Keepers' Diaries, July 2017

Umani Springs Reintegration Unit

This month was characterised by plenty of interactions with wild elephants again, perhaps as they filter into the Kibwezi Forest with its lush vegetation and ever present spring in a drying Tsavo region, and each meeting is different to the next. It's one thing that the wild elephants are less cautious of the orphans, approaching them often, increasing less apprehensive of the Keepers it seems, but they are not always very friendly.

01 July 2017

All of the elephants were looking very happy early in the morning. Murera and Sonje, the big girls, came out of their bedrooms quickly and immediately started looking for their beloved Mwashoti, touching his tail and giving him hugs which made him very happy. Alamaya joined Zongoloni and Lima Lima for a walk along the water springs. Murera went ahead of the naughty boys to stop them pushing the young boys Ngasha and Ziwa, they were separated from Zongoloni and left Alamaya to walk away with Lima Lima.

02 July 2017

In the morning, after munching on Lucerne, the group were at the waterhole drinking while Sonje had a good scratch against the loading bay. Monkeys with young came to the water troughs for a drink but were quickly blocked by Ziwa and some of the other boys. Trumpeting and charging ensued, Quanza was especially loud which encouraged the other orphans to join in and they drove the monkeys away. The monkeys were jumping about and hid in tall trees, they were too quick for the keepers who tried to chase them off. Murera and Sonje with their baby Mwashoti were clearly protecting their keepers and keeping them safe.

03 July 2017

Many of the wild elephants came along to see how the orphan babies were doing early in the morning. The previous night saw hyenas around the stockade area, they started to be vocal and upset many of the elephants forcing Zongoloni and Lima Lima to push at their gates. Alamaya was extremely worried as it obviously brought back memories of when he was attacked by hyenas and was fighting to survive. The keepers came out to check him and calm him down.

04 July 2017

All of the elephants woke up in an unhappy mood. Sonje blew out a loud trumpeting sound to alert the babies that it was time to leave and to follow Alamaya and Zongoloni up the Umani Hills. Some crocodiles were enjoying the sunshine along the water springs but when they noticed the elephants, they quickly ran away so as not to be trampled upon.

05 July 2017

Two wild bull elephants came over to greet the babies at the gate in the morning, one was slightly less forthcoming, shy and aware of the keepers. As Alamaya and Lima Lima were walking towards the stockades, Ziwa and Ngasha confronted each other. Ngasha held Ziwa’s tail with his trunk which did not go down well with Ziwa. He pushed Ngasha away with his bottom to make him release his tail. After the midday bottle feed, the group were by the waterhole. Quanza wanted to splash about and roll around in the mud but Zongoloni refused to play and so scrapping began between the babies around the water hole.

06 July 2017

The babies all came back happy and energetic after a long day of walking in the bush, keen to have their bottles and take a nap. Mwashoti was the first to arrive back, followed by Alamaya, then Jasiri with Zongoloni. When Mwashoti got into his bedroom he grabbed his bottle and held it tight with his little trunk, finishing the bottle which was supposed to be shared between two, something he learnt off the big boy Jasiri and big girl Zongoloni. Alamaya waited patiently as the keeper came to top it up and feed him. Murera and Sonje were the last to arrive back as their tired legs meant they could not keep up with the other babies. Sonje spent her time with a few friendly wild elephants and then joined the big boys Ngasha and Faraja.

07 July 2017

Some rogue buffalo got mixed up with the orphans and started to play around in the bushes where Murera, Sonje and Mwashoti were. When Lima Lima saw the buffalo she went to inform her keepers that they should move to a safer area. The keepers shouted to move the buffalo on as they could see Lima Lima, Sonje and Murera wanted to come out of the thick vegetation and into the open space. Trumpeting and charging then carried on for the day, kicking and trampling on browse that had fallen in their path. The elephants ran to their bottle feeding before having a mud and dust bath together. A bull elephant came to the waterhole to drink with Ziwa and Zongoloni but Lima Lima whispered to her friends that they should run away.

