying to cool down from the hot sun. It was very hot weather today for the babies, forcing all the orphans to wallow again and again, before some of the babies stood in the shade like Faraja and his albino friend Jasiri who were feeling the heat.
02 July 2016
The little babies were feeling very thirsty in the early morning when they came out from their night stockades, all of them rushing to the waterhole for clean drinking water. During drinking time Alamaya found himself surrounded by the naughty boys, Ngasha and Faraja, whom he did not trust to be close to him, so he walked away trying to find Lima Lima who he later found with Ziwa. The boys, Ngasha with Jasiri, took on each other for a fight; they pushed one another for a long time without bothering to feed.
03 July 2016
The orphans started their morning by happily charging butterflies which were flying around the compound. Lima Lima, Zongoloni and Quanza joined the little boys to play with the butterflies together. Some buffaloes came out from the bush to see what the orphans were chasing which made Jasiri suddenly turn around trying to scare the curious buffaloes away, but Jasiri did not succeed and he ran away fearing the big buffaloes, before they slowly disappeared back into the bush.
Today at feeding Alamaya made all keepers surprised to see him holding a bottle like how Zongoloni does with Jasiri. Alamaya did it very well for his age and strength; the keepers thought he was not able to hold the bigger bottles with ease.
04 July 2016
The weather turned very hot again today, forcing Ngasha who don’t always like wallowing to go straight to the waterhole and start rolling in the muddy water. While Limalima was busy kicking water around, the keepers noticed a bull elephant which was watching the orphans at the waterhole, immediately Murera also noticed him and quickly began to run away with some of the other orphans while Ziwa with Zongoloni went to try their luck to see if they could make friends with the bull. The giant bull elephant did not want to make friends but used his long tusks to push all of them away to be able to get to Murera.
05 July 2016
Lima Lima and Sonje again brought the babies to the pool to cool down during the heat of the day after a very pleasant morning of browsing around the Chyulu Hills and following the smells and trails of wild elephants. Alamaya was very happy to get close to Lima Lima, and today Alamaya was the best swimmer as he out played all the orphans as they were wallowing together.
06 July 2016
Today it was great to see Mwashoti playing in the mud as if he had never had a bad leg; he was very busy mixing wet mud with his feet and splashing water onto his belly. The Keepers looked at how Murera was also putting mud on her body using her trunk, but they saw she was struggling and helped her by using a shovel to put more wet mud on her back, where she couldn’t reach. As Mwashoti almost got himself stuck in the muddy water he screamed very loudly for Sonje and Murera to come and help him get out; the Keepers also helped to stop him from panicking and encouraged him out of the mud.
07 July 2016
Wild elephants came around the stockades today looking for the orphans creating a lot of noise making some of the orphans’ standstill in silence to listen to what was going on, because they could only hear movement in the bushes and loud trumpeting in the forests around them. Murera looked very fearful when she sensed they were getting closer to them, because she doesn’t like the attention of the bulls. Sonje and Lima Lima did not fear them and moved closer to the wild elephants, trying to get close to a wild baby to play with but the wild elephants were not happy with that and pushed them back. At the feeding point, Alamaya showed again that he was an expert in holding bottles on his own like Zongoloni and Jasiri despite his little trunk.
08 July 2016
Today all the orphans decided to walk in the opposite direction from where they had been getting fresher foliage for about two days ago, so instead they walked towards the Chyulu hills to see what they would get there. Faraja and Ziwa began making their way back even before reaching the Chyulu hills, as they wanted to have clean water to drink at the springs.
At the watersprings, Quanza with Sonje began to realise that the bottle feeding time was getting closer and they should start walking in that direction. Sonje then looked for her friends Mwashoti. Two buffaloes had blocked Mwashoti’s way out of the bush forcing all the other babies to stop and seek another alternative route, but the keepers appeared quickly to help and they called them with their usual calling signals, of saying [kwata, kwata kwata] and all babies came out running towards them.
09 July 2016
Today the orphans were led out of the stockades by the naughty boys, Jasiri and Faraja, who did not care about the better feeding grounds for the young babies like Mwashoti and Alamaya who need softer branches because they are still very young and can’t crush bigger branches like they do. So before moving much further Quanza took the lead, but Lima Lima and Zongoloni were not happy with allowing Quanza to go away with Alamaya or Mwashoti, so they blocked her way and took the lead themselves.
10 July 2016
When all the orphans arrived for the dustbath, Mwashoti was under heavy guard from the big matriarchs, Sonje and Murera, as they saw Ngasha and Faraja were looking at him very curiously, and they thought the boys might be planning to be mean to him. Mwashoti soon felt sleepy and he took a nap in the dust as Murera and Sonje watched over him.
11 July 2016
Today Sonje took Murera to one aside and had a conversation as the matriarchs of the group to decide where they would move back for more foliage after their bathing time. The naughty boys were enjoying their pushing activities to try out their strength, but Murera then intervened when Ngasha and Faraja came into a disagreement over a branch which Ngasha was chewing in his mouth.
