Keepers' Diaries, July 2018
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.
01 July 2018
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.
02 July 2018
At the Umani water springs, all the elephants seemed in a happy mood as they walked around playing with each other and pushing each other around, leaving Murera alone with Mwashoti. Later Alamaya joined Mwashoti too and started climbing on his back. Zongoloni climbed the hill searching for some good fresh branches to eat before anyone else found the soft, sweet branches too. Only her good friend Quanza was allowed to accompany her.
At the bottle feeding time when all the elephants came for the midday milk feed, Jasiri and Ziwa did not walk fast as fast as they normally did for their bottles, and this made the Keepers think there was something wrong with them. The Keepers observed them and found they were just being nonchalant and deciding to walk slowly to the bottle feeding area. After a dust bath, Sonje and Shukuru seemed to be deciding on which way they should go to browse for the afternoon. After a short while we saw Shukuru leading towards the Chyulu hills, followed by Sonje and all the babies, with Murera and Mwashoti walking slowly behind.
03 July 2018
Mwashoti led Murera and Sonje out to the forest this morning, while Ziwa and his great friend Ngasha chose to follow the path left by the wild elephants, who in the night came looking for Sonje and Murera. They did not manage to get into the stockades, but waited outside offering low rumbles.
In the morning the wild elephants had gone.
When the group of big girls walked towards the hills all the boys took another direction away from the girls, who wanted to go the water springs, and instead walked to the Umani Hills. Faraja felt Jasiri touching his tail and he turned and pushed Jasiri away, fearing that his tail would be bitten because he likes grabbing and hurting other elephant’s tails! Faraja denied his tail from being bitten by Jasiri the tail-grabber.
04 July 2018
In the forests along the top of the Chyulu Hills, some elephants were trumpeting very loudly. Lima Lima and Zongoloni walked towards them hoping they would get a chance to see the wild elephants and then they saw a very big bull. Lima Lima wanted to join them. Zongoloni blew her nose to sneeze which gave some of the Keepers quite a fright!
When it was time to return to the stockades all the elephant orphans lined up for the long journey back home after a very long day of walking. Mwashoti was with Sonje and when all the orphans were close to the compound, Shukuru, Mwashoti and Alamaya were the front runners to their bottles inside their rooms. When Shukuru arrived in her room she first picked up her one bottles of milk, then she turned to the lucerne pellets and picked them up as fast as she could so the monkeys would not get them - she ate them so fast!
05 July 2018
Murera and Sonje led the babies out in the morning, but before walking out of the gate Sonje went to Mwashoti and put her trunk on his head as a sign of love and affection. Mwashoti was very happy and rumbled in response. As the orphans walked out to the forest Sonje and Murera smelt the wild elephant dung. We saw Sonje pick up a piece and give it to Mwashoti to eat as it is very healthy and full of good bacteria for the elephant stomach, but Mwashoti declined.
Quanza took over the lead walking very fast up the hills, making it easier for Lima Lima to push the others to the top quickly. It was hard for the orphans with the bad legs, Murera, Sonje and Mwashoti to climb up and they did not have that much interest climbing up to where Ziwa was enjoying the soft branches. A pushing game began when Ziwa took some branches that Ngasha was peeling in his mouth. Then the boys started pushing each other down to the hill to where the Keepers were story telling. When Sonje saw the two boys fighting she went and stood in between them so that they stopped fighting and started to forage on the sweet acacia pods they found there instead.
06 July 2018
The boisterous boys, Ziwa, Jasiri and Ngasha, walked out and immediately began the wrestling games at the gate entrance. Ngasha picked up a stick from in front of Jasiri which he was about to eat as well, which is why the pushing game started. It turned into a strong fight amongst the adolescent boys, who were trying to establish who the strongest boy was. Jasiri eventually won the sparring match and went to Sonje to celebrate being a winner.
Murera and Mwashoti were followed by Quanza to the slopes of the Umani Hills, where they found some acacia pods that were starting to drop down from the trees. Some monkeys joined them too but later turned very noisy driving the orphans away. Zongoloni rumbled to Lima Lima and Faraja to follow her towards Kenze. Shukuru joined them but walked along a separate path so as not to walk next to Faraja who sometimes still bullies her. As the orphans were walking along the Chyulu Hills Alamaya scared some antelopes who ran out of the bushes, scaring the other orphans so everyone ran in all directions.