08 July 2017

The babies went to the Chyulu Hills today at about midday. As the keepers and babies were walking home slowly, they came across a big python which had consumed a bushbuck and therefore could not move. The babies smelt it in advance and avoided it, taking a different path but the keepers were not aware of it and one keeper stepped over the python without realising. Mwashoti who was following behind, saw the python and stopped with his keeper. Mwashoti began to run away and the keepers shouted after him, worried he would get lost. The keepers were concerned that the python could jump up and scare the babies but luckily all escaped without incident. Alamaya and Ziwa returned to the stockades holding trunks like the good friends they are. Zongoloni pushed them apart, forcing Ziwa to his bedroom and leaving Alamaya to get his bottle feed.

09 July 2017

After the babies had their bottles at the feeding area, Ngasha and Faraja, together with Jasiri, headed over to a different area from the matriarchs. Lima Lima was sent by Sonje and Murera to go and bring them back to the Umani Hills. Ngasha pretended not to hear this request to return so got a firm push from Quanza which persuaded him. Whilst travelling to the top of the hills, Ziwa was number one but Lima Lima remains the champion of the sprint during bottle feeding times. The keepers have joked that if Lima Lima was human she would be a world champion at the Olympics and bring home many gold medals! Alamaya was shouting for help whilst climbing the hills so Zongoloni went to see what was wrong – it turned out he was just tired!

10 July 2017

The orphans began their day walking towards the Kenze base line, led by Lima Lima and Zongoloni. They were looking for fresh vegetation to browse on before climbing the hills. Below the hills is a swampy area where the boys Jasiri and Faraja were walking very slowly. A rustling in the bushes caused all eyes to look around and wonder what was approaching from the forest. Zongoloni and Quanza were looking scared as well as the keepers who thought it could be a wild bull elephant. All were ready to run, leaving Jasiri to try his luck with the bull elephant. What emerged were two waterbuck looking to cross their path. The babies came to get their midday feed as usual. Lima Lima, the good runner, came last today as she was held back by the keepers so as not to disturb the little boys.

11 July 2017

Leopards were present around the stockades again today, although they are no threat to the babies the elephants still do not like their presence. They wandered next to Zongoloni and Quanza’s bedrooms which prompted loud noises from the elephants and worried the keepers who were resting after a long walk with the babies from the Chylulu Hills. The keepers immediately came outside to look around, Lima Lima and Zongoloni were pushing at their gates to get to Alamaya and make sure he was alright. The keepers tried all that they could to warn off the leopards, making loud noises which were joined by Sonje and Murera trumpeting. The leopards responded back and charged at the trees to see where all the noise was coming from. In the morning when all the babies had got up and ready for the day, the boys Ngasha, Ziwa and Jasiri walked out with Quanza to the bushes alongside the springs area. Quanza soon turned back as she came across some army ants on the path and was concerned about them going up her trunk and giving her a bite.

12 July 2017

The babies began their long day and walked through the Chyulu Hills. As they were walking, they were joined by two giraffe who quickly ran away after noticing the keepers. This made the babies jump and got them a bit worried. The keepers were then forced to drive the bottles to the Chyulu Hills and feed the babies there for the first time. They also felt that it would be too much for Murera, Sonje and Mwashoti to walk back such a distance. When the keepers drove back to the babies with the bottles, Lima Lima picked up the smell and came out from the bushes on to the roadside where the keepers fed her. The other orphans followed and all were fed on the roadside, even the keepers stopped there to eat their lunches.

13 July 2017

Mwashoti who has been very loyal and well behaved all of his life is changing in character; he is slowly becoming more playful and likes to jump on Murera and Sonje’s back whenever he sees them. So much so, the keepers are now wondering if Mwashoti is turning into a naughty boy like Alamaya who tends to push the older girls around. Ziwa felt thirsty before moving out of the bushes and went off to the water trough. He was followed by Ngasha who pushed him out of the way then ran away to avoid being pushed into the water trough. The babies again climbed the Umani Hills to get fresh vegetation before coming back to the feeding station at the waterhole near the lodge. There was a very large bull elephant waiting at the waterhole which proceeded to drink with them as friends whilst the keepers watched from a distance. Only Faraja and Jasiri attempted to push the large bull but after seeing the size and strength of him decided to give up.

