Keepers' Diaries, March 2019

Umani Springs Reintegration Unit

March being the end of a very hot dry season the Kibwezi Forest has become a refuge for so many other wild animals, as they retreat down from the hills into the sheltered forest, seeking the shade, water and food. 

01 March 2019

This morning, the elephants all appeared in a jovial mood as they exited their stockades ready to begin their day. They made their way to the Kibwezi forest under Lima Lima’s leadership until the boys decided to separate from the group and head off in their own direction leaving the Keepers wondering which way Mwashoti and Shukuru, who were at the back of the group, would go. Murera rumbled loudly to Mwashoti calling him to join her as she followed the main orphan herd to the hills. Sonje also started rumbling to Mwashoti making it seem as if the two older girls were competing for Mwashoti’s affection as they both wanted to have him with them. Mwashoti had a hard time deciding which one to join and instead of making a decision, just stood between them, thus benefitting from the love and attention of both of his adoptive mothers.

02 March 2019

This morning Alamaya and Shukuru took the lead of the orphan heard to the Kibwezi Forest once all the morning stockade activities were over. The two stayed in the lead up until the orphans arrived at the waterhole for the noon milk feed. Once there Mwashoti and Zongoloni seemed to become the leaders of the group, jumping into the water and showcasing their bathing skills while having a jolly good time!  

In the afternoon the orphans settled to browse in the Chyulu Hills where they were joined by a wild bull elephant. The Keepers were a bit wary of the wild bull and made sure to keep an eye out to see if he would be joined by any other wild elephants. Lima Lima came to the Keepers as she always likes to offer them protection, and let them know that they are not alone and she is always looking out for their welfare. The Keepers made sure to keep out of sight and sat under a tree happy to have Lima Lima browsing close to them.  

03 March 2019

It was a long and muggy night which led to a very hot morning. The elephants exited their stockades trumpeting loudly before charging at the bushes and kicking at everything that crossed their path. We were surprised to see both Sonje and Murera who suffer with bad legs kicking branches and stones leaving nothing unturned as they and they and the rest of the herd made their way to the water springs area.  

As the orphans browsed the Keepers went to the view point to see if they could spot the orphans browsing along the slopes. Before they could spot the orphan herd they saw a herd of wild elephant browsing their way towards where the orphans were feeding. The Keepers quickly called the orphans to them but Sonje and Zongoloni ignored the call and made their way to join their wild friends. Jasiri followed them but his etiquette was not appreciated as he started smelling the under belly of the wild bulls which resulted in one of them chasing him away and he quickly returned to Keepers.

04 March 2019

At the waterhole the crane birds came flying in with their chicks for a drink before hunting for grasshoppers in the nearby grass. Quanza and Ngasha did not want them near the waterhole and tried to chase them away. However as soon as they got close to them the crane birds took flight and the orphans ended up chasing shadows. Ngasha and Faraja somehow managed to keep with the cranes as they flew while Ziwa and Sonje trumpeted loudly charging around without being much help! 

In the afternoon the orphans stopped their browsing activities in the bushes to seek shelter from the sun under some big trees. It was a rather hot day and the orphans used the shade from the trees to cool down. The two albino boys were the most affected by the heat which had them running to a nearby waterhole to cool off. Jasiri and his friends headed to the pipeline to try and break it in an effort to get to the water flowing in the pipes but were shouted at by the Keepers to stop their shenanigans and walk to the waterhole where they could have a cooling swim. They all enjoyed a bath followed by some dust bathing before making their way back to the stockades for the night.  

05 March 2019

Today many wild elephants made their way through the forest to the orphans and both orphans and wild elephants enjoyed interacting with one another without any problems. The wild herd was very friendly and did not seem at all perturbed by the Keepers who stayed nearby but made sure to keep a safe distance. Mwashoti went and introduced himself to the different members of the wild herd as did the rest of the orphan herd. As the group were browsing in the Chyulu Hills they were joined by some buffaloes that came to graze on the tall grass in the area. They were surprised to find the orphans there and quickly turned and headed in a different direction so as to browse somewhere away from the Keepers and orphans.  

