Keepers Diaries, July 2018

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Umani Springs Reintegration Unit

This month was all about Sonje as she has been drawing the attention of several wild bulls in the area, especially a certain few individual bulls. At the end of this month however, the affection being lavished on Sonje by one bull in particular created difficulty for the rest of the orphan herd as he insisted on following them around in the forest. The orphans did not necessarily like having him around, as he was not particularly friendly to any of the others, but instead was single minded in his focus for Sonje. The Keepers had a hard time keeping everyone together as the orphan group ran off in all directions to avoid the wild bull.

One day he was so incredibly persistent that the Keepers made an executive decision to walk back to the stockades and provide vegetation for the orphan group within the compound, safely locked inside so as to have some respite from his ardent pursuit of Sonje. Sonje is so very attached to little Mwashoti, and Alamaya too, so we feel sure she will not leave the dependent herd anytime soon. She is still very much one of the leaders in the group; one who can put a stop to any vigorous, over the top play-fights, and one who the other orphans, including the older boys, Jasiri, Faraja and Ngasha, would go to if necessary; besides, she and Murera are inseparable.]

Whilst Osama, the name the Keepers have given this big bull, was in close proximity, Lima Lima was as vigilant as ever making sure the Keepers were okay and out of harm’s way. The Keepers would always call the others to walk in whichever direction Lima Lima was going, as they knew she would always consider her human family walking behind her. She always puts her Keepers first, and demonstrated this on another day this month when she came across a python digesting a large meal. She has a certain look that the Keepers know well, which means there is something dangerous around, and she will stop and wait for them to catch up. Lima Lima is as caring as she is greedy, always first to her milk bottles! Shukuru, who has settled down so well into her new home, has become one of Lima Lima’s accomplices as far as food is concerned. She cannot begin her day without having as much of the lucerne pellet supplement as she can, and one day teamed up with Lima Lima to try and help herself from the store room one morning as well.

Zongoloni and Quanza have grown tired of waiting for the two greedy girls in the morning, and often just walk out to the forest, leaving them behind. When Shukuru arrives home in the evening she has her milk bottle but then turns to the pile of lucerne pellets and picks them up as fast as possible, shovelling them into her mouth with her trunk before the monkeys descended to share with her. We were equally surprised when it was she and not Lima Lima who stopped the milk vehicle as it was en route to deliver the bottles one day, and the Keepers actually had to give her one of her bottles just to get her to move off the path she was so determined! The truth is these orphans are old enough to be weaned, but in Shukuru’s case she needs all the fattening up she can get, and the others would create such a fracas if they were deprived; it helps to keep them returning to the safety of the stockades at night while they are still young.


Meanwhile, throughout the month the orphans enjoyed long walks in the forest, walking to the tops of the Umani Hills and those towards the Chuylu National Park as well, in order to find the best soft vegetation. Murera and Mwashoti did find these excursions slightly more challenging than the other elephants due to their leg injuries, but they were content to browse further down the slopes as well. This is the time of year when we start to see the delicious acacia seed pods start to drop from the Tortilis trees as well, which are a tasty treat for all kinds of animals including elephants. Our orphan babies will do anything to find some of these treats dropped on the ground, usually by over-exuberant monkeys playing in the trees above.


The older boys in the herd Jasiri, Faraja, Ngasha and Ziwa were in high spirits this month as we witnessed quite a few pushing games that Sonje and Lima Lima had to come between on a few occasions. Jasiri has rekindled his habit of touching or grabbing the others by the tail, especially Faraja, which infuriates him as he knows that Jasiri might try and bite him. Murera and Sonje are always on high alert when the boys are in this mood, and make sure Mwashoti stays by their side so he does not become embroiled in their boisterous play.


Aside from Sonje’s suitors, the orphans were visited by many wild elephants throughout the month, including at night whilst they were in their stockade rooms. One night the orphans made so much noise in response to the elephants outside the compound, the Keepers actually came out and let them out of their rooms to satisfy them. In the end only brave Ziwa and Ngasha walked out into the dark to greet them, but the others were too afraid to go out alone. That settled it, and when Ziwa and Ngasha returned, all the orphans went back to bed, and so did the Keepers!

July 2018 day to day

Shukuru began walking out from the stockades leading Mwashoti and Alamaya to where the Keepers had provided some lucerne pellet supplements. Of course it was Lima Lima who first realized the pellets were being put out, and she alerted her friends. Later the big boys walked off in a different direction and didn’t follow the route the older girls had taken out to the forest. On the Kenze Hills, Faraja and Ngasha started a play-fight, but Ngasha pushed his friend so hard that Faraja lost his balance and fell over. In order to stop him taking revenge by getting up and pushing him back, Ngasha quickly climbed on top of him so he couldn’t get up.

Shukuru after the milkfeed

Lima Lima busy browsing

Ngasha in the waterhole

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