Keepers' Diaries, March 2020

Umani Springs Reintegration Unit

This month Alamaya seemed to dominate our diary with his boisterous activities. Recently he has been determined to prove himself to the other bulls in the Umani herd, which is understandable since he turned six years old in January! We can see it in his eyes when he comes out of his room in the morning, and he appears eager to take on the first orphan that might approach him. One morning Faraja, who does sometimes enjoy bothering little Alamaya, was quick to run over to the young bull and start nudging him. Alamaya was all too prepared for him however and wrestled with Faraja with all his might. Faraja was taken by surprise and when he realised this was going to be no easy-win he quickly moved away. 

01 March 2020

For the last two days, Jasiri has been in two minds about whether to venture out at night and join his male friends and Zongoloni, or to remain at the stockades with the rest of the herd. Eventually he decided to join the more independent crew - Zongoloni, Faraja, Ziwa and Ngasha and he wandered off into the forest to browse with them. As evening fell, Jasiri decided to return to the main herd however.  

Murera discovered some very fresh greens whilst in the forest today and thoroughly enjoyed them. Sonje was also taking her sweet time browsing, but as soon as she realised the herd was moving away and that she might get left behind, she quickly moved to rejoin them. She did however, find a nice scratching post and stopped for a few minutes to indulge in a scratching session before catching up with her friends.

02 March 2020

Alamaya, thinking he is a big boy now, decided to make his own way into the forest today; he broke away from the rest of the orphans to browse by himself. This adventure soon came to an abrupt end however when Alamaya heard some very loud yelling coming from some elephants in the forest, forcing him to run to where Quanza was. Quanza didn’t seem very concerned though and continued chewing on some branches. Mwashoti, who also heard the yelling, spread his big ears to locate where the noise was coming from but, unable to do so, he made his way to be close to Murera.  

Quanza, unperturbed by al l noise, put up her trunk to catch the scent of the “noise makers”; realising it was none other than their wild friends in the forest joined by some noisy baboons in the trees, she carried on browsing.

03 March 2020

As the orphans exited their stockades this morning, none of them stopped for their Lucerne pellets as they seemed to be in a hurry to get to the forest to start their browsing activities. Faraja was in a bit of a cheeky mood and blocked Ziwa from following the orphans. Ziwa had to wrestle to get past Faraja, but in the end, overwhelmed by Faraja’s strength, gave in and followed him.

After their midday milk bottles, Faraja made his way to the water hole where Alamaya was already splashing in the mud and showing off his new swimming style to his friends. Faraja watched for a while, indulged in some wallowing, and then followed the rest of the herd as they made their way to the Chyulu Hills to carry on browsing for the rest of the day.

04 March 2020

Today the two albino boys Jasiri and Faraja decided to test their strength. A pushing game ensued, with Jasiri trying to out-push Faraja. Faraja, who has learnt quite a few skills since he has been staying out in the forest, managed to overcome Jasiri. Lima Lima had to intervene and stop the boys from fighting and nudge them towards the Umani Hills in the hope that they would get busy with foraging and forget about fighting.  

The rest of the afternoon passed uneventfully. We had hoped to see the other three partially independent orphans at some point in the day, but assumed their absence meant they had perhaps ventured further out into the forest, which made the journey back to the orphans a bit long today. We were happy to have Faraja with us, who enjoyed playing with his friend Jasiri today.

05 March 2020

Lima Lima and Sonje took over the leadership role today, and lead the herd towards the hills, leaving Murera and Shukuru to trail behind. Shukuru was not very happy with the pace, and being pushed to move faster by the herd. She decided to break away from them instead, and find her own private browsing spot.  

Murera sought out Mwashoti to join her in the bushes where she could keep an eye on Jasiri too, who seemed to be moving quickly towards the Kenze Hills. Jasiri came across some wild elephant dung and proceeded to put some dung in his mouth to figure out which branches he should be feeding on. 

After the 11am milk feed Alamaya took centre stage, showing off his wallowing skills as the rest stood back and watched; he emerged from the waterhole looking a different colour from his friends as they chose not to wallow. 

