Keepers' Diaries, May 2016

Umani Springs Reintegration Unit

The highlight of the month at Umani has been the arrival of Alamaya and Mwashoti who had traveled from the Nairobi Nursery to their new home within the Kibwezi Forest on the 29th May. The Keepers anticipated they would be unsettled after their long journey but both Mwashoti and Alamaya appeared happy and excited and embraced everything from the moment of their arrival. It seemed that Murera and Sonje were aware something was up from the outset today, perhaps from reading their keepers body language or even through their telepathic ability. From the moment the babies arrived Sonje and Zongoloni embraced them; the older girls were overwhelmed with excitement and poured attention over them, guiding them sensitively into Umani Springs life. It was delightful to witness the two newcomers embracing everything before them, and literally smiling as they frolicked in the mudwallow on their first day; heart-warming indeed. There was one orphan who felt pangs of jealousy at having to share the attentions of Sonje and that was Ziwa who has been Sonje and Murera’s pampered baby since his arrival.

01 May 2016

Lima Lima was very upset to see a big troop of baboons crossing the pathway she was walking along, as was Murera who became angry as the baboons with their young ones were making lots of noise. It forced Lima Lima and Murera to trumpet loudly clearing the way and scaring off the baboons. As the baboons were jumping away on trees the Keepers realised that there was a leopard also in the trees which was what the baboons were making so much noise about. Sonje and Murera soon smelt the leopard and kept close to their keepers. Quanza and Jasiri couldn’t find the matriarchs of the group as they had left hurriedly after spotting the leopard, so the two babies walked back again and went to the water hole, there was no bathing though as they found the water was very cold, they did not splash even their feet.

02 May 2016

The calm baby boy, Ngasha lost his direction whilst walking in the forest, after becoming separated from the Keepers. Realising he was lost and couldn’t smell the other babies, he began to give low complaining rumbles in order for Murera and Sonje to respond so that he could locate where the others were. The keepers knew Ngasha had a problem so they called him and the other babies to bring the group back together again. Finally, the Keepers managed to herd all the babies back together, who were all following their own paths through the forest finding the best browse to feed on.

03 May 2016

The bottle feeding time came along and greedy Lima Lima with Zongoloni started raising their ears and giving low rumbling noises exclaiming they were ready for feeding time. Ngasha and Faraja were also raising their trunks high to smell the bottles, but some of the babies were delayed at the broken water pipes, trying to get some clean water to drink. Murera and Ziwa came very slowly behind the other babies, to take their turn for their bottles which the keepers were already holding in their hands. When Ziwa got his bottle he was very happy, rumbling happily to his keeper. The weather changed and became very hot today forcing the orphans to go to the water hole to cool themselves down. Ngasha was the swimming star of the day after showing how good he could swim and roll over and over again more than other babies.

04 May 2016

Today, all the babies decided to browse on the slopes of the Chyulu Hills, where they found some wild elephant dung. Jasiri came across the dung and followed the smell trying to get to where the wild elephants were in the bushes. Zongoloni followed Jasiri, but Murera and Sonje did not want to, fearing the wild elephants. As Sonje and Murera turned back, they put Ziwa in-between them making sure he was with them and safe. Sonje then brought Ziwa to have some wallowing time at the waterhole before drying themselves on the dry grass.

05 May 2016

Lima Lima took over the walk today, leading Faraja, looking for some soft foliage to enjoy feeding on in the early morning hours. Within a short while, wild elephants were heard screaming very near them; Zongoloni thought it was wiser to get back to the keepers and lead the other babies to safety instead of joining the wild elephants. Quanza also thought it was good to lead the others out from the bushes too. In the afternoon Jasiri busied himself scratching his hind legs on rocks trying to get rid of some insects on his body. Some of the babies, like Faraja and Ngasha, did not bother about taking off the insects on the rocks because they already know how to take them off by wallowing in the waterhole. Elephants like Zongoloni and Lima Lima are very clean and free from insects but some orphans like Ngasha refuse to wallow which means they have more insects on them!

06 May 2016

The orphans started their day early in the morning, walking towards the Umani Hills along the springs. The boys lead by Ngasha, Jasiri and Faraja together with one of the girls, Lima Lima, then all took off following paths that had been used by wild elephants, going towards the Kenze baselines where they found plenty of vegetation and foliage to eat. During their walk some dik diks ran across their path and through their legs and all the babies became scared by the tiny running dik diks and quickly ran back to the keepers to help them.

