Keepers' Diaries, June 2017
Umani Springs Reintegration Unit
There were some interesting developments at the Umani Springs stockades in the Kibwezi Forest this month. The Keepers were delighted to see Murera, who is normally extremely wary of any wild elephant bulls, take quite a keen interest in some of them during their covert visits. June saw some very impressive big bulls with big tusks visit the stockades for the first time, and perhaps their sheer size and presence was enough to attract the attention of shy Murera. Although the keepers are happy that Murera is beginning to warm up to the wild elephant herds of the forest, it is a concern for the keepers to have such large wild bulls creeping around through the bushes trying to get to the girls, as it is very easy to accidentally stumble upon them without warning. Despite this, the keepers are being extra vigilant and encouraging the visits, whilst Lima Lima is great at giving them forewarning when wild elephants are around in order to keep them safe, and she provides them with great comfort instinctively knowing they need her forewarning.
01 June 2017
It was an exciting morning when wild elephants came around the stockade gates waiting for the babies to come out, when the keepers saw the biggest bull elephant that they had ever meet before at Umani. Murera and Sonje rumbled several times at the wild elephants whilst Ziwa kept pushing on the gates making lots of noise, trying to get out. Zongoloni with Lima Lima seemingly looked happy about receiving the wild elephants including the big bull.
When the keepers let the orphans out Lima Lima kept the bulls busy by talking to them in low tones as little Mwashoti was herded away from the big bulls by the keepers to be kept safe. The big bull elephant got friendly with Lima Lima who could walk right under his belly, showing just how big he was.
02 June 2017
In the morning Zongoloni went behind the stockades looking for Ngasha and Faraja, they all immediately started a pushing game, Ziwa then joined in helping Zongoloni to beat Ngasha in the game, before Alamaya came along with Lima Lima who tried to separate the fighting boys, but Ngasha was having far too much fun and refused to stop until the keepers came along and moved them on. Since the arrival of the very big bull the day before the keepers have been very careful whilst out in the bush, as they don’t want to scare the new bull or get in harm’s way, so when a group of wild bulls suddenly appeared the keepers made a hasty retreat with the orphans just encase the big tusker was with them and had gotten too close!
03 June 2017
All the elephants came out looking very jovial and happy this morning, trumpeting and charging at the trees around them. Ziwa turned to Ngasha for a pushing game again this morning, both of them testing each other’s strength. Murera and Sonje kept watching from a far, making sure to not get involved with the teenage boys who like getting into mischief.
During browsing around the Chyulu hills everything went smoothly and peacefully before it was time to go for mudbath time, but after bottle feeding some wild elephants came to join the babies at the wetlands for swimming where again the very big bull appeared and joined Murera watching the activities of the orphans in the waterhole, before Murera sheepishly moved away and back to the safety of the keepers.
04 June 2017
Today was a big day for all of the keepers and their orphans, as they spent a lot of time with a number of big wild bulls. It began when 4 wild bulls appeared from the bushes following Sonje and Quanza, the keepers then watched as Murera seemed very happy in the bulls’ company, which is unusual, as she went to join the bulls and spend time with them. Lima Lima and Ziwa then followed suit and joined them all, with Ziwa looking so tiny next to them, not even being able to reach up and touch the ears or head of the bulls, because they were so very huge with big tusks.
One of the bull elephants escorted the babies back to the stockades, when they knew it was time to come home for milk. At the gate entrance, the wild bull saw people and heard a lot of human noise which made him naturally nervous, making him turn and run back into the bushes, leaving the keepers with their babies. Murera screamed for a long time waiting to see if her boyfriend might show up again, which he did in the middle of the night with many of his friends drinking water at the stockades waterhole.
05 June 2017
The keepers walked the babies all the way to Kenze baseline today trying to help the orphans meet some of their new friends whilst finding some tasty yellow fever trees to eat because it had been a very long time since they had walked to that area.
Faraja and Jasiri refused to follow keepers as they think they are now big boys and need to walk independently, but everyone knows they are still not quite ready for that and that they still have to be guided by either Murera or keepers, to keep them safe whether they like it or not!
06 June 2017
All the elephants were quick to get on with browsing today, whilst Lima Lima was still hanging around the stockades trying to get some hay from the stores together with naughty Alamaya and Zongoloni, but the keepers shouted at them, making them hotfoot it guiltily towards the others knowing they had done wrong.
When Murera was walking with Mwashoti, some impalas crossed their path, Murera and Mwashoti followed them and found them eating a few tree pods which had fallen to the ground, and are a favourite treat for many different animals, the keepers watched from afar as the animals all ate peacefully together.