In the evening when it was time to return home for the night the orphans formed a straight line following herd leaders Mwashoti, Alamaya and Shukuru back to the stockades. By the time they arrived they all looked exhausted, including Lima Lima whose eyes were half closed and ready for bed.  

06 March 2019

At the noon mud bath the orphans had a lovely time wallowing and rolling around in the muddy waters making sure to cover every inch of their bodies with a thick layer of mud which acts as a natural insect repellent as well as sun block. Once they were done mud-bathing Shukuru led them all to the dust bath where they proceed to blow red soil over themselves in an effort to dry off. Murera got to the mud bath and waited for the rest of the group to finish wallowing and leave the area before she entered the water. As she wallowed the rest of the group had finished dust bathing and made their way to the trees, standing in the shade the offered, while the Keepers had their lunch.  

Shukuru separated from the group and went off to enjoy a scratching session. When the Keepers were done with their lunch they called to Shukuru to re-join the group and she walked alongside them, as they made their way down the wild elephant paths towards the Umani Hills for the afternoon browsing session.  

07 March 2019

In the early morning hours while the orphans were browsing in the bushes, a wild bull came and joined them. He seemed particularly friendly and spent the better part of the morning browsing alongside the orphan herd. When it was time for the noon milk feed the orphans left their wild friend who re-joined him once they were done with their milk bottles. The bull did not seem at all bothered by the Keepers, even going as far as to walk to the vehicle where the empty milk bottles had been put and start smelling them. The Keepers thought he may want a share but kept their distance from the gentle boy. Lima Lima tried to bring the wild bull over to where the Keepers and Shukuru were resting but when he realised that the Keepers were wary of him getting too close he backed away and stayed at a respectable distance so as to not scare anyone.  

08 March 2019

Today some buffaloes came down the Umani Hills to the lower grasslands where the orphans were busy browsing. Murera and Zongoloni came face to face with them which resulted in everyone getting a fright. Murera and Zongoloni seemed the most perturbed and the Keepers quickly called them away from the area so that they were not in the buffalos’ way.  

The orphans made their way to the forest in search of branches to feast on. Some of the group seemed more interested in playing pushing and strength testing games in an effort to ascertain who was the strongest in the group. Ngasha and Faraja turned their friendly game into a real fight as they battled over who would get the best drinking spot at the water hole. Faraja defeated Ngasha. When Ngasha fell down, he yelled for the Keepers to come and help him. The Keepers called him and he got to his feet and walked to where the Keepers were. Sonje came and got him from there and took him with her to join Mwashoti, Alamaya and Zongoloni who were all browsing together. They managed to calm and comfort him and he happily spent the rest of the day with them.

09 March 2019

Lately wild elephants seem to always be around looking to join the orphans or to get the orphans to join them. During the night the stockades often receive a lot of visitors as wild elephants come to drink from the waterhole and greet the orphans in an effort to form friendships. Mwashoti heard them drinking from the waterhole and trumpeted loudly to alert the rest of the group to the presence of wild elephants. Ziwa responded by trumpeting even louder which woke everybody up. The Keepers exited their tent and came to see what was happening, happy to find wild elephants drinking all the water from the trough. When they were through, they headed back to the forest and the Keepers were thrilled to see that there were some tiny babies in the wild herd.  

In the morning once the orphans had exited their night quarters Lima Lima and Quanza led the group out for the day with Murera bringing up the rear. The group walked slowly along the pathway that their wild friends often use, in the hope that they might cross paths. Although they came across a lot of dung they did not meet up with any wild elephants today.

10 March 2019

Alamaya was in a very playful mood today and engaged Mwashoti in a pushing game which the two were both thoroughly enjoying. Zongoloni however felt that Alamaya should not be pushing Mwashoti who has a bad leg and wanted him to play with the other boys instead, out of fear that Mwashoti could be further injured in a rough game. Zongoloni therefore came between the two and brought an end to their fun. Mwashoti did not want to get into Zongoloni’s bad books and headed to Murera and Sonje who welcomed him as he is in fact a sweet gentle boy, unlike Alamaya who sometimes pushes every elephant he comes across.  