14 July 2017

Lima Lima and her friend Zongoloni went running all the way to the water springs leaving the keepers wondering why. They thought they were thirsty but when they got to the springs the duo didn’t drink but simply stopped and waited for the others. Alamaya and Quanza did not follow until Sonje rumbled at them to join the others. Lima Lima and Zongoloni looked stranded and lost so came back to look for the others, then they all went in a different direction. Baboons and their babies in the trees were making lots of noise, scaring the orphans who then ran to their human families for comfort.

15 July 2017

The chilly weather made it impossible for the babies to freely walk outside and enjoy the morning. Alamaya and Mwashoti went to the matriarchs for more warmth. Lima Lima also joined Alamaya and when Zongoloni arrived, Alamaya began to push Zongoloni who thought it was a game and pushed back happily. Mwashoti went to Murera and Sonje for more warmth under their bellies. The keepers also put warm clothes on to walk up the Umani Hills, although Murera did not want to climb the hills. Some wild animal noises were heard but it was difficult to identify what they were – however, the keepers spotted a Hadada ibis on their way. Lima Lima went to warn the keepers as she usually does to keep them safe. Ngasha, Ziwa and Faraja pushed each other down to the ground leaving Quanza and Zongoloni to help Faraja up. Ngasha knew he had done wrong when he saw the accusing fingers of the keepers and ran into the bushes.

16 July 2017

All the orphans were in a very jovial mood as they made their way to the forest this morning trumpeting and charging as they went.  They could hear movement in the bushes and could not wait to see what was in there. They were quite happy when they saw some wild elephants coming out of the bushes towards them and Faraja, Jasiri and Ziwa went to greet their wild peers and the three looked tiny in comparison to the wild elephants who were not as keen on meeting the orphans and charged at them pushing them back towards the keepers and the rest of their group.    Murera, and Sonje and Mwashoti were all worried that the wild elephants and their calves would get between them and together with the keepers made sure to keep their group as close to together as possible as they continued on their way. When all the orphans arrived at the waterhole for their noon milk bottle they found that the milk had not yet arrived and were at a bit of a loss as to what to do.   A few minutes later Lima Lima raised her trunk about her head and caught whiff of the approaching vehicle. When it arrived she went and tried to grab milk bottles out of the back of the vehicle wanting to get her milk before the rest.  Lima Lima can be very greedy. She grabbed what she could and came back for more.

17 July 2017

Today the orphan herd headed towards the Chyulu Hills for their browsing session.  Along the way Quanza found some dung from some wild elephants and started to sniff at it. Zongoloni did the same and decided to pick up some of the dung and taste it.  Mwashoti was not happy about what Zongoloni was doing and prevented him from tasting the dung by taking it out her mouth.  Mwashoti was not happy about what Zongoloni was doing and prevented her from tasting it, like he is not yet familiar with the fact that wild elephants taste each other’s dung so that they know what vegetation to feed on; Zongoloni just wanted to know what vegetation was best to feed on from what can be found in the Chyulu Hills and the Kibwezi forest. When it was time for the noon milk feed the keepers did all they could to try and get the orphans to the milk feeding area.  Sonje, Ziwa and most of the rest of the orphans were quite far up the hill and did not seem keen on coming down.  As such the keepers decided to drive the milk to where the orphans were located.  When the vehicle started approaching the area Lima Lima started running towards it.  The keepers had to come and get between her and the car to keep her away so that she would not kick over the bottles and spill the milk as well as to ensure that each orphan got their correct share.