06 March 2020

This morning, Faraja and Zongoloni appeared out of the bushes, having been away all of last night. They decided to join the orphan herd in their daily activities.  

Lima Lima spotted a monkey on the tree with her baby. She watched the monkey nurse her little baby for a while and then followed Ngasha who was leading the rest to the broken water pipes where everyone took their time to quench their thirst.

Zongoloni, feeling refreshed from the long drink, then turned her attention to the big tree next to the broken water pipes and decided she would push the tree down. Unfortunately the tree was too big and Zongoloni eventually gave up. The Keepers heard some trumpeting in the forest and thought perhaps the wild elephants would join the orphans, but before that could happen, Zongoloni ran into the forest to find them and let them know not to disturb Shukuru and Murera who were browsing peacefully.  

07 March 2020

Ngasha appeared from his hideout this morning, where he must have been for the past few days and came down the hills to join the orphans at the 11am milk feed. He arrived thinking he was going to get a bottle of milk and waited his turn with his mouth wide open but to his dismay there was no bottle for him, but the Keepers were very happy to see him and welcomed him.

Shukuru found herself in a thicket of bushes with a wide variety of foliage to choose from. She was quite excited to find such fresh and plentiful browse that she didn’t know where to start. The rest of the orphans decided to cool off in the water hole and have fun in some swimming games. Thereafter Murera lead them to the big trees, there they crowded under the shade until it was cooler. The orphans then moved on to browse until they returned to the stockades in the evening.

08 March 2020

The morning started on a very quiet note and the orphans were browsing peacefully when Sonje heard Alamaya rumbling and calling out to her, she ran up to him but Alamaya raised his ears as though he was scared of something. Sonje reached out to him with her trunk to comfort him, but couldn’t figure out what was bothering Alamaya. Shukuru was wondering what was bothering Alamaya as well, but it seems Sonje’s presence calmed Alamaya.

Murera heard the commotion and started to make her way towards where Sonje and Alamaya were. She found Jasiri and Faraja, standing at the edge of the forest, waiting to go to the dust bath. Jasiri made his way slowly to the dust bath leaving the rest of the herd to follow Lima Lima who had communicated to the orphans that they must follow her to Chyulu Hills where they continued browsing for the rest of the afternoon.

09 March 2020

Lima Lima found a very quiet browsing spot, surrounded by fresh, young, greens shrubs. Whilst she greedily munched on these greens, little Mwashoti let out a rumble signalling Murera, who wasn’t too far away, to come check on him. Mwashoti was standing near some bushes in the thicket of the forest, Murera walked over to him to comfort him. She then gently guided Mwashoti to where the other orphans were waiting for them.

The Keepers spotted some buffaloes in the forest and one of them made their way to where the orphans were browsing. Shukuru had already spotted them earlier on and quickly changed direction to avoid them, hoping they would end up where Faraja and Ziwa were. Ziwa and Faraja wasted no time in chasing away the buffaloes; the orphans would in no way accept the company of the buffalo herd.

10 March 2020

Alamaya was very lucky today because as he was walking out into the forest he found some juicy greens that had been dropped on the ground by the wild elephant herd that had passed by earlier. He quickly had his fill before the rest of the orphans arrived. The orphans decided the hot weather was perfect for wallowing and they all made a beeline for the water hole. Alamaya emerged victorious as he was the last one out of the mud bath even though all his friends had already all left.  

Once all the orphans were out of the mud bath, Murera looked around to come up with a plan of where they should next go to browse. They waited for Sonje and Shukuru to join them before continuing with their afternoon of browsing. As the day was coming to an end, Shukuru made a head start back to the stockades because it takes her a little longer to walk. The rest of herd followed her a little later, to their night quarters.  