At the waterhole today, none of the orphans really partook in wallowing as the sun was playing hide and seek behind the thick cloud cover making it too cold for the orphans to enjoy a swim.  

11 March 2019

The bull elephants who often come to visit the orphans and browse with them are being received better with each visit. Lima Lima is always the first to welcome them whenever they join them in the browsing fields and they feel so comfortable that they are hesitant to leave. Today Ngasha got a bit jealous of a wild bull and walked up to him to push him away without realising how much bigger and stronger the bull actually is. He tried to push the bulls’ leg which resulted in the bull chasing him into the forest. Ziwa heard Ngasha screaming for help, as did Faraja, and the two ran to see what the problem was. By the time they found Ngasha they found him hiding under a tree. Ziwa did his best to calm him down and reassure him whilst Faraja stood there looking helplessly at him.

12 March 2019

Today Shukuru seemed to want to stay apart from the rest of the orphans. Rather than remain in their company she chose to always be by the Keepers. If for any reason she got separated from them she was quick to find them again. She didn’t even seem to want the company of Sonje who continues to be one of her closest friends. Whilst out in the forest Shukuru came across some wild elephant dung on the pathway which she picked up and tasted, as elephants often do in order to find out what plants are good to eat. She then dropped the dung to the ground and when Alamaya came across it he smelt it thinking it might be edible, only to realise it was nothing but dung. 

Whilst browsing at the Kenze Hills some bush buck followed the orphans walking with them to the nearby bushes in an effort to interact with them. A dik dik came up behind Sonje and got a bit of a fright when encountering such a large animal and ran off. The bushbuck followed Sonje to the flowering acacia trees which were dropping pollen grains that the bushbucks and orphans enjoy eating. Sonje did not want to share the pollen with the bushbucks or have them join the orphan herd and trumpeted loudly to chase them away.  

13 March 2019

Shukuru was the first to exit her stockade when the orphans were let out this morning to begin another day of browsing and playing. Shukuru took the lead of the orphans to the browsing field closely followed by Alamaya. Alamaya felt that Shukuru was moving too slowly and started pushing Shukuru’s bottom to get her to walk faster. Shukuru moved aside to allow Alamaya to take the lead but instead of doing so, he stopped in his tracks and waited for Lima Lima to catch up. Lima Lima lead them to the Umani Hills where they found a big acacia tree that had been pushed over by some wild elephants and the orphans were able to peel and enjoy the bark. 

When Murera and Faraja arrived at the bottle feeding area at noon neither of them were in a hurry to get their share. Faraja kept stopping to allow Murera to catch up to him so that they could arrive together. When Murera got there she did not want her bottle and chose instead to head to the waterhole to join the rest of the herd who were already enjoying a mud bath.

14 March 2019

The wild elephants are constantly coming to the water trough for a drink and roaming around the stockades in search of any lucerne pellets that the orphans have left behind which the wild elephants have started to get a taste for. 

As the babies made their way to the Chyulu Hills a klipspringer came running out surprising the orphans. Lima Lima and Zongoloni did not see it at first but caught its scent, with Zongoloni raising her trunk to ascertain what the smell was before running off, leaving Lima Lima with no option but to follow. The klipspringer in the meantime also ran off in a different direction.  

Today a wild bull joined the orphans in the browsing fields and remained with them for a few hours. He was very friendly to the orphan herd and stayed with them until the orphans left for the noon milk feeding area at which point they parted ways.  

15 March 2019

As soon as Zongoloni exited her stockades she ran to the pellet feeding area in search of pellets to feed on. The Keepers had not yet put out the days rations so she started eating the previous day’s leftovers as she waiting for the Keepers to arrive with the wheelbarrow of lucerne pellets for her and friends to enjoy.  

Lately many wild elephants have been pushed back inside the Chyulu Hills area and the number of wild elephants in the forest is growing. Today we met up with six huge bulls who have been moved from the community area back into the protected areas. These bulls are very unpredictable and the Keepers made sure to keep their distance and observe them interacting with the orphans. Ziwa went to greet one of the bulls who placed his trunk onto Ziwa’s back. Ziwa then tried to play with the bull who turned and pushed him. Ziwa quickly got up and ran back to the orphans to seek comfort from Murera who was a few meters away.  