07 July 2018
Many wild herds came visiting the babies during the night. We heard them at the waterhole near the stockades, including some little babies who came to drink water and who communicated with the orphans inside their rooms. Sonje and Murera were rumbling so loudly the Keepers came out to see why the orphans were being so noisy. When the Keepers came out they found many wild elephants by the gate raising their trunks and trying to open the gates to come in. The wild elephant eventually touched the electric fence then turned away. Sonje and Zongoloni wanted to help their elephant friends and pushed on their gates but couldn’t get out, so they rumbled to them in a low tone.
08 July 2018
Lima Lima led the orphans to the Umani water springs early in the morning leaving Murera and Sonje to bring Mwashoti slowly behind them. They are always on high alert to make sure the bullying older boys do not interfere with Mwashoti in any way. Shukuru was escorted by Alamaya and Zongoloni to where Lima Lima was with Quanza inside the forest, close to the swampy area where they both found water lilies to pick and eat.
Later in the afternoon it got really hot and sunny so Zongoloni and Faraja lead all the babies to the waterhole where all the orphans went straight to the waterhole to swim. Sonje and Lima Lima were the best swimmers of the day. Shukuru stayed off to the side and swam on her own as she didn’t want to be around the boisterous boys.
09 July 2018
Naughty Mwashoti tried to show Alamaya how tough he was by climbing on him. Alamaya stood strong but when he turned and wanted to climb on Mwashoti, Mwashoti did not want him too and instead he went to stand close to Sonje for protection. He perhaps knew that he could not take Alamaya’s weight on his bad leg. Sonje calmed Mwashoti by patting him with her trunk and kept an eye on Alamaya and Ziwa.
As the orphans made their way home in the afternoon, Quanza was walking and picking up twigs to play with. She walked and drew some lines on the ground, as if she were drawing directions to those behind her. It was very useful for the Keepers walking behind!
10 July 2018
All the paths led to the Umani Hills today where it seems all the babies today wanted to go and browse. At the water springs some crocodiles came out from the water for some sunshine. Zongoloni and Lima Lima were at the front and Lima Lima saw the sunbathing crocodiles so she changed course. Zongoloni saw what she was doing so did the same and the others followed behind.
All the orphans know the vehicle which carries their milk bottles well, but Lima Lima knows it the best! Today however it was Shukuru who beat her to it. As the vehicle approached the area the orphans were browsing, they met Shukuru by the road. Shukuru began demanding her bottle then and there on the roadside, and the Keepers had to give her some of her milk for the vehicle to be able to move forward! Today the orphans did not walk to the mud bath and they stayed on the hills after they found more sweet branches to eat. The vegetation they found was so good they forgot about walking for their milk bottles, and instead we drove the bottles where they were browsing. Before the day drew to an end all the orphans walked again to the waterhole to swim and cool down as it had turned into a hot afternoon.
11 July 2018
The area around the Chyulu Hills today was invaded by different wild animals and the orphans could not believe how many they encountered today; first they met with a big group of buffalos, and then antelopes. Each time they met some new animals the boys, led by Ziwa and Ngasha, were very curious and blew trumpets to scare them off. After a short while, a group of wild elephants with young babies visited, and joined Sonje with Zongoloni to browse together. Shukuru was very shy and ran away from the wild elephants to stay with the Keepers.
Later in the day the wild bulls came back again to join Murera and Sonje at the waterhole where it was fun wallowing together. After all playing together in the muddy water, the orphans and their wild friends separated as the orphans were ready to begin walking back for their evening milk bottles after a long day out, full of encountering their wild friends.
12 July 2018
Faraja and Jasiri came out of their rooms this morning, and Jasiri tried to hold Faraja’s tail. Faraja was afraid Jasiri might bite his tail, as he sometimes likes to do to elephants who walk in front of him. Sonje and Murera decided that the orphans should walk all the direction of Kenze, for the soft branches that can still be found there. On the way, some baboons crossed where Alamaya and Lima Lima were enjoying some acacia pods that had been dropped by the monkeys from the trees. Alamaya got a fright and ran away and even Lima Lima raised her ears ready to run to the Keepers. Shukuru did not fear anything and instead she just walked up to the baboons and trumpeted very loudly for the baboons to leave and go away.
After the noon milk feeding time, all the orphans tried having a mud bath but they did not enjoy it very much as it was a little cold. Some did not even want to splash their bodies, only Ziwa tried splashing his feet and then left the waterhole for a dust bath instead.
