Keepers' Diaries, March 2017

Umani Springs Reintegration Unit

Wild elephant interactions between the orphans at Umani and the wild elephants who reside in the forest are becoming more and more frequent, with differing results each time. For the Umani orphans who have not had the benefit of Ex Orphans to follow, such wild interactions are crucial, but also sometimes worrying for the Keepers who have to oversee such events and hope that they continue amicably. Sometimes, when some of the orphans such as Lima Lima and Zongoloni get a bit too close and friendly with the wild elephant calves, the wild mothers step in and push them away. On a couple of occasions all the orphans were chased away, scattering in all directions, with the Keepers fearing for their safety,, but mainly such interactions have been harmless and valuable lessons for our young babies. One wild bull, who is always considerate of the babies, is ‘Ndugu’, and he visited them frequently around the middle of the month, even coming to drink from the pond at the Umani Springs Lodge one day, evidence that he is becoming used to the presence of humans in the forest, and understanding that they will not harm him.

01 March 2017

The elephants woke up early morning in the morning and carried out the usual stockade routines before following Quanza out for the day. Jasiri, Faraja and Ngasha, the pushing boys, were in a naughty mood with Ngasha pushing Ziwa’s bottom while Ziwa was blocking Ngasha from getting past. Murera and Sonje observed Ngasha’s naughty behaviour and made their way over to discipline him. Ngasha saw them coming and started to run away followed by Sonje who did not want him to get away with the naughty behaviour. When the orphans reached the browsing grounds along the Chyulu Hills, some buffaloes appeared which worried the keepers a little. Lima Lima came and stood by the keepers letting them know that she had also seen the buffaloes and was aware that they were in the area.

02 March 2017

This morning Ziwa received some serious disciplining from the matriarchs following his misbehaviour towards Mwashoti. Ziwa walked slowly behind Mwashoti first touching his tail and then trying to push the younger boy with his tusks. Mwashoti rumbled for assistance from Murera and Sonje who were quick to come to his aid. When Ziwa saw them coming, he quickly ran away as he knew he was in a lot of trouble. Some wild elephants were heard screaming around the water springs which made Alamaya curious to find out where the noise was coming from. Lima Lima and Zongoloni went to Alamaya to make sure that he would not go running off to find the wild elephants. Jasiri, who is older, went on a scouting mission but was quick to return when he realized that the bulls very big which scared him a little. At the mud bath after the bottle feeding, the keepers, Sonje and Quanza checked on the waterhole where they found a baby crocodile swimming around which surprised them all.

03 March 2017

Last night a big acacia tree fell down, and caused some commotion among the elephants as well as the keepers who were worried that it had fallen on one of the stockades. When they came out they saw that thankfully the tree had fallen in the bushes and it was the noise of the tree falling that had upset the orphans. When all the babies exited the stockades in the morning they all seemed a bit wary and needed to be reassured by the keepers that everything was ok before they would venture into the forest. The babies walked to the hills near the springs where they found some soft browse which they enjoyed feeding on until it was time to go to the mudwallow for their noon milk bottle. In the evening when they were returning home the keepers had to separate them into groups trying to make sure that Lima Lima was not in the first group as she can cause quite a disturbance. Lima Lima was able to sneak past the keepers however, and before they knew it she was running through the gate to her stockade and there was nothing that they could do to stop her.

04 March 2017

In the middle of the night hyenas were heard screaming in the forest behind the orphan’s stockades. The cries were so loud that everyone thought the hyenas were at the gate when in reality they were quite far away. Alamaya, whose injuries were from hyenas was particularly disturbed and despite Lima Lima doing all she could to try and keep him calm down, he had a very restless night. In the morning Quanza and Zongoloni walked to the forest raising their trunks to pick some of fresh vegetation. A big antelope came running out of the forest catching the orphan herd unaware, causing them to run off as they did not know what was making its way toward them.

05 March 2017

Today the orphans made their way to the waterhole where they hoped to find enough mud to splash on their bodies. When they arrived at the waterhole they found buffaloes rolling around in the mud in an effort to cool off. Murera and Sonje waited for the buffaloes to finish but Faraja and Jasiri the big boys charged at them to get them to leave the waterhole so that they could enjoy it and cool off. The orphans returned to the forest while the keepers were still having their lunch under a tree. Alamaya and Mwashoti moved close to the keepers wanting to wait for them to finish so that they could all return to the bush together. Murera joined the babies who were waiting for the keepers and Ngasha came to see what was keeping the young boys from joining the rest of the group. When he saw that they were waiting for the keepers he shook his head and ran to rejoin Jasiri and the others in the bushes.