18 July 2017

A herd of wild elephants came around the stockades early in the morning before the orphans had started to make their way out to browse.The keepers heard loud trumpeting and the wild elephants that all the orphans thought were quite far away seemed to be much closer than they originally thought. Lima Lima was in a brave mooed and she walked out to the wild herd walk and joined them.  There were four little babies among the wild group and Lima Lima wanted to greet them  She made the mistake of grabbing one of the babies which did not sit well with its mother who came trumpeting towards Lima Lima.  By this point Ngasha had also decided to try and play with the wild babies.  In the end both Ngasha and Lima Lima were scared away from the group by the wild bulls. Despite not being that welcome Lima Lima kept wanting to play with the wild calves as did Ngasha and Zongoloni.   A very big wild elephant bull was seen today by the guests staying at Umani Springs and they asked the keepers a lot of questions regarding the wild bull and the orphans.  They were wondering if Murera would be able to cope with the wild bulls in the area considering her past injuries and the limitations she has because of them.   The keepers are confident that when the time comes, Murera will be just fine and will be able to cope with the wild bulls and all their advances.  

19 July 2017

Today, Jasiri, Faraja and Ziwa became quite disobedient of the keepers, ignoring their calls and instructions and walking away from them without even know what they were being called for.  Mwashoti and Alamaya went to see what the keepers were doing and found them near some acacia pods that had fallen during the night. The stopped to pick them up and were thrilled to have the lovely treat.   Murera and Sonje soon came and joined them and together they shook the trees branches getting more pods to drop down.  It was not long before the orphans were joined by some vervet monkeys, baboons and bushbucks all of whom wanted to have some pods.  When the three naughty boys saw what Murere and Sonje were doing they decided to come and get some pods for themselves.  Murera saw what their intentions were and chased them away not wanting to allow them to eat any pods which she had worked hard to collect for the babies in the group.  The three decided not to become involved in a fight and made their way towards the browsing grounds where they were later joined by the rest of the group. When it was time for the noon milk bottle and mud bath the babies came and waited to be given their share.   Mwashoti grabbed his bottles one after another and when he was done he walked to the waterhole for a drink.  None of the orphans went into the water today as they felt it with their trunks and found that it was cold.  Instead they went to relax for a while under the shade of the trees while waiting for the keepers to finish their lunch and join them.  

20 July 2017

The noon bottle feeding time today came to standstill when some wild elephants made their way towards the orphan herd.  The orphans and keepers were surprised to see six wild elephants heading towards the bottle feeding area at the same time that the orphans were arriving.  Lima Lima came running up as usual wanting to grab her share before the rest of the orphans got there.  Zongoloni and Alamaya stopped to see what the keepers were doing and made sure to stay with them.  Murera also kept her distance and spread her ears unsure as to which direction to take.  Mwashoti and Sonje who were with her also stopped in their tracks and went to the keepers who were calling them back.  Ziwa was in a brave mood and decided to ignore the keepers and join the wild elephants at the dustbath wanting to make friends with them. The teenagers in the group were not interested and pushed him back to where Murera, Sonje and Mwashoti were standing and waiting to see what the wild elephants would do and where they would go.   In the evening when it was time to return to the stockades Alamaya and Mwashoti were led back to their night quarters by Jasiri and Zongoloni where they found their evening milk bottles waiting for them. Alamaya quickly finished his bottle and then put his trunk between the stockades posts and grabbed one of Mwashoti’s bottles.  Mwashoti was still drinking his first bottle which was being fed to him by a keeper and the keeper had to stop to get the second bottle back from Alamaya so that Mwashoti would not be cheated out of his share of milk.  

21 July 2017

Lima Lima came running out of the stockades this morning and tried to get to the store to steal some lucerne and pellets. The keepers knew what she was up to and did their best to get her away from the supplement feed store but not rebore she had already grabbed a few trunkfuls which she was munching on as she went to join the others. Ngasha and Alamaya stuck close to her and tried to steal some lucerne from her but were unsuccessful in doing so.   Sonje walked slowly to the lucerne feeding corner with Mwashoti and Murera rumbling to Mwashoti to keep close by her side.  After the lucerne feeding was over the orphan group made their way to the Chyulu Hills where they had a lovely time browsing and all seemed to be happy with one another.  Some Guinea fowl flew out of the bushes and over their heads giving them all a fright causing them to run off.  Zongoloni lifted her head up and looked at the sky to see if she could fine what it was that had startled them but could not see anything.  The keepers went to see what the problem was and discovered that the Guinea fowl were simply protecting their nest as they did not want the elephants to step not their eggs.