13 July 2018
Mwashoti began pushing Alamaya after seeing Ngasha and Ziwa doing the same. Alamaya was happy to have a pushing game with Mwashoti, but when Sonje saw Alamaya trying to turn to push Mwashoti very hard, she went in between them.
The patrols through the forest continued with Murera leading the way and walking alone. Mwashoti and Sonje walked separately from the other herd as well, so the big boys walking in their own direction away from the girls. Murera and Sonje walked to the hills today and stayed on top of the hills for longer than expected. Lima Lima did not want to come down from the hills when she found some lovely treats. She and Zongoloni decided not to come down but stayed until it was almost getting dark. Then was when Lima Lima brought Zongoloni back and left Ziwa with Ngasha at the top of the hills. They arrived back just after dark.
14 July 2018
The orphans were visited by wild friends at the stockade waterhole during the night. Ziwa and Ngasha were very restless, pushing their walls to get out and meet their wild friends. As they made so much noise, Zongoloni and Lima Lima also teamed up with Quanza to climb on their walls too. It was too much for the Keepers who came out from their sleeping tents and we decided to open the gates for them to walk out in the night to join the wild elephants. Only Ziwa and Ngasha walked out to the dark while Sonje and the others just stood by the gate trumpeting with excitement but staying just inside the gate fearing the darkness outside. That settled them and eventually they just walked back to their rooms.
15 July 2018
Shukuru and Mwashoti held each other’s trunks showing the Keepers what good friends they were. Sonje went over and placed her trunk on Shukuru’s shoulder as she was happy she was being friendly to little Mwashoti. Alamaya got jealous when he saw Shukuru and Sonje and he went to separate Mwashoti from them so he could enjoy the company of Shukuru and Sonje.
Lima Lima took over the lead of walking to the Umani Hills, leading the orphans to browse on the hills where they found some soft branches to feed on before mud bath time. While on the hills, some baby buffalos were mooing which made the orphans stay away from the area where they knew there were of buffalos. The daily walk continued all the way back to the Chyulus again for more food. Murera and Sonje joined some wild elephants they found there and they interacted together for a long time before all the babies decided to walk to the waterhole and cool down as it was a sunny day. The swim brought lots of joy to all the babies, only Shukuru stayed a little distance away from the crowded waterhole so as not to be pushed by any one.
16 July 2018
After the morning bottle feed, all the elephants walked out looking for their Lucerne pellets. Shukuru cannot begin her day without pellets it seems and she had to check all the places where she might find them. Greedy Lima Lima helped her find some from the stores but the Keepers found them in time! Zongoloni and Quanza decided to take over the leadership role today as they saw Lima Lima and Shukuru were preoccupied with picking up all the leftover pellets. Zongoloni did not want to wait for Lima Lima, but whispered to Quanza and the Keepers just saw them leaving for the forest.
The pushing game started among Ziwa and Jasiri who today turned out to be rivals since they did not want to agree over a branch. After the disagreement over the branch they continued with the fighting play all day, and Jasiri did not want to see Ziwa close to him; even Lima Lima had to come and stand in between them at one stage to stop them fighting.
17 July 2018
A wild bull elephant joined the orphans in the morning. Lima Lima was already taking the lead when she smelt the bull and stopped to come back and see him. When she joined the bull at the water hole she welcomed him with very unique trumpeting styles. The Keepers stayed away and watched how Lima Lima welcomed her friend to the herd. Jasiri became jealous and teamed up with other older boys to try and charge at the bull to tell him he did not belong in their elephant family. However Jasiri and his friends found it very hard to chase the bull away because he was huge and much stronger than them with long tusks. He just walked around freely at his own pace; Murera did not seem bothered by him.
18 July 2018
The trumpeting was very loud this morning as the orphans welcomed the new day. Zongoloni was charging around with Faraja. Alamaya and Ziwa were blowing trumpets signaling to Lima Lima to come and hurry to see what was going on, leaving Sonje and Murera to take care of Shukuru and Mwashoti by the fence line waiting for the next move. Ziwa just missed ending up in a big herd of buffalos, who were feeling scared from the orphans loud trumpeting in the bushes; they also wondered what the orphans were all shouting about. Murera and Sonje took charge guiding the little Mwashoti with Shukuru, until all the other orphans came back and joined them to walk towards the Umani Hills after the Keepers tried hard to separate them from the buffalos.