06 March 2017

It was very windy as the morning began. The orphans did not quite know what to make of the weather as the wind was whipping up a frenzy making the orphans think that there was something in the bushes. Zongoloni went close to Ziwa and it was not long before the two of them started charging at the bushes and the trees some of which were being blown over by the wind. The keepers heard some loud trumpeting from the forest and were worried that if the two went into the forest they would run in an unknown direction and would get lost. As such they made sure to call them back so that they would not run into the wild elephants who can at times be unpredictable. Mwashoti, Alamaya, Murera and Sonje, made sure to stay close together and formed a small group that was ready to look after each other should the need arise. Murera kept trumpeting loudly to scare away whatever animal might be unseen, while the rest of the babies browsed peacefully watched over by the keepers.

07 March 2017

Ndugu came with many wild friends today, some big elephants as well as a herd of four females with young babies. The keepers were surprised to see the wild group but were happy that Ndugu felt comfortable enough to bring his wild friends to meet the orphans. Everybody was a little worried when the big wild elephants walked straight up to Sonje and Murera. The keepers made sure to keep their distance and observe from afar to see how the orphans would react and behave at having the wild elephants so close to them. Sonje and Alamaya seemed very happy to have the wild ones close by but Murera was not as happy and was soon moved her herd.

08 March 2017

In the early morning hours the keepers and orphans all heard baboons screaming in the forest. Upon exiting the stockades the orphans raised their trunks to see if they could smell what had upset the baboons. Murera and Sonje were unsuccessful while Lima Lima and Zongoloni detected that there was a leopard with a kill in the trees which had got the baboons all worked up. When it was time to head to the browsing fields the keepers called all the babies to follow them and made sure that no one was left behind, especially the two younger boys Alamaya and Mwashoti. They however did not need to be concerned as Alamaya was with Lima Lima while Mwashoti was with Sonje and Murera.

09 March 2017

It was very cloudy and chilly when the orphans exited their stockades in the morning. Murera was really feeling the cold and was walking quite slowly trying to warm her body up. Mwashoti tried to put his head under Murera’s belly in the hope of getting some warmth from her. Some of the boys, Ngasha and Faraja were engaged in pushing games which was sure to keep them warm s that they would not feel the bite of the cold as much as the others. Lima Lima took the lead to the Umani Hills trying to find the best place to browse for the friends. Some of the boys had picked up the scent of wild elephants and found some dung on the path and as such wanted to head in the direction taken by their wild friends. Murera also wanted to go in a different direction which caused the group to split into two, some following Murera and others Lima Lima. In the end the Keepers had to get involved and managed to get Lima Lima and her group to join Murera and the babies who were already feeding on some branches.

10 March 2017

Some wild elephants arrived at the stockade compound before the orphans had been fed their morning milk bottle. They watched the orphans getting the bottle seemingly interested in how they were being fed. Once the milk feeding was over Zongoloni, Jasiri and Lima Lima wanted to go and greet the wild elephants at the gate while Murera, Sonje, Mwashoti and Quanza all kept their distance. The wild elephants saw the keepers walking towards the orphans and were quick to run off into the bushes to hide as they are still very wary of humans. Lima Lima went with the wild herd and tried to interact with the younger babies. The wild mothers were not happy and though she was trying to steal the babies and they pushed her away from the group. Lima Lima then went and rejoined the orphan herd.

11 March 2017

The orphans headed straight to the Chyulu Hills when they left the stockade compound this morning. On their way there they came across many buffaloes but the orphans were able to make their way through them without any problems. Jasiri and Faraja brought up the rear of the group trumpeting loudly in an effort to make sure that any animals on the path would get out of the way and allow the orphans to pass. When we got to the browsing area the babies had wonderful time feeding on the fresh vegetation on top of the Chyulu Hills. They fed here until it was time for the noon mudbath at which point Quanza led the group back. It was however not long before Lima Lima and Zonogoloni took over the lead. Lima Lima came running to the milk feeding area which made everyone laugh as she seemed in such a hurry, running to the bottles with her tail up as if she was a warthog.