16 March 2019

The orphans exited their stockades full of energy and looking happy and ready to start another day. They trumpeted loudly as they charged around bush bashing, making it hard for the Keepers to have any control as they were being so rambunctious and noisy. It was also difficult for the Keepers to ascertain if there were any wild elephants around and this had them trying to ensure that the orphans remained in open areas where they could easily see if any other wild animals came around.

Zongoloni stayed close to the Keepers and called Lima Lima to do the same so that together they could protect the Keepers as they accompanied the orphan herd to Umani Hill for a browsing session. Quanza was not happy with where she was browsing and took Alamaya with her as she moved away from the rest of the group to another browsing spot. The Keepers whistled and called their names when it was time for them to rejoin the group as they were headed to the mud bath area for their noon milk feed and wallow.  

17 March 2019

The orphans seemed to be in a funny mood this morning with only Ngasha and Jasiri stopping to eat some pellets whilst the rest of the group walked behind the stockade fence line in search of acacia flowers, full of pollen, that the orphans enjoy eating. When the Keepers tried to get the group to head out for the day Faraja and Ziwa were quite defiant and the Keepers had to resort to pushing them to get them to join Murera and the other boys who were patiently waiting nearby.

At noon Murera slowly followed the group to the waterhole and when Sonje saw Murera arriving, she moved aside to make space for Murera to wallow. Sonje knew that Murera needed space to wallow freely as she sometimes struggles to roll around in the mud. Murera began by splashing her body before sitting in the water where she was joined by Mwashoti while Shukuru watched them from the sidelines.

18 March 2019

This morning the orphans were in an impatient mood, pushing at their stockade gates ready to start their day much earlier than usual. Lima Lima and Quanza had pushed at their gates so hard that they managed to damage them. When the Keepers came to give them their morning milk bottles they found their stockade door broken. Lima Lima has always been thought to be a bit naughty at times as she can be greedy and wants to get her milk first, but today the Keepers found that Quanza can be just as bad when she wants to be.

 When it was time to return to the stockades following a full days browsing in the fields and hills, each orphan followed their own path home, arriving in time for their evening milk bottle and eager to return to the safety of their night quarters, following a long day out and about.  

19 March 2019

Today Ziwa, Faraja and Jasiri were in trouble with Murera after they pushed little Mwashoti when he came close to them during the supplement feeding. As the boys were feeding on the pellets Mwashoti passed by trying to find a spot for himself and the three boys ganged up against him signalling to one another to push him out of the way. Murera saw what happened and quickly came in to discipline the older boys. Jasiri ran to the bushes and when he returned to his friends they all made sure to keep away from Murera who was by now browsing with Sonje and Mwashoti who stayed close to the older females, who he knows will always look out of him.

20 March 2019

It was a cloudy morning, which meant that it was not the most favourable weather conditions for the majority of the orphan herd as it made for a cold day. Murera and Sonje struggled to keep up with the group this morning as they joints and legs were stiff due to the cold weather. As the day progressed the sun came out and the orphans became more jovial.  

At the water springs Ngasha crossed over to the other side in search of green branches to feed on. When he got there he came across a big sleeping crocodile who sensed his presence and quickly but silently entered the water so as to avoid being stepped on by the elephants.  

The elephants made their way to the Kenze Hills browsing as they went. Along the way they came across buffaloes in their path making it difficult to move further forward. Lima Lima, who was in the lead, called for support from the older boys with Ziwa and Ngasha being the first to respond and together they did their best to chase away the buffaloes so that they could reach their intended browsing destination.  

21 March 2019

Mwashoti has become more mischievous of late and his personality seems to be changing daily. Today the Keepers were surprised to see Mwashoti pushing Quanza at the pellet feeding area when she passed in front of him in order to get to the pellets that were on the ground near him.  Mwashoti managed to push Quanza to the ground which left us all shocked as she is much bigger than he is and this was out of character for Mwashoti who is normally one of the gentler orphans. Murera and Sonje saw what happened but didn’t discipline Mwashoti who is often bullied by the other orphans, and they seemed happy to see him learning to be more assertive in a situation where he would have been otherwise pushed aside.