When all the orphans had finished for the day turned back to the stockades, Ngasha and Faraja stopped to smell the path where wild elephants had passed just a few minutes before, where there was fresh dung. Ngasha picked up the dung and put it into his mouth trying to eat it, showing Faraja that when they eat the dung it helps them to know what kind of trees to eat, and which are not good for them.
07 June 2017
Some screaming hyenas around the stockades scared Alamaya, especially since he was attacked by hyenas in the Maasai Mara and knew their terrifying calls at night. When he heard them, he began defending his cage by pushing on the walls and pushing the gates to make lots of noise whilst signalling to Lima Lima to watch out. The keepers came out and shouted at the screaming hyenas near the waterhole, trying to get the hyenas to move on and stop upsetting the babies, as by that time Murera and Sonje had also begun charging and blowing big trumpets.
08 June 2017
Sonje saw the tractor carrying greens going to the stockades as the orphans were browsing close to the roadside, she naughtily chased the tractor, trying to grab some of the fresh greens that it was carrying. The keepers shouted at her but she continued the chase, followed by Mwashoti. When they finished grabbing at the greens and ate what they could, all the orphans then grouped together and began to play and charge trees with lots of kicking and gymnastics, showing they all had plenty of energy.
Later, at the waterhole after bottle feeding, Zongoloni and Quanza showed that they wanted their own space away from the big noisy crowd where the boys were playing around and pushing each other, so they went on their way choosing their own path whilst the keepers kept an eye on them.
09 June 2017
The resident dik diks had a big problem with Mwashoti today who decided to test his strength and speed on them. As the little dik diks were eating scraps Mwashoti started chasing them around, having a wonderful time, feeling like he was a big boy, and enjoying not being the smallest animal in the stockades.
The orphans today headed towards the water springs where some crocodiles were found floating in the water, before they moved to the banks to relax on the dry land, but Lima Lima and Zongoloni spotted them and made all the crocs splash back into the water.
Wild elephants were heard by the keepers crunching inside the bushes in the afternoon. The keepers listened to see if Lima Lima would come back to tell them what was there in the forests, but Lima Lima did not appear for some time, as she usually come back to let them know which way was a safe route to take so as not to accidentally walk into some wild bulls.
10 June 2017
Very big bulls again appeared at the water springs waiting for the orphans, but one of the bulls was being very aggressive, chasing the keepers away, in order to get close to Sonje and Murera or Lima Lima. The wild bulls knew the keepers were the orphans’ guardians, so they were on a mission to get rid of them so they could hook up with the girls. The keepers had no choice but to stay away, whilst the orphans interacted with the wild bulls.
Luckily Murera soon found the bulls too rowdy, especially with her injured leg, so she soon returned to the keepers bringing Lima Lima, Alamaya and Mwashoti with her to safety, before all the orphans were reunited with the keepers again, and the wild bulls were happy because they got some time with the girls.
11 June 2017
Wild elephants had pushed down some big acacia trees near the fence lines of Murera and Sonje’s stockades during the night, when Murera and Sonje heard the trees falling down, they made some loud screams, the keepers were also quite scared because they thought that a tree might fall on their tents. Mwashoti and Alamaya were so scared that they did not want to stay inside the stockades and made a lot of noise trying to get out, but thankfully the noise soon settled and all became calm again. When the morning came all the orphans went behind the stockades looking around to see what happened but soon became more interested in the yummy seed pods which had fallen on the ground.
12 June 2017
Alamaya went to Mwashoti and began pushing Mwashoti down because Mwashoti eating some tasty branches, making Alamaya jealous. Lima Lima and Zongoloni soon came and gave a stern warning to Alamaya not to be mean to his friend because they should all behave like family and care for one another.
Within the forests along the Chyulu hills some zebras shouted making all the orphans raise their ears listening keenly to try and decide which animals they were as they didn’t recognise the sound. They continued walking and browsing closer to the zebras, feeling confident around these black and white animals, although the orphans’ presence did make some of the flighty zebras run away.
13 June 2017
The orphans had a very long day walking along the Chyulu hills, interacting with some wild friends. Ziwa and Jasiri pushed their way into the middle of the heard to see and play with their wild friends but suddenly they became very fearful of the bulls with their long tusks which prodded at their little bellies, warning them not to be too pushy and have some respect of their elders. Murera also ran away when she saw a bull coming her way, whilst Lima Lima and Zongoloni were happy playing with one of the bulls as they touched his tail and bottom, whilst he was just peacefully listening and watching the babies giving him soft touches, not seeming to mind.