12 March 2017

The morning began well with all the babies eager to start the day. They walked to the Umani Hills and browsed around the area looking for any vegetation that they could feed on. The Keepers led them to the top of the hill and we were all surprised to see Murera climbing the hill with ease, escorted by Mwashoti and Sonje. The keepers all clapped when she reached the top as quickly as the others. Ziwa and Ngasha had decided not to follow the girls up the hill and had remained at the bottom trying to show that they were now old enough to be independent and do their own thing, not having to follow the Sonje and Murera who are the Matriarchs of the orphan group. After the noon bottle feed, all the babies made their way to the water hole for a mud bath after which they enjoyed a dust bath, throwing dust all over their bodies. This was done in an effort to keep cool as well as to keep the flies away. Some crane birds flew around the dust bath area scaring some of the orphans that sought refuge in the nearby bushes.

13 March 2017

Some of the buffaloes in the Umani Springs are getting to be little bit more social with the orphans. They sometimes come and watch the orphans at the waterhole. With the dry season in full swing they buffaloes come here to cool off in the water. Today some buffaloes came and watched the babies who were busy rolling around in the mud bath. They stood waiting for the orphans to finish before having a go. The keepers tried to get the buffaloes to move further away and they responded by shaking their heads at them. Alamaya and Mwashoti came and backed the keepers up but the keepers decided to just leave the buffaloes in peace.

14 March 2017

Today some hyenas started screaming early in the morning not far from the orphan’s stockades, surprising both the orphans and their keepers. Zongoloni and some of the other babies made sure to keep close to the keepers as they all headed out to the forest making their way towards the water springs. They all made sure to be on high alert in case there was a carcass or something else nearby which would have attracted the hyenas. Once at the springs Murera was seen looking for Mwashoti. She rumbled for him to come and join her. He came running from the bushes to see what she wanted and was escorted to her side by Quanza. Once the orphans were sure that the hyenas had stopped shouting they made their way to the Umani Hills under the leadership of Faraja, Jasiri and Lima Lima.

15 March 2017

When the orphans and keepers were walking along the Chyulu Hills National Park boundary they saw may wild elephants and buffaloes browsing on the other side of the paths that the keepers were going to take. A wild elephant was quite aggressive and came charging up trumpeting loudly scaring both the orphans and keepers who were quick to gather the orphan herd together and retreat to safety, making sure that Mwashoti, Murera and Sonje did not fall behind and were able to keep up with the rest of the orphan herd as they retreated, while also ensuring that the wild bull was no coming after them. When it was time for the bottle feed the orphans were still in the forest browsing. Zongoloni and Quanza checked to see if the keepers had began making their way to the bottle feeding area. Lima Lima came running up, overtaking them so, so that she would be the first to the milk bottles. It was getting quite hot and the orphans all wanted to enjoy a swim in the mudbath so that they could cook down. When the orphans entered the mudbath a little crocodile was quick to exit, unsure as to which direction to take to get away from the elephants that had surrounded him.

16 March 2017

Today Jasiri went and touched Alamaya’s half tail, something which did not go over well with Alamaya, making him shout for help from the older elephants, altering them to the fact that he was being bothered by Jasiri, the renowned tail grabber. Faraja, Zongoloni and Lima Lima followed by Murera all came running to see what had upset Alamaya, but Jasiri had already gone, leaving Alamaya with Zongoloni, and Lima Lima whom had arrived a few moments before Murera. Sonje then came over and patted Alamaya to get him to calm down, after which they all made their way to the Kenze Hills where they browsed peacefully making sure that Jasiri would not get anywhere near Alamaya and upset or disturb him. When it was time to return to the stockades in the evening, the babies were all waiting for their turn while the keepers made sure that the greedy elephants would get their bottles after the rest of the group had received their share. Mwashoti was in the lead with Alamaya before one of the matriarchs took over together with a keeper who was there to make sure that Lima Lima did not push through and waited her turn.

17 March 2017

At the waterhole Lima Lima came picked her bottles downing her milk after which she tried to steal Ngasha’s milk bottle. Ngasha was drinking his share slowly and Lima Lima thought she would be able to get some of his share but Ngasha was stronger than she though he would be and was able to prevent greedy Lima Lima from stealing any of his milk. A small crocodile again jumped into the waterhole to try and cool off. It did this just as Zongoloni and Ziwa were kicking the water with their feet which caused the crocodile to get out of the water and run to hide in the tall grass some distance away where it remained until the orphans left the wallow.

18 March 2017

Some rowdy wild elephants were around the Umani water springs this morning. Once the orphans were let out of the stockades Lima Lima and some of her friends headed to the water springs in hopes of catching up with the wild group. When they arrived at the springs they found a young calf and its family having a drink. When the little calf saw Lima Lima, Alamaya and Quanza she went to Lima Lima who welcomed the calf, but Quanza was unsure of the situation and stayed back watching what Lima Lima was doing. Alamaya also kept his distance while the calf played pushing games with Lima Lima. The mother came in to make sure that Lima Lima was not playing roughly with her baby. When this happened Quanza was quick to get Alamaya and called Lima Lima to come back to the orphan herd with them.