22 July 2017

Today the orphan elephants made their way to the wild waterhole where the wild elephants normally enjoy having a mud bath.  Ziwa and Ngasha were both feeling very hot and wanted somewhere to cool off as they had not managed to do so in their normal waterhole.  When Ziwa, Ngasha and Jasiri arrived at the big waterhole they found a buffalo sleeping inside the mud. When he heard the orphans and keepers he raised his head and got out of the water to run off while at the same time allowing everyone to see how big he was.  The keepers were surprised to see that Mwashoti and Murera, who were closest to the buffalo, did not seem to be afraid of him and rather than running away they just stood calmly watching him as he headed into the forest.

23 July 2017

It was very cold in the morning and the babies tried to get close to the matriarchs to garner warmth from them.  Mwashoti stayed under Murera’s belly while Lima Lima took care of Alamaya. Despite all her efforts Lima Lima had a hard time fitting Alamaya under her belly so that she could provide him with the warmth he needed and had to be happy with standing as close to her as he could in an effort to stay warm.  As it was cold Murera was feeling rather stiff and had to walk for a while to get the blood moving so that her leg would loosen up.  The more she walked the less stiff she was and the better she could move.   
 At the bottle feeding place the babies were busy drinking their milk when same crane birds flew over their heads squawking and flapping their wings.   Upon hearing the noise Zongoloni tried to look skywards but was unable to do so and followed the keepers and the rest of the orphans to the bush so that they could resume the days browsing activities.

24 July 2017

This morning some wild elephants were around the stockades and the babies all exited their night quarters and went to greet them.  Alamaya rumbled in protest as he was not really happy to have the wild elephants visiting as they are much bigger than the orphan herd with even the older matriarchs of the group, Murera and Sonje, being dwarfed by their wild friends. Ziwa and Zongoloni decided to go and greet the wild calves and try to engage them in a game. Zongoloni tried to grab one of the calves tails who cried out in protest bringing its mother running to see what was wrong. This scared Zongoloni away and she ran back to where Sonje and Ziwa were standing feeding on acacia trees around the stockade compound. 
 The keepers made sure to keep their distance from the wild elephants and watched them to see what they were going to do.  A wild bull decided to come up to the water trough and had a drink of fresh water before making his way back to the bushes and following the rest of the herd into the forest leaving the orphans to continue with their day.

25 July 2017

The orphans were very unsettled this morning making it difficult for the keepers to control them. They were trumpeting loudly and charging around in all directions. Quanza followed by Zongoloni went running in and out of the forest charging at the trees and trying to push over whatever they found in front of them.  The orphans behaviour was due to the fact that hyenas and leopards had been around the stockades in the night and they could still smell them which left them feeling uncomfortable and it took a while for the keepers to get them all to calm down. When the orphans finally gathered together Sonje and Murera making sure that everything was alright.  They seemed to be engaged in a discussion of which direction they should take when Ziwa and Ngasha made the decision by starting to follow the keepers who had begun to head into the forest. The orphans followed one another closely still scared of the nights visitors. When it was time for the mud bath the orphans were still skittish but the keepers managed to keep them calm using their milk bottles and they were soon looking more relaxed. 

26 July 2017

Ziwa came running from the stockade behind Sonje for the milk bottles which had been placed on the ground.  When he reached the bottles he stopped and screamed bringing the keepers running to see what was wrong only to find that there were no orphans near Ziwa and the only other orphan nearby was Mwashoti who was finishing his last bottle.  Quanza and Faraja were the last to finish their share of milk as they were drinking their bottles very slowly.  It was cold again today and as such none of the orphans ventured in to the mud bath at the noon milk feed and wallow. When they arrived there Zongoloni and Lima Lima tested the temperature of the water with their trunk and determined that it was to cold for wallowing.   As such the group made their way to the dust bath where the matriarchs were already enjoying throwing soil over themselves.  Murera and Sonje pushed Ziwa and Faraja with their trunks to get them to move over so as to create enough room for Mwashoti to come in and join them while at the same time making sure to keep Mwashoti and Alamaya on different sides as Mwashoti tends to be quite pushy with Alamaya when they get too close together. 