11 March 2020

It seemed as though Jasiri did not have good intentions when he invited Alamaya to a strength testing game today. Alamaya also wanted to prove to Jasiri that he was no longer a little boy and didn’t want to back down, so he started by pushing Jasiri back with all his might. What started as something serious, then turned into a playful game though. The only female elephant in the vicinity was Lima Lima, who was browsing nearby, and she wasn’t interested in separating the boys when she saw the games becoming a little feisty; instead she carried on with her browsing activities. She only emerged from the thick bushes when it was time for the 11am milk feed. Mwashoti saw her and decided to follow her to the mud-bath area.

A flock of crane birds arrived at the mud-bath today looking to quench their thirst, but Shukuru had decided otherwise. She trumpeted loudly in their direction, sending the cranes flying, give her friends a chance to move into the mud-bath.

12 March 2020

The orphans exited their stockades today, eager to start their browsing activities. Alamaya decided to take the lead and direct them towards the Umani Hills. The orphans spent a fair amount of time browsing but poor Alamaya had to be rescued. He was having trouble going downhill across some rocks so Sonje had to come back and gently guide him down.

After the orphans had their milk bottles, Faraja tried to sneak off into the forest as he was obviously feeling more independent today. He didn’t want any of the others to follow him except Zongoloni who he doesn’t mind going off into the forest to explore with.

13 March 2020

Lima Lima has developed a new trait, something she has been practising for a while now, where, at the 11am milk feed, she races ahead and waits for the rest of the orphans to arrive. As they do, she greets each one of them with a raised trunk, as though a host receiving her guests at a party. She did this until Sonje arrived and then abandoned her post and went to get her milk bottle.

Murera arrived a little later to the 11am feed. It seems she wants her bottle less and less these days, as she finds plenty to forage on to keep her full when she is in the forest. Sometimes she tricks the Keepers into thinking she wants her milk bottle and arrives at the 11am feed, but does not take her bottle, or stays away altogether.

Independent Ngasha’s got the milk feed too late today; all the bottles were finished, so he decided to make his way to the water hole, throw some mud on himself and move to where Ziwa was waiting for Zongoloni.

14 March 2020

When the independent three boys visited the orphans this morning, Zongoloni was not with them. She later arrived on her own and found Sonje, who had found a tree with some very tasty greens. Before Sonje spotted Zongoloni, Zongoloni disappeared into the forest to look for her friends.

Murera heard some rumbling and paused to listen to which one of the orphans was calling out to her. When she looked around, it was Alamaya; he came running towards her and placed his trunk on her chest, as a sign of affection, a kind of elephant hug.  

15 March 2020

The orphans left the stockades early today to get a head start on their browsing activities. Alamaya lead them into the thickest bushes, when he saw some movement in the grass that startled him. On closer inspection he saw a tortoise moving slowly through the tall grass, his first instinct was to kick it but changed his mind and left the tortoise alone.

As the temperature got hotter this morning, the orphans could not wait to down their 11am milk bottles and plunge into the mud-bath to cool off. The orphans indulged for a while throwing mud on themselves. Alamaya stayed long after his friends had made their way to the dust bath. He emerged from the mud-bath a beautiful dark colour from the mud.

16 March 2020

The Umani hills were full of life today, as all sorts of noises could be heard from in the distance. Baboons and other monkey troops could be heard shouting and jumping from tree to tree. They seemed to be struggling on some of the trees as they were wet. They could be seen slipping and sliding all over the place. This appeared to bother and scare the elephant orphans who all turned around and ran off in a direction that led them away from the noisy baboons. 

Faraja, who has been spending his evenings out, was again one of the only partially-dependent orphans to return to the Umani orphans’ herd today. Faraja seemed a little worried to not be in the company of his other friends especially as the Umani orphan herd was getting ready to head back to the stockades for the night. When he finally started to walk off into the forest he appeared to know where he was heading. Perhaps he had heard the others calling for him as he was much calmer, and certainly walked off with a sense of purpose. 

17 March 2020

Mwashoti appeared to be in a naughty mood this morning as the orphans were in the forest. He found this green sumptuous bush that was perfectly situated in the shade of another tree, but he didn’t want the other orphans to find it too. He conjured up this plan to quietly sneak away so that he could enjoy the fresh greens he had found. His plan worked almost seamlessly with only Shukuru noticing him disappear into the bushes. She quickly followed him and the two enjoyed the fresh soft branches for quite some time, before re-joining the rest of the Umani orphan’s herd. 

