Keepers' Diaries, June 2018

Umani Springs Reintegration Unit

The Keepers at Umani were simply over the moon to receive orphan Shukuru into the fold this month, not having had a Nursery baby since Alamaya and Mwashoti moved there in 2016. Visibly confused when she first arrived on the 16th, thinking perhaps she was on her way back to Ithumba, Shukuru looked out of sorts when she first emerged from the elephant translocation lorry to be met first by Lima Lima, and then the rest of the Umani orphans. They were not strangers, Murera and Sonje knew her from their Nursery days, and Lima Lima was delightful, fussing over her and patting her with her trunk, but it was obvious Shukuru was perplexed. Once she spotted the thick lush grass which she could not get enough of it, pulling it up in trunk-fuls, she became preoccupied with feeding but still remained aloof from the rest. It was a stark reminder how long Shukuru has suffered from her ailments, to see her side by side the other Umani orphans and especially next to Murera who was born in the same month and year; she was incredibly slender and small by comparison.

01 June 2018

All the orphan elephants looked happy and ready for the new day today. Alamaya and Sonje were interacting very early in the morning, hugging and interlocking their trunks above their heads. Mwashoti walked to his friend Murera for the same, after becoming jealous watching Alamaya and Sonje. It was quite a cold day, and this made Murera with her bad hip and leg walk a bit slower. Lima Lima and Zongoloni came back to keep pace with Murera and Sonje, after Alamaya left to browse with big boy Faraja in the bushes.

02 June 2018

Ziwa and Faraja moved out fast this morning heading to the forest. By the gate entrance a baby bushbuck was spotted by Lima Lima, and then the whole forest was full of elephants blowing loud trumpets and running around after the bush bucks and each other. At the water springs some crocodiles were found enjoying the sunshine. As Ziwa and Ngasha approached, the crocodiles slid into the water to hide as they walked past on their way to browse on the hills. Lima Lima stopped to check behind her if her baby friend Alamaya was close by or with Zongoloni. When she saw that Alamaya was happy walking along with Zongoloni she continued to climb uphill searching for nice, fresh vegetation. Soon she came across some buffalos. She was not happy to be surrounded by so many, so she moves to another area to give way to them. She did not want to risk one of her beloved keepers getting hurt either.

03 June 2018

Sonje and her friend Murera, who have helped raise Mwashoti together, are looking as if they are ready to leave the herd soon, but Mwashoti is still very young and continues to require their love, care and attention. We are sure they will stay with us at the stockades until Mwashoti is older and te other boys would not be able to push him around so much. At the waterhole all the babies arrived looking ready for a swim. Then they walked away to make room for a herd of buffalos who had been waiting to the side; they were obviously also very thirsty too. Lima Lima stood by caring for her Keepers and making sure they were okay in the presence of the buffalos.

04 June 2018

As the orphans came out of their rooms today, Alamaya and Mwashoti were showing what great friends they are by holding their trunks together and swinging them as they walked along. Ngasha walked over and tried to push them apart so they could not hold trunks, but Faraja intervened by pushing him away, leaving the boys to walk off in peace. Zongoloni also saw what naughty Ngasha tried to do and was not happy with him. She rumbled her complaint and then led Alamaya and Mwashoti off towards the hills.

05 June 2018

This morning Alamaya was pushing Zongoloni and his best friend Lima Lima along to make them move out to the forest faster. He was eager to begin the new day of browsing. Ngasha was trying to hold him back, but he ignored him and continued to push the two loving girls along. Sonje went ahead to stop him misbehaving with his guardian friends too much. Jasiri pulled out some branches from the water springs to eat. In the forest some wild elephants appeared looking as if they wished to join the orphans. Zongoloni spotted them and came to report to Sonje that they should stay away, but Sonje was too busy watching them.

06 June 2018

Sonje played and played with wild friends in the morning, including some wild bills too, but when the wild elephants left as the orphans made their way to mud bath, the keepers were disappointed to see beautiful Sonje having more of a limp than usual. The keepers found that one of the bull’s had climbed on her back and she had slipped and pulled a muscle in her bad leg. One of the keepers ran back to the stockades to retrieve some deep heat spray to help ease her discomfort. Quanza was not happy with the wild elephants today, who sometimes socialize with the orphans and who had now hurt Sonje’s leg. The keepers kept all the babies close, including Murera, close by for the walk back home in the evening. Sonje walked back a bit slower today, like Murera usually does, and came in at the same time as her today.