07 May 2016

The elephants were very calm today when wild bulls made a visit at the mudbath time, although one wild bull did not come out too far from the cover of the bushes as he was smelling the keepers and wasn’t sure about their presence. When the orphans finished with the waterhole and were walking to the dust bath to dry up their bodies, Ziwa was squashed on the ground by the others while dusting, making him scream for help from Sonje or Murera or even the keepers; Sonje did not take much time before she reached her lovely baby boy and help him up. Later on, Murera and Quanza took the lead, showing the babies which direction they would be taking to get foliage for the remaining hours of the day.

08 May 2016

Naughty boys, Faraja and Ngasha, opened up the day with pushing game activities, trying out their strength to see who was stronger. Zongoloni came and separated them as she didn’t like the fighting. They listened to Zongoloni and separated peacefully, but Jasiri came along and pushed Ngasha down before walking away. A couple of bushbucks suddenly ran over to where the orphans were enjoying some nice vegetation and scared the babies, causing them to run in all directions. With all the commotion the keepers thought a leopard might have been the cause of alarm forcing the orphans to run for their life. In the afternoon as the babies were heading to other browsing areas towards the Chyulu Hills, some of them encountered some wild elephants walking to the Umani water springs. Lima Lima tried to charge at them but Murera suddenly stopped the charge, not wanting to cause any trouble with the big wild elephants.

09 May 2016

The Keepers and their orphans walked into the Chyulu Hills National Park today trying to find some good foliage and also to try and get Murera and Sonje to accept meeting some wild elephants found within the Chyulus. Some wild elephants eventually came along with their babies trying to get to the orphans, and Zongoloni and Lima Lima were very courageous and went up to the elephants who were together with their young ones. Sonje with Murera were persuaded by Lima Lima to try and join in as the wild elephants were being very welcoming, but Murera did not trust them and she soon turned all the other babies away from joining their new wild friends, choosing another direction to feed in.

10 May 2016

Ziwa joined up with Sonje and Murera deciding to browse away from the other babies like Lima Lima and her group who were already on top of Umani Hill; they struggle walking up the high slopes so they stayed below where the ground was flatter. When the orphans came down from the hills for mudbath time, Sonje rolled around in the mud, although it wasn’t very wet so she didn’t get very covered! Lima Lima and Ngasha went back to the grass rolling around over and over to get dry after their bath, enjoying playing together.

11 May 2016

After bottle feeding time, Ziwa found himself in a desperate situation when Jasiri came up behind him. Ziwa tried to look around to run away to Sonje or Murera for help, screaming loudly. Sonje immediately responded and came to see what Ziwa crying about, by the time Sonje was on her way Jasiri had already left knowing how angry Sonje would be. Lima Lima and Quanza seemed friendlier with each other today compared to other days. They can sometimes argue when feeding, especially when Lima Lima is being greedy and demanding more foliage than Quanza. This forces Quanza to use her bigger tusks to warn Lima Lima away and to leave some foliage for her and not finish it all.

12 May 2016

Faraja found it very hard to walk today as his body was really itchy with insects which were hanging on him. When he came across a post he started rubbing his belly and other itchy parts to try and remove the horrible bugs. The orphans today had their mudbath at the waterhole near the stockades as well as their bottles, because today all the babies changed their browsing direction which was closer to the Chyulu Hills and not far from the stockades; their normal feeding point was just too far for Murera and Sonje to get to on time. The daily walk along the Umani Hill circuit was enjoyed by all the orphans until it was time to come back to the stockades in the evening. On their way back from their long walk around the hills, the babies made their way through the Umani water springs and found some crocodiles basking in the sunshine. Lima Lima detected them and stopped, changing to another route towards the stockades away from the one where they might meet the crocodiles; but the crocodiles were also very quick to run away to avoid the big baby elephants!

13 May 2016

Faraja began his day covering himself in dust. The weather had changed again and became very hot so the orphans had to go to the waterhole to cool off first, whilst some babies went to hide in the shade of some trees. Whilst there they were scared by some monkeys who were relaxing in the trees! Later the orphans came back to drink water at the stockade water trough before going back to the Chyulu Hills again for the rest of the day, after which Lima Lima led the group back again for a dust bath. Murera later decided the next browsing area and the day came to an end.

14 May 2016

Zongoloni and Quanza were trying to find their wild elephant friends today, following elephant paths before Zongoloni stopped having found some roots of the yellow fever trees which the orphans like to dig up and break with their feet so they can fit them in their mouths. The orphans were visited today by some foster parents who had travelled to see them. When the guests arrived, Lima Lima was very good and came to greet them.