19 July 2018
As Murera and Quanza were walking towards the Umani Hills they suddenly came to a stop after Sonje smelt some wild elephants. This brought Lima Lima and Shukuru, who were leading the herd, back to see why Sonje was rumbling. Faraja and Ziwa picked up some of the wild elephant dung too and put it in their mouth to see what the wild elephants were eating. Some noisy birds and vervet moneys made a noise in the trees above that disrupted the orphans and sent them running back to their Keepers as they thought there was something wrong.
After their long morning walk through the forest, the orphans arrived for their midday milk feed by the waterhole. Jasiri walked straight to the feeding area and picked up his bottle just as he and Zongoloni always do. He then tried to go and wallow but found that the waterhole was very cold and in the end he didn’t even want to splash the water on his feet.
20 July 2018
We were very proud of Lima Lima today as she is always on the lookout for her Keepers. Today she was walking ahead but then stopped and turned back to face the Keepers. We were not sure why she stopped and seemed to be calling us over but when we looked we saw a python that was digesting a very big meal. The big python had swallowed a small antelope and was lying in the path. Lima Lima is so caring of her human family and we always value her warnings that other animals are about.
21 July 2018
Mwashoti and Alamaya arrived for the midday bottle feeding time and ran fast ahead of Lima Lima and the others. When they arrived at the feeding area, Mwashoti went to the bottles behind the vehicle and grabbed one bottle after the other, then Alamaya did the same, leaving the Keepers wondering how they both organized themselves to the same naughty deed at the same time. When Lima Lima then arrived she drank her bottle but then kept hold of it and did not want to let go even though it was finished.
Quanza and Murera did not appear for the bottle feeding as they are big girls now and their bellies might have been full too from all the browsing they did throughout the morning; instead they went to drink water and then walked back out to the forest.
22 July 2018
Murera was not very happy today after she was visited by a male bull elephant in the morning. The bull did not stay to browse with them and for some reason this left Murera in a very bad mood; she was even rude to the Keepers, and pushed the orphans randomly, whoever walked beside her in the forest that morning. She just wanted to be on her own, even Sonje was not her friend today, and only Mwashoti was allowed by Murera’s side.
Jasiri and Ngasha decided to change where they were browsing and walked all the way to the hills along the Kenze baseline. The others followed them and they all walked to where they found some good shades and soft branches, which kept them busy the whole day without thinking to come down for their noon milk feed or wallow in the mud. Later on it turned very hot however, making all the orphans thinking about swimming and looking for a waterhole to cool down. They all walked through the forest to the waterhole where Sonje, Lima Lima and Ziwa really enjoyed their swim, and showed their friends who could not swim as well how to do it, by holding their tails high floating on the water.
23 July 2018
It was a very cold morning today, making it hard for the limping Murera and Mwashoti to feel good about coming out of their rooms. Their legs were very stiff, and it took Murera some time to walk out of her room. Anyone with leg problems would probably feel the same as Murera and Mwashoti in the early morning hours. When they walked out to the forest and had been active for some time, their bodies warmed up and got the circulation going so they felt better and soon they were running around (almost) just like the others.
Lima Lima and Ziwa walked with the other orphans towards the hills where they knew they would find nice soft branches to break and eat. The Keepers watched Murera and Mwashoti climb up the hills too. Later they had a sweet time playing and rolling on the soft ground. Faraja with Jasiri’s rivalry continued as they fought for space to both roll on the ground. Ngasha tried joining the pushing boys but Zongoloni stopped him.
24 July 2018
Shukuru was the first elephant to come out when the gates were opened today. Ziwa stopped at the gate to try and block those coming out behind him, and he was pinching everyone in the bottom with his tusks. Before Sonje arrived with Alamaya however Ziwa walked away as he knew Sonje would not allow him do anything to the young boy.
At midday all the elephants came for their bottles and after went for a mud bath. Only a few of the orphans wallowed completely as some just splashed their feet with water and found it was too cold for them to swim. Ziwa squeezed himself between those wallowing orphans, trying to get space to himself. He found it was very hard to squeeze himself between Murera who was standing and watching over Mwashoti.
25 July 2018
All the orphans kept browsing along the Chyulu Hills for the whole day today. At one stage unfortunately some wild elephants scared Murera and Sonje, and Murera got lost as she did not know which direction her friends had gone. She then heard the Keepers calling her name and she replied with very loud rumbles for the Keepers to locate her.
Later the orphans encountered some wild elephants with their two young babies. One of the babies walked to where Quanza was with Jasiri. Quanza turned to welcome the baby among them but Jasiri misbehaved which made the mothers come for their babies and chase Jasiri into the forest.