07 June 2018

Ziwa and Ngasha proved to the keepers that they can walk very long distances today. They are growing to be very big walkers and give the rest of the herd a run for their money as they like to walk further and further during the day. They are growing to be big boys and love walking. All the orphans are very tired when they return back to the stockades in the evening after being led by Ngasha and Ziwa for the day. The waterhole was full with plenty of fresh water but none of the babies decided to wallow in it today, they just drank some water and then left to go and dust themselves with soil. Alamaya lay down on the pile of soil and stretched his front legs out to fully enjoy the dusting session. Some of the naughty boys tried to climb on him while he was on the ground, but Quanza came to rescue him when she saw Ngasha about to climb on him again.

08 June 2018

Playful Lima Lima took off with young boy Alamaya and the big boys following her behind towards the rocky path leading to the hills. As the boys were crossing the rocks two klipspringers jumped further up the rocks which scared the orphans and Lima Lima trumpeted at them. She made as if to charge after them but she fell over onto her knees. The big boys Faraja and Ngasha just left Lima Lima and ran away! Zongoloni, who was further back, comforted Ziwa after all the commotion as Mwashoti and Murera caught up to everyone. They were further behind because they are slower to walk with their compromised legs.

09 June 2018

The forest was full of wild elephant and buffalo this morning. Mwashoti did not go straight out as he sometimes does, after realizing that there were so many others around. He turned back to see Sonje and Murera but Murera pushed him forwards as if to encourage him to go towards the wild elephants to be friends. However when Murera approached the bulls and saw just how huge they were with such long tusks, she turned back and left Sonje with them. She kept Mwashoti back with her as she was afraid of how big they were and if they were boisterous, how they might hurt their bad legs. It was a cold day so none of the orphans wanted to go into the waterhole to swim. None of them even dipped their trunks in to test the temperature. Instead they just decided to go for a dust bath and rolled around and around in the soil, making the keepers laugh with their funny rolling games.

10 June 2018

Zongoloni had a rough time this morning with Alamaya as she tried to touch his stump of a tail. Alamaya does not like this at all and thought perhaps Zongoloni was mocking him. He turned and pushed her hard to the ground, until Quanza and Faraja came over to help her get up. Alamaya ran away as he knew what he had done to his friend was naughty, but he just becomes so furious when anyone touches his tail! The keepers went to have their lunch under the trees as usual after the milk feeding time at noon. The orphans waited in the bushes for them like they usually do as well, browsing quietly until the keepers are done. Some baboons appeared in the trees with their babies and they were making a lot of noise directed at the elephants, who were just patiently enjoying the sun which was poking out and waiting to carry on with their day. All the noise disturbed the elephants and made them move to a quieter spot where the baboons would leave them alone.

11 June 2018

The orphans made their way out to the forest early in the morning as usual, just after their bottle feeding. Ziwa and his friend Faraja did not stop to eat some lucerne pellet supplements like the others, and they just kept walking into the forest until they were out of side of Murera and Sonje. The two big girls ate the pellets and kept Alamaya and Mwashoti back to feed until they felt they were satisfied and ready to walk into the forest. Jasiri and Zongoloni crossed the path to investigate a big tortoise they saw walking slowly along. Then Faraja walked too Quanza who was walking towards the hills where Lima Lima had shown them they could find some lovely fresh greens. Sonje pushed Mwashoti slowly up the hill but he did not want to. Instead in the end he, Murera and Sonje stopped and just browsed around the base of the hill where Mwashoti was happy until the midday bottle feeding beside the waterhole.

12 June 2018

In the forest along the Chyulu Hills some buffalos surprised everyone when both the keepers and elephant orphans found themselves right inside amongst their herd. The keepers wondered why the usually so vigilant Lima Lima had not warned them today. But the fact was Lima Lima did not know as she had not smelt them as the wind was going to wrong way. When Lima Lima did notice them she helped Murera guide everyone away from them. Later, all the big boys began trumpeting and running away in different directions, some charging and bashing trees around them. Faraja caused trouble with Ngasha when he playfully held Ngasha’s tail. This annoyed Ngasha who turned and pushed Faraja in the belly. This in turn forced Jasiri, Ziwa and Sonje to step in between to put an end to the fight.

13 June 2018

All the elephants came back to their night stockades looking tired after a long day of walking out in the forests. Murera and Sonje were limping along after the long day out and we knew they were tired. In their rooms Alamaya found Mwashoti stealing some of his branches and a fight ensued between the little boys between the posts of their stockades. It was unbelievable to see how hard Alamaya pushed back on the wall posts, and Mwashoti was lucky that Alamaya could not reach him no matter how hard he pushed. Eventually the keepers had to come and calm Alamaya down by giving him some lucerne pellets on the ground. This distracted him and he stopped pushing on the partition wall between him and Mwashoti. Sonje also wanted Alamaya to stop pushing against his wall but was too far away, so she rumbled to Lima Lima to stop Alamaya from misbehaving. At the end of the day everyone including Alamaya knows that they both steal the green from each other’s side, not just Mwashoti, so Alamaya needed to calm down!