At midday the weather changed becoming much hotter which forced them to go to the waterhole for swimming to try and cool down in the cold mud. Some antelopes arrived to drink water just as the orphans arrived but they could not get in while the elephants were swimming, so instead they had to patiently wait until the elephants walked away.
12 July 2016
Lima Lima was very disturbed when she heard a baby screaming without knowing who the baby was, although she thought it was Alamaya. So she stopped what she was doing to listen keenly trying to hear where the sound was coming from. She found it was her lovely baby boy Alamaya who Jasiri was disturbing by playing with his poor little tail. Sonje and Murera were also in line heading to Alaymaya’s aid.
As the babies were walking deeper into the forests, a wild bull elephant appeared, walking towards them looking very friendly. Sonje and Lima Lima took some of the orphans to say jambo to him and tried to interlock their trunks as a sign of greeting. Murera stayed very far from the bull elephant with Mwashoti watching them all while the keepers also stepped aside taking photos.
13 July 2016
Sonje headed with the orphans in the morning to Umani hill. Some wild elephants were making a lot of noise in the area so the orphans all kept together whilst Mwashoti did not let Sonje out of his sight. When their wild friends came down and mixed with them again today the orphans accepted them kindly and they all played together. Murera again avoided them and kept close to her keepers watching from far.
14 July 2016
The morning was very cold and Murera and Mwashoti came out from the stockades walking stiffly because of the cold, but after walking for some time they got warmer. Sonje came to Mwashoti putting his trunk over Mwashoti’s back trying to hurry him along. Lima Lima and Alamaya had a lovely time playing this morning also to get themselves warmed up.
Jasiri who is a ‘tail bitter’, went to grab Zongoloni’s tail but he found that Zongoloni was not in the mood and got very angry with him. Mwashoti had a chance today to lead the big elephants all the way to the waterhole to cool down and enjoy their milk bottles.
15 July 2016
It was a very long walk for the orphans when they decided to go all the way to the Kenze baselines area, a journey that makes young babies like Alamaya and Mwashoti very tired. Sonje with Murera had to provide the two babies with full guard when they had rests along the way from the bullying boys.
16 July 2016
The boys started their pushing game activities early, fighting over climbing on Zongoloni’s back, but Zongoloni didn’t let them get near anyway, keeping her them away. Alamaya decided to relax and went to sleep on the ground and was soon after joined by Mwashoti, but Mwashoti did not fall asleep, instead he looked for Sonje’s big ears to suckle on. Quanza again enjoyed time with Murera and Sonje, which she doesn’t often do, as she doesn’t tend to associate with the two matriarchs. So it was a big surprise to see her walking and spending time with them instead of Faraja and Ziwa.
17 July 2016
Today all the orphans lined up to visit the Umani water springs. After a very brief visit for water, Sonje came to collect Mwashoti and moved away with him heading in the direction of the Chyulu hills, where Mwashoti came to some black volcanic lava rocks blocking his way and he could not cross over well using his bad front leg, so Sonje showed him another path where there were no rocks.
As the matriarchs were busy walking alongside the young babies going to the Chyulu hills, many buffaloes appeared standing in their way, which surprised the orphans and their keepers, so all the orphans turned back giving the buffaloes space to go on their way. When the babies had turned away, Zongonloni came to Mwashoti and Alamaya and began being mean to them, she was trying to rub her belly on Alamaya’s, back so the keepers shouted at her to leave the baby alone and to go and play in the dust bath instead.
18 July 2016
A baby bushbuck came to visit the water hole at the stockades to see if she could get some water to drink. The orphans spotted her jumping on the water trough and then the two little boys Mwashoti and Alamaya came out in solidarity defending their water hole, so they chased away the baby bushbuck. Alamaya was trumpeting and Mwashoti also called out making sure the bushbuck wouldn’t come back. Afterwards both babies looked very tired and Mwashoti had to lie down and rest on the ground after his long chase.
19 July 2016
Crocodiles came out from the water springs to get some warmth in the sunshine today. Several of them were seen running back to the water trying to disappear from the elephants as they came along on their morning walk.
Ngasha warned Jasiri of the crocodiles and pushed him away from the water but the keepers made sure it was safe and Mwashoti and Faraja headed for a swim, whilst the others followed them to cool their hot bodies in the pool.
20 July 2016
The number of wild bushbucks have been increasing in the forest due to the work of the DSWT in protecting the area. Today many bushbucks were mingling around with the orphans at the Umani water springs without fearing the keepers who walked behind the elephants.
Lima Lima and Ngasha played tug of war after Ngasha was seen knocking down her friends Mwashoti and Alamaya, which made Lima Lima who is one of the mini matriarch of the babies, angry so she went to push Ngasha down in retaliation for what he did to Mwashoti and Alamaya. In the evening, when it was almost time to go back to the stockades for the night, Mwashoti with his little friend Alamaya took the lead with the big elephants following behind the babies walking home in a straight line, like a troop of solders on a marching parade.