19 March 2017

This morning some of the orphans wanted to follow the paths taken by the wild elephants last night, while others like Mwashoti and Murera wanted to take a different path as the path taken by the wild elephants was difficult for them to walk on as it was full of lava rocks. The keepers therefore were the ones to make the decision as to which path the orphan herd would take and sympathising with Mwashoti and Murera led the group down the better path. Lima Lima complained about the decision making it know that she was not happy at not being able to take the direction she wanted to. By the time the orphans got to the waterhole Lima Lima had forgotten what had upset her and was in a happy mood and enjoyed wallowing in the mud bath together with the rest of the orphans.

20 March 2017

Today Ndugu joined the orphans in the browsing fields and fed with them until it was time for their noon milk bottle and mud bath. As the orphans made their way to the milk feeding area, Ndugu separated from the group and went into the forest. At about 4pm Ndugu came to the water trough at the Umani Springs Lodge for a drink of water. The guests staying at the lodge were very happy to see him and enjoyed watching him have a drink. The little crocodile that was sunning itself at the time made sure to quickly slip into the water when Ndugu arrived. After Ndugu had drank his fill he headed back to the forest to look for Murera and her orphan herd. He found them as they were getting ready to return to the stockade for the night. Lima Lima was in a huge hurry and came running in to the stockade compound finishing her milk before Quanza, her roommate, arrived. She managed to sneak past the keepers as they were feeding Quanza and went in search of more milk bottles. The keepers had to work together to get Lima Lima back into her quarters for the night.

21 March 2017

Murera and Sonje have turned into great Matriarchs. Today Mwashoti and Ziwa wanted to be with the two older girls. Alamaya left Lima Lima and Zongoloni walking slowly as he ran up behind Faraja and Ngasha to get to the waterhole. When he arrived he picked up his bottle from the ground holding it as Zongoloni and Jasiri do, and drank his milk. After the bottle feeding, all the babies came to the dust pile and began dusting themselves with the soft soil. For some reason Faraja and Ngasha decided that they both wanted to dust in the same area and ended up engaged in a pushing game over dusting space.

22 March 2017

Some wild bulls came to the water troughs together with a few cows and their calves for a drink of water. Due to the dry season there are more wild elephants coming to look for water and it is unknown where the group had come from. They had a quick drink before heading the Umani Springs lodge for a wallow and dustbath followed by another drink of water. The orphans came to join the wild group with Jasiri trying to make his way to one of the bigger bulls to greet him play a pushing game. He tried to push the bull but did not get anywhere and then started to play with a young calf that pushed him. The calf’s mother was not happy with this game and came to put an end to it. Ziwa and Zongoloni were with Mwashoti and Alamaya as the keepers stayed out of the way while keeping an eye on the naughty boys to ensure that they didn’t get hurt by the wild elephants they were playing with who were bigger and stronger than them.

23 March 2017

When the elephants exited their night quarters in the morning and began making their way to the forest they could hear wild elephants trumpeting further up the path. The keepers immediately became more alert trying to spot the wild group and make sure that they did not lose sight of the orphans who were trying to make their way to the wild elephants. Alamaya made his way to Lima Lima seeing if he could walk with her to the wild elephants. Zongoloni was not happy about what Alamaya wanted to do and blocked his path while Murera and Sonje trumpeted loudly warning him against trying to join the wild herd and calling him back to the orphan group. Despite the trumpeting and noises that the orphans and keepers had heard the orphans did not meet up with any wild elephants and in fact no wild elephants were seen until the evening when some visited the waterholes around the mudbath points.

24 March 2017

Some hyenas came around the stockades very early in the morning before the elephants had exited their stockades. We all wondered why the hyenas were coming by so early in the morning and both the elephants and keepers were worried about having the hyenas around making quite a bit of noise. The keepers decided to start walking around in an effort to scare the hyenas away and while doing so they came across a bushbuck carcass and realized that the hyenas could smell the carcass and that was why they were in the area. Zongoloni and Lima Lima were most upset about having the hyenas around and kept charging towards them screaming loudly in an effort to get them to leave. The keepers kept calling the two orphans back as they know how violent hyenas can be especially as poor Alamaya’s injuries were the result of hyenas attacking him when he was orphaned in the Mara.