27 July 2017

Today the keepers decided to give the orphans a spray to get rid of any insects that may be annoying them. Lima Lima and Quanza kept running away from the keepers who were confused as to why they would not stand still and be sprayed and only later decided that it was probably because it was rather cold.  Mwashoti and Alamaya were happy to be sprayed and stood stock still as the keepers did what they needed to in order to ensure that the orphans were insect free.   Some wild elephants came around the orphans stockades at around midnight which had Murera and the other orphans rumbling and walking around their stockades.   Ziwa was the making the most noise as he did not want any of the wild bulls near him.    Faraja, Ngasha and Jasiri all took to pushing on the stockade gates in an effort to get to Ziwa and get him to be quiet and calm down so that the wild elephants would come closer enabling them to see them better and greet them in order to start forming some sort of friendship with them.

28 July 2017

Lima Lima is a very greedy elephant and always wants to be fed ahead of the normal feeding times.  She always keeps a close eye on the keepers when she sees them with the milk bottles and watches their every move.  Because of the commotion that she causes the orphans are now fed before six in the morning as Lima Lima makes a fuss as soon as dawn starts to break.   
 Today Lima Lima was a in a particularly naughty mood and as soon as she had downed her bottles, instead of joining Alamaya as she normally does, she went straight for the stores and grabbed a bale of hay running off with it.   The keepers had to chase her and shout at her to get her to drop the bale so that they could put it in the wheelbarrow and take it to the supplement feeding area. Lima Lima and Zongoloni were so impatient that they knocked over the wheelbarrow and started to feed on the hay. The rest of the orphans came to join them and as such the morning supplement feeding had to take place in a different area than normal.

29 July 2017

It was extremely cold this morning and Murera and Mwashoti were very stiff when they came out of their stockades. The rest of the orphans ran to the lucerne feeding area while Murera and Mwashoti could only slowly walk there to join them.  The keepers let the two have a bit more time at the lucerne piles before walking them around so that they could warm up and be able to walk with more ease allowing them to keep up with the rest of the group.   When the orphans got to the forest they split into groups with the some of the boys following Jasiri and Ziwa while the remaining babies followed Lima Lima and Zongoloni with Sonje and Murera browsing together.  The orphans came running to the bottle feeding area from different directions today leaving the keepers guessing as to which direction they would appear from.  Zongoloni and Jasiri arrived at the milk bottles just ahead of Mwashoti and Alamaya who came running in behind them.   Ngasha and Ziwa went straight to the dustbath while the rest of the orphans went to test the mud bath waters but found them too cold for a wallow.  They therefore all had a dustbath after which they returned to the forest for the afternoons browsing activities.

30 July 2017

This morning a lot of trumpeting was heard coming from the bushes around the stockades.  The trees could be seen moving as something ran through them. The orphans were feeling rather scared wondering what was going on.  The keepers made sure to keep close to the orphans so as to keep them calm while they all waited to see what was causing such a commotion.  When nothing came out of the bushes Ziwa and Lima Lima went to investigate and found some big buffaloes fighting.  This gave the two orphans a fright and had them running back to the keepers and the rest of their friends.   Today we decided not to put the lucerne in the usual place and instead called all the orphans to the water springs area so that they could enjoy their lucerne in peace well away from the fighting buffaloes who could cause injury to the orphans and the keepers should they decide to charge while in an agitated fighting mood.  

31 July 2017

During the night Ziwa, Faraja and Ngasha had been busy trying to ascertain where the noise that they were hearing was coming from while Zongoloni and Jarsiri pushed at their gates as did Murera and Sonje.  The keepers had to come out of their tents to see what the fuss was about and found that it was some hyenas making a lot of noise which was scaring the orphans.   The keepers went back to bed while Murera and Sonje stood looking at Mwashoti to see if he would settle before they themselves could relax and get some rest. When the orphans exited their quarters in the morning, following a restless night due to the hyenas, Alamaya led them all to their milk bottles after which they all enjoyed some lucerne and then made their way to the forest avoiding the water springs area where the hyenas were believed to have been during the night.