21 July 2016
When the babies got out from their stockades in the morning ready to start their day, every elephant put their heads down trying to pick up some pods which had fallen down from the surrounding trees during the night, but Lima Lima was eating so many that she had to be moved away by Quanza so that the babies would also get some. They then walked away led by Murera and Sonje. The weather of the day changed drastically again with high temperatures making all orphans head for the waterhole to swim and cool down in the mud.
23 July 2016
Most of the orphans spent their time well in the browsing fields within the Chyulu hills. There were some wild animals like buffaloes, wild elephants and a giraffe which appeared near the orphan family, but most surprisingly was the giraffe which the group has never seen around the Chyulu hills before. The wild elephants didn’t seem bothered about the keepers being close by today, as some days they run away from humans.
The long day ended at the water hole, so that those who were feeling the heat could cool down. The little boys, Mwashoti with Alamaya did not go for a swim but instead waited for their mamas to wallow then before following them and going home for the night.
24 July 2016
Lima Lima took the lead this morning with Mwashoti who she had earlier grabbed away from Sonje so she could show him some soft greens to browse but he soon realised the mistake he made by walking away from his friends Murera and Sonje, so he turned back looking for them. Alamaya on the other side of the forest was being encouraged by Faraja to stop following the girls as he is baby boy and should stay with the other big boys, but Alamaya would not listen to Faraja because he can be mean to him, so instead went to look for his mamas.
25 July 2016
Wild elephants came to the stockades on several occasions during the night having come from the Chyulu hills. Many of the orphans did not have a good sleep because of all the noise and excitement. When they started their day all the orphans walked to the forests trying to follow their wild friends who visited them during the night at their stockades. Alamaya enjoyed breaking down some soft branches on their way towards the waterhole to drink, but most of the babies avoided putting water on their bodies or even splashing their feet.
26 July 2016
Another hot day for all of the orphans; Alamaya and Mwashoti were the most affected by the hot weather. The matriarchs also felt the need to take a walk to the waterhole and cool themselves with water there, where they enjoyed wallowing nicely together. After vigorous swimming the orphans decided to walk straight for more shade under the bigger trees led by Murera and Sonje.
The bigger group of orphans divided themselves from the matriarchs [Murera with Sonje]. It was the boys who made their own decision to go away from the females. Faraja and Zongoloni took two babies, Ziwa and Quanza, for a second round of swimming before they ended their day at home for more milk bottles.
27 July 2016
This morning Murera stood waiting for Mwashoti to come out of the stockades. He went straight to Murera’s ears and started sucking her big ear on one side, while Alamaya watched curiously. Murera crossed her legs nicely to give Mwashoti enough space to continue sucking her ears.
Sonje went to Murera and was talking about walking back to the swimming pool again in the afternoon to cool their bodies due to the rising temperatures. They finished wallowing and all the babies were lead away by Quanza and Zongoloni who disappeared into the bushes to browse and fill up their stomachs before it got late.
28 July 2016
Wild elephants invaded the area where the keepers put lucerne in the forest for the orphans. Due to the drought and lack of vegetation elsewhere a lot of wildlife has been coming down from the Chyulu hills including elephants, bushbuck and buffalo as they love lucerne as well. Sonje tried looking around if she could see any wild elephants, but they had already eaten and left.
Mwashoti went into the bushes leading the big elephants for browsing time. Later Jasiri and Ngasha came to the waterhole followed by the bigger crowd of orphans, who headed for the shade of the big trees cooling themselves down in the afternoon soon.
29 July 2016
Ngasha took the lead of all the orphans coming out from their stockades today. The matriarchs were not bothered but they were concerned about the young babies, who were with them, Alamaya and Mwashoti as they didn’t want them getting bullied by the naughty boys who were in charge. After the midday bottle feeding, all the orphans went to relax while feeding own their own while their keepers were also taking their bush lunch under the big trees. Ziwa walked to the dusting soil trying to put more soil on his head getting rid of the flies which were bothering him.
30 July 2016
The orphans woke up early and began pushing at the gates demanding their morning bottles which were being prepared already by the keepers, but Lima Lima could not wait for the keepers to finish the preparations. After taking their morning bottles all the orphans went out running out of the stockades full of energy making a lot of trumpeting as they charged off other wildlife in the area.
Jasiri enjoyed his wallowing time rolling his body around in the muddy waterhole changing his light skin colour to a very dark colour like a buffalo. Faraja joined his friend Jasiri at the waterhole, but Faraja wanted to play a pushing game while Jasiri was still enjoying his wallowing. Alamaya happened to be tired after the long day’s walk in the rough bushes, so he went down to take a break to rest under the shade of a tree where Lima Lima and Sonje waited for him to finish his nap.
31 July 2016
The babies were in a good mood this morning while they were getting up and leaving their stockades, their loud trumpeting was heard all over the area. It started with Ziwa and soon Ngasha joined him in trumpeting, Ngasha made very loud calls compared to Ziwa, and everyone could hear the echoes from the hills. The trumpeting continued for a while and everyone thought it was wild elephants, but the keepers were surprised to find it was just the naughty boys.