The orphans enjoyed some downtime after they finished their midday bottles of milk and peacefully waited for their Keepers to finish their lunch. As the Keepers were wrapping up, they could see all the orphans walking towards them as though they knew it was almost time to carry on. This made it easier for the Keepers to round up the orphans as they could see all the orphans were there, so they could continue on with the day. Lima Lima and Zongoloni appeared to rumble one another and then all the orphans began to follow them and the Keepers. 

18 March 2020

This morning Quanza appeared to be very thirsty as she refused to head off to the forest until she had a long drink of water from the water trough. Once she was finished drinking, she followed Zongoloni out towards the forest. The orphans made their way to the hills via the Umani springs, where they stopped for a drink of water and Quanza once again quenched her thirst. As Quanza was drinking she grabbed a bunch of grass and then placed it in her mouth and walked off, seemingly happy that she got to drink again and found a nice bunch of grass to chew on. 

This evening, as the orphans were making their way back to the stockade compound, Jasiri was very eager to follow Zongoloni and the others out to the forest for the evening. This appeared to upset Ziwa, who maybe thought that Jasiri was not ready. He started to rumble at Jasiri and Zongoloni who was walking with him, forcing them both to change directions and finally separating Jasiri from Zongoloni. Jasiri seemingly disappointed by the turn of events returned to the Umani orphan herd and followed them back to the stockades. 

19 March 2020

This morning the orphans were led out to the forest by Lima Lima, who took great joy out of her responsibilities as always. She led the orphans to a lush green area of the forest where they could all enjoy some fresh branches and leaves. Some of the orphans were a bit more reluctant to follow her but they eventually did without much protest, and all the orphans appeared happy once they started browsing.  

The orphans had a lovely day browsing in the Kibwezi forest. As they were following Lima Lima accompanied by Murera, they came across the Sheldrick’s tractor on the road, heading back to the stockades with some fresh greens. Sonje decided to be a little naughty and she stood in the road, stopping the tractor. As soon as the tractor had come to a complete stop, she walked round and grabbed some of the greens off the back, and then walked off very pleased with herself. The tractor and the orphans then went their separate ways. 

20 March 2020

Shukuru didn’t seem to be in the best of moods this morning. When she came out her stable, she refused to go with Sonje, who is one of her closest friends. Most morning the two girls walk off to the hills together, but this morning she would not move until the Keepers came to walk with her. The Keepers happily accompanied her out to the hills. 

Faraja suddenly appeared out of nowhere, and the Keepers and the orphans were so surprised as they did not expect to see him so early in the day. He was quickly followed by Ngasha, Ziwa and Zongoloni, who all appeared behind him, excited to see the orphans and Keepers. 

As the orphans were slowly walking and browsing in the afternoon, Quanza broke away from the herd and went to browse on her own. The Keepers made sure to keep an eye on her, ensuring she didn’t wander off too far. 

21 March 2020

Throughout the evening, the stockade compound was surrounded by wild herds of elephants. This seemed to agitate the orphans, who were all awake smelling and checking out their visitors. All the orphans were also rumbling at one another, communicating what was happening and checking-in with each other. With all the commotion, the Keepers were also woken up and came out of their rooms to check what was happening. 

The Keepers were so pleased to see that the wild herd was in the company of Zongoloni, Ziwa, Ngasha and Faraja, and they were all happily drinking together at the water trough. As Zongoloni, Ziwa, Ngasha and Faraja were quite happy near the stockade, the wild herd refused to leave without them, and they kept all rumbling and trumpeting at each other. This was a very eventful evening. 

Later in the morning, when the orphans had finished their midday bottles of milk, Jasiri, who is always keeping a watchful eye on the orphans, was happily enjoying a mud bath. Jasiri is always happy to be amongst the older girls and younger orphans and when he came out of the mud bath, he had completely changed colour and could now blend in with the mud. 