15 May 2016

Ziwa had lost his direction and had started to follow some wild elephants thinking they were Sonje or Murera. When Ziwa realised he was lost and not with his orphan family he started crying out. Sonje heard Ziwa’s screams and knew that he was in trouble; she ran to see what was wrong and found him running towards her away from any wild elephants. Today Quanza was very playful which surprised her keepers, especially as she started playing with Lima Lima which is not usual. Quanza was trying to mount on Lima Lima’s back, but she found that she was too heavy and Lima Lima was squashed down to the ground looking very helpless and needing help from the keepers to push Quanza away.

16 May 2016

Faraja got disciplined today by Murera who was very annoyed because he had pushed her baby boy Ziwa to the ground. Murera came up to Faraja quickly and pushed him down pressing her tusks on him harshly until the keepers came to stop Murera from hurting him. Ngasha was very concerned about Faraja and was coming to help his friend but being careful around Murera at the same time. Murera again led the babies away trying to lead them to fresher foliage and green grass, before later when all the babies were taken back to the waterhole, with Murera and Ziwa leading the way.

17 May 2016

Bushbucks came running from the forests to where Lima Lima was busy looking for foliage. Lima Lima got so scared that she charged the bushbucks before running to Sonje who was rolling in the muddy waterhole, enjoying some belly rubbing in the thick mud. At the waterhole, all the babies then teamed up with their friends to cool down in the shade. The mud had changed their skin colour, and all the orphans were looking very dark like the colour of buffaloes. Ziwa then came out from the water hole trumpeting very loudly and no one thought it was Ziwa making all the big trumpets!

18 May 2016

Sonje stood firm defending her territory from bushbucks, she charged the bushbucks making them run away, leaving the babies to browse in peace. Murera found some orphans complaining with loud rumbles and fighting for space at the waterhole because everyone wanted to get in the cold water to cool off. This forced Murera to intervene, warning all the babies to behave. Some of the orphans ran away leaving Murera at the waterhole alone. Jasiri was busy rolling around in the dust whilst Ngasha tried to play with him, but Jasiri was not in the mood for playing so Ngasha left running all the way to Zongoloni, leaving Jasiri alone.

19 May 2016

Murera was walking her normal way this morning but soon smelt one of the wild bulls and turned back quickly in a different direction in order to avoid the wild elephants, but the bull elephant smelt her too and followed the babies making Murera very anxious the whole day. When the babies arrived at the waterhole Sonje was very playful and let the babies jump on her, Zongoloni did not want to play and instead she went to push Ngasha and play a game which was then joined by Faraja and Jasiri. Murera and Sonje got down on the soft green grass, rolling around and entertaining the young babies after bottle feeding. Ngasha later found himself in trouble again, when he got caught in the middle of the naughty boys who were pushing him back and forth until he was able to run away.

20 May 2016

Today it was very funny to see all the babies looking at the keepers saying that they did not want to go for wallowing in the mud because it was too cold for them. The keepers could not convince any of them to go into the water for fun. Murera entertained some foster parents which came to visit today, she raised her trunk up high smiling at the guests, before kneeling on her knees and rolling around on the ground. Sonje copied what Murera was doing and took her baby boy Ziwa by her side and did the same, she then sat down on her bottom letting the other babies climb on her back.

21 May 2016

The hot weather returned today forcing Jasiri and Ngasha to go to the water where they could wallow and throw some mud around. When it then got hotter and hotter all the other orphans came along too to cover themselves in mud and try and cool down. Ziwa took off later on leading his mother Sonje to the forests, before walking far from the other orphans where they found Murera waiting for them. Zongoloni teamed up with Quanza and Lima Lima heading to the Chyulu Hills looking for greener branches to browse on before the day ended and they all turned back home.

22 May 2016

Lima Lima found some soft water lilies in the Chyulu Hills during her walk whilst all the babies took their time enjoying the very soft greens within the park. Later on Ngasha moved the other group of orphans down the slopes to wait for their bottle time where Lima Lima started to misbehave being very impatient for her milk. She did not listen to the keepers who were warning her with pointing fingers, and she did not stop barging around until the milk came.

23 May 2016

We are now experiencing many wild elephant bulls around the stockades looking for our young orphans. The moment the elephants leave the stockades the wild bulls come close by looking for Murera and Sonje but these two females don’t like the wild bulls’ company and as soon as Murera smelt them she made the other babies change direction and move away from the wild elephants, with help from Sonje. When the babies came to the waterhole they found it was too cold today and they didn’t touch the water. Murera again started to smell the presence of one of the wild bulls and started to direct the others away and back to the stockades, the wild bulls followed them all day, but kept out of sight of the keepers.