Ziwa and Faraja enjoyed a spirited pushing game to test their strength and ascertain who is the stronger of the two. The boys are good friends and they didn’t take their game seriously as it was just a friendly match.  

22 March 2019

Kenya seems to be suffering from a heat wave over the past month or so with many wild animals making their way to the Umani water springs, for fresh water and to seek solace from the burning sun. Even on days where the mornings start chilly, by noon the temperatures are soaring and the animals are feeling the effects of the heat, with even the vegetation being affected as it dries out becoming brown and brittle as opposed to lush and green.  

The orphans get more supplements then usual at times like this to ensure that they remain strong and healthy. The Kibwezi forest is greener than other parts of the area, which is why there has been an influx of wild animals seen around the forest as they come searching for vegetation. We have also seen an increase in the number of wild elephants coming down from the Chyulu Hills and surrounding areas as they look for green browse which will fill their bellies and nourish them. The water springs area has become home to a large variety of wildlife with many wild elephants visiting and interacting with the orphan herd on a daily basis.  

23 March 2019

Mwashoti got himself into a spot of trouble today when at the water hole, he accidently touched Alamaya‘s tail stub. As normal Alamaya got angry and a fight soon broke out between the boys who are actually friends as well as neighbours as their stockades are next to one another. Murera had to come in and break up the fight as Alamaya is stronger than Mwashoti and she was worried that Mwashoti would end up getting hurt.  

The rivalry between the young boys reared its head at the milk feeding area when they arrived for their bottles. Shukuru walked to the waterhole whilst the two boys came face to face with Mwashoti cleverly ignoring Alamaya’s taunting attitude, refusing to become engaged in another tussle, and instead making his way to the waterhole where all the orphans had a lovely time playing.  

24 March 2019

As soon as the orphans exited the stockades this morning, Shukuru had to stand back to avoid being trampled by the bulls who charged past her to get to the pellet feeding area. When the orphans were done with the supplement feeding, Murera and Sonje took the lead of the group to the bushes to begin the days browsing activities, going in a different direction to that usually taken which resulted in lots of complaining from the rest in an effort to get them to go where they wanted to go. Murera and Sonje however refused to respond to any of the whinging and continued on the path they had taken.  

Murera and Sonje stopped the group to browse at the Chyulu Hills in an area that had quite a few antelopes who seemed perturbed by the screaming baboons up in the trees. Lima Lima caught the scent of the baboons and looked up to see what could be causing so much commotion and was surprised to see a leopard on the hunt and we realised this is what made the antelopes uneasy and ready to bolt. Lima Lima always seems to be the first one to spot anything dangerous and thus keep the orphans in her herd, as well as the Keepers, safe.  

25 March 2019

The orphans were in a happy and playful mood at the mud bath when they discovered that the area had been visited by wild elephants the night before who had enjoyed rolling in the mud before dusting off at the nearby red earth piles. Faraja rolled around in the mud covering every inch of his body. Sonje and Murera took off down the path that the wild elephants had taken walking through the bushes and following their scent in an effort to find their wild friends.  

A large herd of buffaloes passed by the orphans, as they were relaxing under the shade of a large tree. They stopped as they got closer to the orphans, contemplating whether or not to proceed to the shade themselves. The orphans made the decision an easy one as Sonje led the herd away from the buffaloes to another shady spot.  

26 March 2019

Today Alamaya and Mwashoti were very playful at the waterhole with the two always being sure to roll around with one another. When they exited the water they played mounting games with Mwashoti trying to mount Alamaya whilst Alamaya ran away turning their game into a chasing one as well. Lima Lima watched what was going on out of concern that Mwashoti would end up in trouble with Alamaya should he happen to touch Alamaya’s tail stub. She therefore came in to separate the two and bring an end to their game.  

While at the Chyulu Hills many wild elephants were seen with young babies, some of which were Mwashoti’s age. When the Keepers saw the herd coming out of the bushes they initially thought they were the orphans, only realizing they were not when they were followed by bigger elephants. Lima Lima went to play with the babies one of which yelled loudly when it saw a Keeper. The Keepers retreated quickly especially as the babies screams were followed by a deafening trumpet and they were worried that they younger orphans would end up surrounded by the wild elephants who would tower above them like giants.  