14 June 2018

Kibwezi forest inhabited very many wild elephants today. There seemed to be a great number of bushbucks too and we thought that the surrounding area might be drying up a bit since the rains as wild elephants usually start to appear in the forest when this is the case. As the water always flows and the forest remains green, wild elephants always return here during the drier months. A wild bull with a female elephant came to visit Murera and Sonje behind their stockades, trying to communicate with them. Sonje was very welcoming and hoped to meet them, but Murera rumbled something only they understood, and we saw the big girls walking away from these wild elephants towards the keepers. This left the adolescent boys to communicate with the wild elephants away from the girls. At the waterhole Murera and Zongoloni just had some of the clean water to drink and walked back to the dusting soil, where all the elephants played blowing clouds of dust on their backs. They were very happy all blowing soil on their bodies, until Jasiri’s eyelashes were full of soil he could not see where he was walking.

15 June 2018

Good news arrived for the keepers today that soon we would receive the new girl Shukuru from the Nairobi Nursery. She would arrive at Umani tomorrow, so the keepers immediately set about the preparations for her imminent arrival. The keepers told their elephant charges that soon they would have a new sister, one that Murera and Sonje would remember too, but we knew they did not know what we meant. The keepers were extremely happy to receive the new young girl to their elephant family. Perhaps this would mean that Murera and Sonje might think more about rejoining the wild too, if Shukuru was around to look after the young boys Mwashoti and Alamaya, but they would have to see. Perhaps Murera and Sonje are just too attached to the young boys.

16 June 2018

In the early morning the elephants had their milk bottles as usual but in the open area in preparation for Shukuru’s arrival. Just as it reached the time when the elephants would usually walk into the forest, the lorry carrying Shukuru arrived and the orphans walked over very excited to greet her. Lima Lima performed her role perfectly and was the first one over to welcome her out. She touched Shukuru with her trunk, but Shukuru came out of the lorry looking very confused and a bit tired. She was not interested in her milk bottle, but grabbed pellets as she was followed by Alamaya, Mwashoti and Lima Lima playing her role as assistant head girl. She escorted Shukuru to all the new places to familiarize her with Umani stockades and the Kibwezi forest. Shukuru was so delighted with all the new and delicious vegetation around, grabbing as much grass as she could fit into her mouth at once – this immediately helped to settle her down, as she was fixated on the food. When Shukuru and other orphans came back to the stockades after a long day’s walk, Shukuru was led by her keeper friend who came with her from the nursery because she did not know any of the Umani keepers. She lost her way on the way to her night stockade, as she was still not sure which her room was. She was next to Alamaya, and Alamaya was trying to bully her while in his room but the keepers stopped him and she had a peaceful night. We are sure that in the forest of Kibwezi Shukuru will get very strong and gain condition in no time after her long time of illness.

17 June 2018

At the mud bath today, Shukuru seemed stronger, suggesting that the environment at Umani is favourable to her. She runs like Lima Lima and Alamaya when arriving for their bottles and even demanded more bottles after she had her two. She went very far inside the forest today but the keepers kept a close eye on her so as not to lost her in the thick bushes. She was delighted with the variety of the food and the soft branches, and she came back in the evening with a very full belly! She looked stronger and more energetic than she arrived, and Lima Lima still follows her closely. We hope she will be a good friend. Alamaya is acting like a bit of a bully but it is just because he feels jealous because Shukuru is getting more attention, and from his special friend Lima Lima as well, who is now monitoring Shukuru. When the keepers catch Alamaya trying to charge and push Shukuru aside they always tell him off.

18 June 2018

Shukuru came out running just like the other orphans at Umani today when they came out of their night stockades. She is getting used to the routine here, and she went straight to the lucerne feeding area where all the elephants put their heads together to eat. Ziwa and his friend Faraja were the first to walk away whilst the others were still picking up pellets. Sonje kept Mwashoti between her and Murera whilst Lima Lima ate with Shukuru. Lima Lima and her new friend Shukuru climbed the Umani Hills looking for more vegetation found there. Lima Lima then smelt some baby hyraxes sleeping in the bushes and Shukuru got a fright as she was not expecting to find them there in the bush she was browsing from. Shukuru ran away but Lima Lima and the keepers intervened to stop her and calm her down.