25 March 2017

The day started with clouds covering the sky making us all wonder what kind of day it would be. The orphans did not seem too happy with the weather and Murera did not want to exit her stockade. With some gentle coaxing from Sonje she eventually came out and was met by Mwashoti and Ngasha who were waiting for the two Matriarchs. The orphans decided that it would be a good idea to head towards the Chyulu hills for the mornings browsing session. The keepers allowed the orphans to head in the direction they wanted and were happy to follow them. Lima Lima however had other ideas and turned the group towards the Umani hills. Murera and Sonje decided to follow along whilst the boys who were being led by Jasiri and Faraja acted as if they were going in the direction they wanted to all along and were not just doing what they were told.

26 March 2017

The keepers opened the gates in the morning for all the babies to come out and begin the day. Mwashoti was the first one to be let out which confused Sonje and Murera who did not see him and thought that he was still in his stockade. Sonje went to look for him but found that he was already out. She left his stockade with some sticks in her mouth and found that Mwashoti was with Murera and Ziwa. Lima Lima was busy looking for Alamaya, whom she could not see, and eventually found him browsing next to Zongoloni. Some crane birds were in the trees squawking loudly at Ngasha who was under the tree picking at the leaves. Ngasha had been oblivious to the crane birds presence and was scared away by the noise they were making which had him running to the keepers for safety and reassurance.

27 March 2017

It rained last night which impacted the orphans browsing program for the day. When they started to make their way out to the forest they found that it was quite hard to walk along the grass paths which were quite slippery and they instead had to follow the road so as to avoid sliding all over the place. As it was quite a cool day none of the orphans really wanted to enter the mudbath. Ziwa made an attempt to go into the water but ended up only wetting his feet. The orphans enjoyed a dustbath led by Sonje while Murera and Mwashoti opted to spend some time together browsing nearby.

28 March 2017

Today the weather was warmer and the sun was shining. The orphans expressed their joy by trumpeting loudly as they charged around trying to know down the trees. Lima Lima began chasing some baboons that were around an anthill looking for flying insects. Murera and Sonje soon joined her in chasing the baboons away showing that they were all together in the fight to get rid of the baboons. As the orphans were heading out to the forest they sensed some buffalos were in the area. Zongoloni and Quanza raised their trunks in an effort to locate the buffalos but before they could find where the buffalos were one of them came out the bushes. Alamaya straight to the keepers followed by Murera and Sonje who wanted to keep a close eye on the youngster.

29 March 2017

There has been no more rain since the day before yesterday. The orphans did not really want to visit the waterhole as they know they would find water in the forest from the last rains. As they were walking through the forest to the Umani springs they came across some Sykes monkeys that were on the path and jumping through the trees. Ziwa, Zongoloni and Faraja did not want them around and as such started trumpeting loudly to chase them away. At the noon milk bottle feeding time all the babies finished their share of milk after which Alamaya and Lima Lima decided to try and have a mudbath. They found that the water in the mudbath was too cold and as such decided against having a swim. They followed Sonje and Jasiri to the bushes whey the browsed peacefully as they waited for the keepers to finish their lunch.

30 March 2017

It was an exciting morning for the orphans when they exited the stockades this morning as there was a group of wild elephants by the stockade compound. When they realised that there was wild friends waiting for them to come out they were eager to go and greet them. Lima Lima was the first to go over to say hello and she was met by two females and a young baby. She tried to grab the baby which upset the wild females who trumpeted loudly and chased Lima Lima. This caused the orpahns to run in all sorts of directions and also scared the keepers who were worried not only for themselves but also for the orphans especially the disadvantaged ones like Mwashoti who could not run as fast and risked being caught by an angry wild elephant. Murera and Sonj stood protecting the little ones as best they could as the keepers called Mwashoti and Alamaya away from the wild families. The rest of the day was spent browsing while keeping an eye out for the wild elephants so as to avoid another run in.

31 March 2017

It was a cloudy start to the day. Some of the orphans enjoyed a morning dustbath which got dust up their trunks causing them to trumpet loudly to get r id of the dust. The orphans made their way along the paths towards Kenze under Lima Lima’s leadership. Murera and Sonje however decided to change the direction being taken and ran to the front of the line blocking the path. Jasiri and Faraja began a pushing game in front of Sonje who pushed their bottoms to get them to move faster and stop holding up the group. As they made their way past the water springs some crocodiles who had been lazing on the water bank quickly entered the water as they were fearful of being mistakenly stepped on by the orphans.