27 March 2019

During the night Lima Lima was pacing around her stockade wanting to be let out as she pushed at the walls of her stockade as well as the door in an effort to get out. Quanza was confused as to what Lima Lima was trying to achieve, knowing that the safest place for them at night is in the stockade.  She walked to Lima Lima and pushed her away from the stockade boundaries to get her to stop her relentless escape tactics. Lima Lima persisted however and even managed to knock some posts loose and pull down her name tag using her tusks and trunk.  

While the orphans were browsing peacefully along the Chyulu Hills, the boys, lead by Ziwa and Ngasha, decided to approach some wild bulls that were in the area. They got a rude awakening when one of the big bulls, who had long strong tusks, pushed Ziwa and Ngasha back making it clear they did not want the youngsters company.  

28 March 2019

Murera had a lot of fun at the waterhole by herself today; she waited until the most of the orphans had moved out of the water. Murera took her time, rolling and splashing in the mud, and eventually made her way to the dusting mound. Murera then proceeded to blow large mounds of dust everywhere; the surrounding area looked like one big, red dust cloud, blocking the Keepers from seeing the rest of the orphans. Zongoloni was rubbing her belly on Alamaya, but Alamaya was not too happy with the extra weight and yelled for help. Sonje ran to the rescue to see Zongoloni hadn’t stopped with her games. It took a bit more yelling from Alamaya to get all the orphans to run towards the commotion, to then have Zongoloni run off, not understanding what she had done wrong.

29 March 2019

Shukuru, who normally fusses a bit when it is her turn for her monthly injections, was quite compliant today. As soon as she saw the two Keepers enter her stockade with a syringe in their hands, she didn’t run away or cause a fuss; instead she remained still and allowed the Keepers to do their job. She was done in a couple of minutes, but not Alamaya. Alamaya made sure he let the Keepers know he was not happy with having his bottom jabbed.  

All the elephants, after having their milk bottles, then exited the stockades in a very upbeat mood. Shukuru proved to have a very good appetite today, concentrating on her browsing and selecting some very green branches.  

The orphans walked in the direction of the Umani Hills where they remained for the rest of the day, browsing until their bellies were full.  

30 March 2019

This morning we saw a big herd of elephants and buffaloes at the water spring. The soaring temperatures are forcing these animals to visit the water springs looking to cool off and enjoy the fresh water. We saw a lot of heat exhausted elephant babies, who were being pushed by their mothers to wallow in the mud and enjoy the lush vegetation in the Kibwezi Forest. The influx of elephants proved to be a bit much for the buffaloes who decided to move on, leaving the elephants to enjoy the water springs. 

When the orphans arrived at the springs, there was much excitement as they could smell their wild friends. Ziwa took Ngasha to look at and follow the tracks the wild elephants had left behind in the hope of catching up with them. Unfortunately the wild herd was long gone. Ngasha decided to turn back and take Faraja to the Hills, leaving Lima Lima, Murera and Sonje looking after the other orphans and Keepers. Shukuru also kept her distance today form the pushing boys, choosing to browse by herself.

31 March 2019

Alamaya and Sonje were the first to exit the stockades today. They left their friends inside still enjoying their lucerne pellets. Murera and Ziwa decided it was a good idea to drag down two hay bales and feast on them. They dragged them outside up to the gate, thinking Alamaya and Sonje would join them but they were already busy feeding on some branches. Faraja and Jasiri entwined their trunks engaging each other in a strength testing game to see who was the strongest. Jasiri gave up eventually, leaving Faraja to charge around in the bushes.

At the noon bottle feed all the orphans came rushing to down their bottles and make a beeline for the waterhole. They thoroughly enjoyed splashing water and mud on themselves. Even Shukuru partook in some wallowing, but in a quiet spot by herself. She exited the mud bath before the others, choosing to wait for them under the shade of a tree. The orphans left the waterhole covered in mud, so much so that it was difficult to tell the Albino boys apart.