19 June 2018

Shukuru getting on very well and has settled down nicely to the Umani Stockades. She has a lot of nice food here in the forests and most seem to be her favourites. She eats nicely and finishes all her food inside her room at night; in the morning the keepers find hardly anything to clean up but just a few twigs. We hope Shukuru will now start to get better and better as she has already shown signs of improvement. Sonje and Lima Lima are taking great care of her and stop the bullying boys from getting too close to her or pushing her around, because she is still weak in comparison to them. Alamaya and Ngasha still give her a hard time, following her around and trying to hold her tail, pushing her or trying to climb on her back, but Sonje remains steadfast in keeping Shukuru out of harms way, and Lima Lima too.

20 June 2018

The orphans were troubled in the night when a leopard decided to walk around the trees surrounding the stockade compound. It was making a low growl sound sometimes which disturbed poor Mwashoti. Lima Lima held her trunk up high smelling where the leopard was walking. She trumpeted to warm the leopard to stay away from the compound, and in the morning all the elephant babies looked relieved to see their keepers so they could at last walk out to the forest. In the morning Sonje and Faraja tried to follow the trail of some wild elephants who had walked through the bushes close by. The keepers saw the footprints of the leopard this morning as well. The keepers and Mwashoti then made their way over to Shukuru and Sonje who walked closely behind them.

21 June 2018

It is lovely to see Shukuru settling in very fast and eating all the food put in her bedroom at night. At bottle feeding time at midday, Shukuru is the fastest baby to the bottles, even faster than Lima Lima sometimes, but where she falls down is the ability to hold the bottle herself. She might pick this up soon however, like how Alamaya and Mwashoti both learnt from Zongoloni and Jasiri, and now the majority of Umani elephants grab their bottles on their own at feeding time. At the waterhole today Shukuru loved rolling around in the muddy water, splashing water on her back. She then walked over to Sonje and they both went for a little rest under the trees as the keepers had their lunch.

22 June 2018

The weather was very chilly this morning and it took Mwashoti, Murera and Sonje quite off-guard as they struggled out from their rooms with their stiff legs. Ziwa and Quanza had a fight when Quanza tried to push him into the wet grass which he did not like. When Shukuru walked over to the fighting babies, Lima Lima went to stand between her and Ngasha who she could see was up to no good and thinking about climbing on Shukuru. Lima Lima is very gentle to both Shukuru and Alamaya and she treats them with great respect. Being the assistant head girl she performs her role adoringly and is always on the lookout for Shukuru, making sure she is happy and comfortable and not bothered by the older boys. She walks long distances with Shukuru looking for her favourite branches to make her belly full and get her up to full peak condition. Today the keepers were laughing when at the midday bottle feeding time, they saw Shukuru trying to compete with Lima Lima as to who would be the first to reach the bottles. We thought Lima Lima’s greedy habits might even begin to rub off on Shukuru, and Shukuru might start to try and grab more bottles like Lima Lima does when she is being naughty.

23 June 2018

Murera and Sonje are very protective to the little boys Alamaya and Mwashoti. When some monkeys tried to join the elephant babies and were shouting loudly, the two older girls stopped them from getting any closer by trumpeting loudly. All the elephants then turned to chase them away from the herd. Later in the day the orphans were at the top of the hill. The big teenage boys were breaking branches as they played their pushing games, interlocking trunks so hard that some of the keepers thought they were fighting; it was not a fight but a play-fight however. The orphans were very active at the dusting soil. Ngasha stopped and lay down on his back on the mound of soil before Faraja came to push him. Ngasha refused to move and instead kept on dusting, blowing clouds of dust in the air so that some of the elephants who not even near the dusting point also got covered. A herd of buffalos appeared while the orphans were playing but they were so active they did not see them until they were very close. It was Lima Lima who stopped and alerted everyone by trumpeting loudly, which got the keepers’ attention as well.

24 June 2018

The chilly weather stopped all the orphans from wallowing in the waterhole. Only a few orphans tested the water by placing their trunks in. Zongoloni thought it was too cold and no one dared to step foot inside. Only Sonje drunk a little water and then all the orphans walked back towards the forest on the way to the Chyulu Hills. The keepers came across a dead python as Zongoloni as smelling it. It was lying coiled on the paths and seemed to have died from eating an antelope that was too big; only the horns were visible. At first the keepers thought it was still alive though and everyone ran away from it, keepers and elephants!