14 June 2017
Alamaya ran to Mwashoti and pushed Mwashoti from behind, because he saw Mwashoti being given some pods by a keeper, near Murera and Sonje. When Murera also saw what had happened to Mwashoti, she went to discipline Alamaya who later ran away to Lima Lima. The big boys Jasiri and Faraja together with Ziwa were already on the hills climbing up looking for acacia pods along the springs, but they got scent of some wild elephant dung and got distracted and they tried to work out where the wild elephants had come from and what they had eaten.
None of the elephants wanted to swim today because the water was very chilly, even Ngasha who normally doesn’t care about going into the mud, even when it is cold, also didn’t go in, but mostly because he was more interested in browsing.
15 June 2017
Mwashoti was very well behaved when one of his foster parents visited him today, having stayed at the DSWT’s Umani Springs lodge. He stretched his trunk out to greet them kindly, Alamaya tried to go and be naughty as he doesn’t like Mwashoti getting all the attention, but one of the keepers blocked his way and gave Alamaya lots of attention instead, to prevent any jealousy.
The big wild elephants appeared around the wet land area where the orphans had just turned up to swim around. The wild elephants only went into the water when the orphans and keepers had started to walk away, as they are still wary of the human keepers.
16 June 2017
The orphans walked to the dust bath point this morning before later walking back to the bushes. Faraja came along rubbing his bottom on the ground whilst Mwashoti tried to climb on his back. When Mwashoti fell off he rumbled for help from Murera, but it was Sonje who ran over to see why Mwashoti was screaming for help. Lima Lima later joined them with her friend Alamaya who wasn’t in trouble this time as it wasn’t his fault, it was just that Mwashoti got upset because he couldn’t get on Faraja’s back.
17 June 2017
Crested cranes were around today where they usually lay their eggs. These places are now well known by the orphans, especially by Lima Lima and Zongoloni who normally get in trouble with the big birds. Today when Lima Lima was running for her bottles she came across the crane birds on their eggs, she ran straight into them making them fly high into the air to get out of her way, before landing after the naughty elephant was gone and checking to see if their eggs were still ok.
The keepers took the orphans on their last trip of the day to the wetlands where they found some wild elephants wallowing and rolling on their backs enjoying the water pool, but the keepers and the orphans had to stop and wait for the wild bulls to finish wallowing, but Ngasha and Ziwa avoided the keepers’ requests to wait and instead went towards the wild bulls where they looked very tiny, compared to their big wild bull friends.
18 June 2017
Many wild elephants came to the stockades in the night making a lot of noise and causing a lot of fear for the babies, forcing the keepers to get out and watch over them in the darkness to keep them happy, Ziwa and Ngasha were really fearful thinking that the wild elephants were pushing on the fence trying to get in.
The following night when the babies had already taken their evening bottles Ziwa and Ngasha moved away from the stockades running out of the gate thinking they would spend the night outside their stockades, Faraja was not happy about this, and after he had taken his bottles, he just turned around looking for his friends and calling them back to safety, whilst Ziwa heard Lima Lima and her friend Zongoloni making a lot of noise and pushing on the walls of the stockades so the two independent naughty boys got worried and quickly came running back to the gates, which had been closed and pleaded to be let back in to be with their orphan family!
19 June 2017
Murera and Sonje came out and ran directly to see Mwashoti before Mwashoti walked out to the gate. Murera and Sonje wanted to know how Mwashoti spent his night and if it was peaceful and happy. There were lots of loving rumblings with lots of greetings before the big boys went out charging the trees around them and kicking and jumping around, expending some energy.
The orphans walked to the water springs where they found some crocodiles enjoying the sunshine outside the springs on the banks but as usual the crocodiles immediately sensed that the elephants were approaching them and splashed into the water to hide.
20 June 2017
It was very cold weather in the Kibwezi forest today which made it harder for the elephants to enjoy any wallowing in the waterhole. The keepers saw Jasiri and Ziwa going to the water hole and thought that today Jasiri might decide to go in but he along with Ngasha just stepped their feet in the water and then decided against it and headed to the forests.
Bushbucks came along and drank from the waterhole with a few birds that were looking for insects inside the pools. The orphans then went for a dust bath and had a great time with the little boys rubbing their bottoms and having a good scratch.
21 June 2017
A wild bull elephant came today to the stockades trying to make friends, walking with Murera and Sonje out to the forests, but sadly the keepers couldn’t let the girls be taken too far away so they called them back, and they obeyed, on hearing the keepers the bull made a hasty retreat! Mwashoti and Zongoloni tried to carry on following the bull but the keepers were afraid Mwashoti might get in trouble with his leg because the wild elephants can be quite boisterous, whilst Ziwa and Jasiri began their usual trumpeting going to Lima Lima for support, who was keeping a watchful eye on everyone and letting the keepers know when some wild elephants were close.