Murera wasn’t so eager to have a mud bath today and simply walked around the waterhole towards some acacia trees. As she got close to an acacia tree stump that she wanted to scratch her back on, some bushbucks came running out the forest giving her the biggest fright. She quickly turned around and ran back towards the rest of the orphans, where she felt safer. 

22 March 2020

After all the heavy showers we have had, the Chyulu hills are looking greener than ever, and they just radiate in the morning sunshine. Ngasha could be seen majestically walking down from the hills, and when he got to the bottom, he quickly walked over to Ziwa to greet him. After a small hello, the two bulls started a wrestling match and were pushing each other all around the forest, testing each other. Their game continued for a couple of minutes before they moved off in different directions to browse. 

As the orphans made their way down to the mud bath for their midday bottles of milk the temperature was soaring, and they all seemed eager to enter the cool waters of the mud bath. As soon as all the orphans finished their milk bottles, they ran straight into the water hole and enjoyed a long mud bath. 

Alamaya was amongst the first to exit the cool water and he made his way over to the salt lick spot. Sadly, some of the other orphans were already there and they weren’t so willing to share so he had to push his way through until he found his own salt to eat. 

23 March 2020

The orphans seemed to be in a good mood this morning as they left the stockades for the forest. All of them, apart from Shukuru, were charging and trumpeting towards the trees, excited to start their day. Shukuru was also excited but she preferred to keep her distance, walking at her own pace and ensuring she didn’t get pushed over by the others. Alamaya was charging all over the place when he suddenly got an itch on his back, and he immediately stopped and started to scratch his back on the trunk of a big tree before carrying on. Jasiri saw Alamaya stop and chose to wait for him, and he too then got an itch and walked over to the same tree to scratch his back. The two were busy scratching for a few minutes before re-joining the rest of the Umani orphan herd. 

As the orphans were making their way back to the forest this afternoon, Ngasha lead them towards a waterhole where they came across a herd of wild elephants who were all drinking and mud bathing in the waterhole. Ngasha stopped to join the wild herd in their mud bath, while the rest of the orphans carried on. Ngasha later re-joined the orphans for an afternoon of browsing. 

24 March 2020

Lima Lima was in a very playful mood today, especially when the orphans were down at the mud bath. She quickly dashed over to the dust bath were some of the other orphans were and began to roll all over the place, pushing at her friends and covering her body in dust. She rolled herself into such an odd position that she struggles to get up and started to rumble at her Keepers for help. The Keepers quickly rushed over to help her. As soon as she was up, she began to sprint around the waterhole in excitement trumpeting at all her friends and she was full of energy for the rest of the day. 

It was so hot this afternoon that the orphans were forced to stay in the shade of the trees, not moving further up the hills. It was so hot that Jasiri ended up having two mud baths to cool himself down. 

25 March 2020

Lately Alamaya seems to be more confident and more eager to challenge his friends in a strength testing match. This morning he was trying to tease and challenge all the orphans; he even chose to challenge Quanza who has formidable tusks, but this didn’t bother him. The two were playfully pushing each other around the stockade compound, but their game was brought to an abrupt end by some screaming monkeys and Quanza seemed to lose interest after this. As Quanza walked off, Alamaya went to join Faraja and Ziwa. 

As the orphans were browsing along the hills, the Keepers notice some buffalo moving towards where Alamaya was browsing. Alamaya quickly noticed them and charged towards them chasing them away, ensuring they didn’t come any closer to the orphans. The buffalo were quick to change direction and didn’t come anywhere near the Umani orphans. 

26 March 2020

Shukuru seemed to be in another bad mood today and didn’t want to be in the company of any of the other orphans. As she came out her stable in the morning, she quickly walked off to a corner far away from the others. Alamaya, who was busy chasing baboons away from the Lucerne pellets, noticed her on her own and tried to go and keep her company, but she wasn’t interested. As soon as he would approach her, she would quickly move away, and he eventually got bored of trying and went back to join the others. 