25 June 2018

This morning Shukuru took over the lead to the forest, eager to reach all the delicious vegetation out there, while Murera and her friends were still picking some lucerne pellets from the ground. Some vervet monkeys came down the trees to share the pellets with them but Ziwa trumpeted at them from behind, making them shoot back up into the trees again. Shukuru heard the trumpets from Ziwa and then Zongoloni too and she came running back fearing she had missed something scary and the others were calling her back for safety. Jasiri and Quanza were charging around in the trees as well but this was just out of excitement! Later the keepers found Murera and Mwashoti trying playing with some soil and throwing dust on their heads. Sonje went around the forest looking for where Shukuru had gone until she found her enjoying the sweet branches and breaking some bigger branches using her front feet.

26 June 2018

It was hard to see Shukuru swimming deep inside the waterhole as her body colour changed to the colour of the muddy water, and when she got out she looked just like the other Umani elephants; the red colour from the Nairobi Nursery was no longer visible. Some buffaloes appeared as the elephant orphans were getting ready to walk home. Lima Lima and Zongoloni raised their trunks above their heads to try and smell where all the buffalos were. Lima Lima alerted the keepers as well to make sure they were not in the bushes near the buffalos. Every one looked for Mwashoti and Murera who they could not see and they all walked together as one group to look for them. It turned out that because it was such a long walk, Murera and Mwashoti were just very far behind. Murera rumbled for the others orphans to stop and wait for her and Mwashoti to catch up. Zongoloni stopped and made everyone else wait as well, but Shukuru did not seem to listen and she just walked back to the stockades alone because she knows her own room now and the path home, and does not need to be lead.

27 June 2018

Some baboons were shouting during the night close to the stockade compound as they heard the leopard return. There was such a noise the keepers came out to look in the trees to see if they could see anything. With the help of Lima Lima and Zongoloni pointing up at the trees with their trunks, the keepers saw the big leopard relaxing in the trees close to the fence line near the stockades. Leopards do not pose a threat to our orphans but the presence of a big cat will still make them nervous and unsettled. The leopard saw the lights and heard the sounds from the keepers and the rumbling from the elephants and became quite afraid, so he got down from the tree and walked away, leaving the orphans (and keepers!) in peace once more.

28 June 2018

Alamaya only splashed part of his body at the waterhole, leaving one side of his body completely dry. Ngasha saw him walking away and assumed he was done bathing, but he got pushed back by Faraja and Lima Lima who blocked his way so he could take a proper bath! Shukuru sometimes has her mud bath independently, and rolls around in the mud to the side away from the pushy boys who might try and climb on her. Shukuru and Ziwa took the best baths today though, while others just splashed water on themselves before walking back to the forest to look for more vegetation. As the day drew to a close and the orphans were getting ready to head back to the stockades, some antelopes crossed the path from behind. Ziwa and Ngasha got such a fright they over reacted, and Ngasha ran away so fast he tripped over!

29 June 2018

All the elephants came out of their rooms today looking ready for the new day. Zongoloni lead the way out to forest, with Jasiri holding Ngasha’s tail with his trunk, looking as if he might put it in his mouth to bite it. Ngasha felt Jasiri and knew right away what he was thinking, so he sped off into the bushes. Murera and Sonje walked slowly with Shukuru, trying to keep an eye on her. They were with Mwashoti too and they wondered if she would be friendly with him, and maybe even adopt the little boys so that Mwashoti could have more caring mothers. Mwashoti is very loyal and is not a trouble maker. He is loved by all the matriarchs, whilst Lima Lima looks after the keepers, Alamaya and Zongoloni. At the bottle feeding point, when the orphans finished their bottles, none of them wanted to wallow so they just drank some water and then walked over to the dust bath to play in the soil.

30 June 2018

Shukuru woke up and went to her gate looking out for Ngasha, Faraja and Ziwa to see if they were ready to come out of their rooms. Ziwa went to his gate and moved forward and backward as if in reply to what Shukuru was rumbling about. Ziwa rumbled loudly too as they both waited for the keepers to come and open their gate for a new day. Murera stopped by the area where the lucerne pellets were laid out, picking some pellets to eat with Mwashoti mingling around her shoulders. Alamaya, Lima Lima and Zongoloni took off chasing butterflies and then many orphans followed and joined them, charging around inside the forest making it hard for other babies to settle and browse with all the commotion. Ziwa, who was charging around at the front, knocked his knee on the rocks when he lost which way the butterflies had gone when they flew up in the air! As the elephants kept charging at the butterflies they stepped through some army ants that started to bite their poor feet, causing them to run up the Kenze hills for respite. We as keepers are still very happy with Shukuru’s progress so far; she is doing well with a good appetite, and beginning to put more weight. Sonje and Lima Lima are very protective and defensive of her, not allowing any of the bully boys near her.