26 July 2018
Sonje went to where Ziwa was playing with Alamaya and disrupted the game the two were having. She arrived and warned them by shaking her head and raising her big ears, but Ziwa did not know he was being warned until Sonje got close to him and pushed him hard on his rear end, making him fall over. Jasiri and Faraja went to see why Ziwa had been pushed over but Sonje threatened to push them as well so they turned to leave before they got into more trouble. Lima Lima and the Keepers walked over to see if Ziwa was okay but found he had gone into the bushes and we saw him now drinking some clean water from the broken water pipes.
Some bush bucks and baboons came to the waterhole at the same time as all the elephants were drinking and wallowing there. Zongoloni and Alamaya saw them approaching and prevented them from getting into the waterhole as well. They thought it was their time to swim and theirs alone. When Lima Lima saw that the bush bucks and baboons were still coming towards the water, she began chasing them away by blowing loud trumpets and charging at them to keep away. Little Mwashoti and Quanza joined Lima Lima to provide back up and make sure all the intruders were gone.
27 July 2018
It appears that Osama is back! To those who may not know Osama, he is a wild elephant bull who has been closely following Sonje for some time. He disappeared for a long time but today Osama came back in full force, demanding his girlfriend Sonje to meet him. He made several attempts to divide the herd to reach Sonje, but it was very hard to split the orphan family up, and Shukuru and Mwashoti shouted a lot in protest. None of the elephant orphans were happy with the visit of Osama, because Murera too was having very hard time running over the rough lava rocks, and even fell down once to escape from Osama.
The day did not end well as the Keepers had a hard walk back through the forest with the orphans to the stockades, as Osama followed behind. Osama waited to see if Sonje would turn back and not enter the stockade compound, but she followed the others and at the stockade he stood waiting for Sonje behind Murera and Sonje’s room.
28 July 2018
In the morning we opened the rooms and Sonje immediately came out. Again Osama joined the herd while the orphans were walking to the Umani Springs after long night with lots of trumpeting. The Keepers again praised both Shukuru and Lima Lima for taking great care in keeping the large wild bull away who was trying to reach the older girls. The orphans had to keep on the move as they wanted to stay away from Osama, and the Keepers were having to run all over the place and couldn’t look after the orphans properly. Shukuru and Murera were struggling to feed properly as they all had to keep running away from Osama. After consulting altogether the decision was reached that we would all return back to the compound and stay locked inside away from the rampaging wild elephant bull; inside the orphans could feed on lucerne pellets and branches. Murera, being the older female, did not feel happy spending the whole day inside the compound. Ziwa pushed on his walls to get out but was calmed down by Ngasha.
29 July 2018
In the morning Alamaya and Lima Lima decided to move towards the water springs. Shukuru followed them and they had their trunks in the air smelling for the wild bull Osama. Lima Lima came back running after spotting him hiding behind a big tree waiting for Sonje. Without wasting any time Sonje walked up to the bull and he patted her on the head with his trunk. Alamaya rumbled to Lima Lima to be aware and they walked to the Keepers to make sure they were safe.
30 July 2018
We waited from early morning to see if Osama was still around the stockade compound. We could not just walk out without a worry as the wild bull could be anywhere. The Keepers called the others to walk in whichever directions Lima Lima, approved, as she is so diligent in watching over the Keepers. Zongoloni and Quanza helped her too, because Sonje was still thinking about Osama and appeared unsettled.
Quanza and Zongoloni led everyone to the Umani water springs to get some fresh water. Faraja and Jasiri were feeling the heat and looked for water to splash in to cool down after running around. Some crocodiles who were sunning themselves by the water springs heard the running orphans and jumped into the water before the orphans stepped on them.
31 July 2018
It was a very cool day from morning right up until the late afternoon today. All the babies looked very tired and shook their big heads as they walked back after a long day. Shukuru took the lead from Mwashoti as they were all running to get back to the stockades for their bottles. When the bottle feeding was over, Alamaya went to look between the posts of his room where he could see Murera and Sonje. Murera was rumbling to all the babies and they were all responding back too. After a few minutes a little dik dik walked over to the gate waiting to get into the stockades. The elephants were surprised to see a unique visitor trying to come in, thinking that they may find some tasty acacia pods to eat, but there were none around. All the elephants were trumpeting in protest at a new visitor being allowed in their compound so late in the day.