It was another extremely hot afternoon, and Murera and Lima Lima quickly made the decision to lead the orphans down to the waterhole, where they could all enjoy a long mud bath and cool off. The orphans spent the most part of their afternoon enjoying the cool waters. 

27 March 2020

There are many crane birds who have their nests around the waterhole where the orphans have their midday bottles of milk, and they can almost always be seen on the ground or up on some of the broken tree trunks. 

This afternoon the orphans were, as always, very excited for their midday bottles of milk and they were all charging down to the mud bath area. Lima Lima came barrelling down first and she gave the crane birds such a fright that they all flew up to the tops of the trees. Lima Lima didn’t even realise what she had run past and she had to stop and look back at what had flown past her. This allowed for Jasiri to overtake her and get his bottle first. Once the orphans were all finished with their milk bottles they all went to play in the mud. 

28 March 2020

This morning Alamaya really wanted to show off his growing strength and as he came out his stable, he was ready to take on any of other orphans. He walked over to the loading ramp where he seemed to be keeping an eye out for any orphan approaching. Faraja, who does sometimes enjoy bothering little Alamaya, was quick to run over to the young bull and start nudging him. Alamaya was all too prepared for him, and he immediately started to push back at him. Faraja was taken by surprise, and when he saw that he could not easily defeat the young bull, he quickly moved away. 

Alamaya seemed to get excited by his victory and quickly went bouncing over to the other orphans rumbling and trumpeting. Once he finished celebrating, he joined the rest of the orphans as they made their way to the Chyulu Hills. 

29 March 2020

Mwashoti seemed to be very hungry this morning as the Umani orphans arrived in the forest. Instead of grabbing fresh branches, he kept grabbing lots of shrubs and stuffing them into his mouth until there was barely any space left for him to chew. He was not wasting any time at all in getting his fill. 

As the orphans were all walking and browsing, Faraja appeared from the bushes to join them. It was another sweltering day, and Faraja and Shukuru did not waste any time making their way to one of the pools to cool off. As they got to the water, they could both be seen splashing water and mud all over their bodies and they both enjoyed a nice long wallow before continuing with their browsing activities. 

Alamaya and some of the other orphans walked quite far up the Umani Hills and were leaving some of the older girls behind. The Keepers did not want them to walk too far away so they began to call after them and whistle for them to come back down. Alamaya quickly came running back down to the Keepers and he was soon followed by the others. 

30 March 2020

Jasiri was on a mission this morning as he led the orphans out to the forest. He was so eager to head deep into the forest that he did not want to stop for any breaks. Quanza and the Keepers tried to stop him one or two times, but he completely refused and insisted that they push on. 

As Quanza realised that he would not slow down, she lost interest in following him and decided to have a wrestling match with Alamaya instead. She and Alamaya were pushing each other all over the forest, when they were interrupted by the arrival of Faraja. Quanza immediately ran over to greet him and welcome him back to the herd, and then they carried on trying to catch up with Jasiri. 

With another hot day ahead, the orphans were eager to stay near the pipeline route where they could grab some water from the different points along the route where the pipelines had cracked or there was a leak. Sonje and some of her friends were amongst the first to sneak off and have some water from the pipelines. As the orphans were relaxing in the shade, Faraja decided to lie down and have a nap. 

31 March 2020

The orphans were all excited today as they came out of their stockades. As they walked through the forest, Murera found a fun trench to play in. She could be seen rolling around, covering herself in soil and scratching her belly on the ground. It was all fun and games until she tried to get up. As the trench was quite narrow, she got a little bit stuck and started to struggle. It wasn’t long before she began trumpeting for her Keepers to come and help her. The Keepers quickly went running over and helped push her out, she was so relieved to be out that she went charging off into the bushes rumbling and trumpeting in excitement. The Keepers then quickly ushered all the orphans away from the trench. 

Later that afternoon, Ngasha had a similar idea to Murera and he began to roll around on the ground scratching his belly and covering himself in dust. When he was done, he walked over to the rest of the orphans.