22 June 2017
It was very cold and foggy in the morning making it hard for keepers to see far into bushes, so they relied on the orphans to smell their way along the paths with the keepers following them closely so as not to accidentally run into some wild elephants. Some bushbucks and baboons started to make a lot of noise making the orphans nervous, Zongoloni and Faraja together with Ziwa decided to walk deeper to the bushes, and found that the baboons had been dropping more pods from acacia trees so they stopped worrying about the noise and had a good feed. They were then all called back by the keepers and carried on towards the Chyulu hills where they found some very nice browsing without any problems with the wild elephant friends.
23 June 2017
It was a very windy day and the weather turned very cold due to the blowing winds along the hills and around the water springs forcing all the orphans to instead find a sheltered spot to browse and hope for the sun to come out. Mwashoti and Murera feel the cold mostly in the early hours, when they are first let out from the stockades, as their bones as stiff and they haven’t walked enough to get warm out stretch out their problem legs.
As the babies were all walking to the hills some buffaloes scared Ziwa and Ngasha who ran back to the keepers as they thought it was a wild elephant. Finding out it was just some buffalo they continued to the dust bathing point, where they all had a nice dust bath.
24 June 2017
As the orphans were walking away from the wetlands Sonje teamed up with some wild elephant boys but after a little while Sonje became very reluctant about interacting with the wild bulls, so she moved aside leaving Jasiri and Ngasha as the biggest boys to try and play with them, but they were soon jabbed by the wild bulls’ long tusks making Ngasha and Jasiri run away from bulls. The keepers kept watching them with amusement seeing the big boy’s running back to their keepers as they always think they are so big and tough, but really, they are not ready to join a wild herd.
25 June 2017
At the waterhole, all the orphans refused to get in the water because it was very cold. After getting their bottles Ziwa teamed up with Faraja and Ngasha walking away to the forest, leaving the other babies with Murera and Sonje, deciding where they would walk to. The boys walked off in a different direction making Murera rumble to them, telling them that they must follow her to the rocky side of the Kibwezi forest. When Mwashoti heard the rumbling, he ran fast to join her but was blocked by naughty Alamaya.
26 June 2017
Trumpeting elephants continued to make lots of noise around the stockades in the night trying to persuade the girls come out to join them. Zongoloni and Faraja didn’t like all their calls and they screamed back. The wild friends waited and waited and then left as they knew the keepers wouldn’t let the girls out to play with them, so they all walked to the springs where they wanted to drink water before proceeding to Chyulu hills.
27 June 2017
Mwashoti was much loved by Murera and Sonje getting extra attention as he was allowed to suck their ears and put his head under Murera’s belly as if Murera was his real mother. The herd then moved on into the forests towards Kenze hill, Alamaya blew his trunk signalling for the big girls especially Sonje to wait for him because he wanted to avoid Faraja who was around, fearing Faraja might bully him or touch his tail.
28 June 2017
The rowdy wild elephants were again trumpeting boisterously around the stockade compound during the night and the orphans responded back. The keepers came out looking round to see the wild elephants but it was very hard in the dark through the thick vegetation. In the morning, it got very cold again making it hard for Murera and Mwashoti to walk fast so all the orphans kept a slow pace until everyone warmed up a bit before they headed to the waterhole where they didn’t go near the cold water.
The long walk then proceeded to Kenze hills behind the forest reserves but the tsetse flies were very annoying in this area making it very hard for the orphans to browse on the hills making them all turn around and move back to the slopes of the hill where it was more peaceful with less insects.
29 June 2017
The orphans were let out early with Murera and Mwashoti trying to stretch the bodies which on cold mornings get stiff, doing their morning exercises really helps to make their bodies stronger and ready for the day walk.
Faraja and Ngasha together with Ziwa started their pushing games as they headed to the water springs, before Zongoloni smelt something unusual followed by Lima Lima, the keepers watched as the elephants soon discovered a baby python stretching out of a hole, they all watched carefully from a distance making sure Murera and Mwashoti were safely out of the way.
30 June 2017
It was very chilly and foggy on Umani hills this morning making it harder for the keepers to watch out for wild elephants hiding in the bush. There was suddenly a lot of commotion and the keepers ran for safety as well as the orphans, but thankfully it was just some baboons misbehaving in the trees.
At the waterhole near the mudbath all the orphans came running and Lima Lima made sure she was the first in the race, because she is the fastest among the babies, but she is mostly only feeling competitive when she is running for her milk bottles or going back home.