24 May 2016

At the bottom of the hills Sonje was in very playful mood with her baby boy Ziwa near her belly, she then lay on the ground letting the other babies jump on her back. Ziwa was the first one to play and then Ngasha came along, but because of Ziwa’s jealousy Ngasha was pushed aside. Sonje then turned around and sat on her bottom watching whilst the young ones were struggling to get on top of here. Ziwa was very protective. Murera then came along and ruined the fun as the babies get scared Murera would get too rough.

25 May 2016

Sonje and Murera kept Ziwa close guarding him from the naughty boys like Jasiri and Faraja whilst they were playing as it’s always Ziwa who ends up getting pushed around and getting upset. When all the babies came together for the mud bath every single elephant took a chance at rolling in the muddy waterhole, they all started rolling on their bellies first, then followed with the whole body deep in the waterhole. The young Zongoloni felt that she was energetic enough and started to test her strength, pushing the giant boy Jasiri who seemed to be much stronger, but Zongoloni proved to the boys that she was not as easy to push around like they thought!

26 May 2016

Faraja arrived at milk feeding time and overturned all the empty bottles thinking that he would get some milk left inside the bottles. He tried to turn the bottles upside down to get every last drop of milk out. It was then playtime for the babies who headed to the waterhole where they found good thick mud to splash on their bodies forming a dark layer of mud for cooling them down as they would be walking a very long distance before heading back home. The babies then separated, some walking to the clean water trough to drink water, whilst Murera was left standing by herself waiting at the dust bath for Sonje to come back and join her with Ziwa so that they could walk together.

27 May 2016

When all the orphans came out from their stockades, they immediately found some fresh wild elephant dung. Ziwa and Lima Lima smelt the dung and played with it, wondering how close the wild elephants were. They then proceeded onto where some of the orphans had found some little acacia pods which were brought by the keepers from the Chyulus as a little treat. Ngasha went to the scratching rock trying to scratch off some of his troublesome insects whilst the tsetse flies were also stinging his tail, he could not settle down until he rubbed all over his body. At the mudbath Ngasha had a very good time playing with Murera. When he left, Murera went ahead taking the remaining babies under her care, whilst also helping Sonje to control Lima Lima, not giving Lima Lima the opportunity to lead as they were the matriarchs, and it was their job to be in the lead!

28 May 2016

The orphans first stop in the morning was at the Chyulu Hills National Park where all the babies went straight to the tracks of the wild elephants that had passed there through the night, but it was still not very easy for the babies to find their wild friends with Murera and Sonje because the two matriarchs don’t like the wild bulls and are jealous of any wild females playing with their babies. On the hills some of the babies found the wild elephants. Lima Lima went up to them but she was pushed away by one of the wild bull elephants who had much longer tusks than Murera or Sonje. Lima Lima found herself in a tight corner which forced her to scream in order to get the keepers help. When she finally came back she looked very shocked and not happy and ran to Amos her favourite keeper.

29 May 2016

Today was a special day with the arrival of new babies from the Nairobi nursery. Alamaya and his best friend Mwashoti had traveled all the way from Nairobi on a journey that had started very early in the morning. The babies arrived safely at their new home at Umani Springs and we thought they would be a bit scared or worried after their journey, but Mwashoti was in a lovely mood and Alamaya looked very happy to come out of the truck. Murera and Sonje seemed to sense that something different was happening today as they had been excited all day. When the truck arrived at the loading bay near the stockades Murera and Sonje could fully smell the new babies. Sonje then rushed to the truck to meet them. Murera followed Sonje and with big happy rumbles they greeted the new babies. Ziwa got very jealous and was not very happy with the arrival of Mwashoti and Alamaya. Alamaya got his first big bottle of milk together with Mwashoti, whilst the other orphans drank their bottles really fast before going to eat more foliage. Ngasha started to play with Mwashoti, and then with Alamaya but the keepers had to get involved to stop Ngasha from getting too rough! At their first mudbath, the babies were all really enjoying the water which was full of mud. Mwashoti and his friend Alamaya did not shy away from the bigger, older elephants, whilst they were also the swimming stars.

30 May 2016

The mudbath was enjoyed by the new babies, Alamaya and Mwashoti, before they then went for their milk bottles together with Sonje who was escorting them to make sure they were not disturbed by any of the others on their way. Since arriving at the Kibwezi forest Alamaya and Mwashoti have been very happy, especially with Murera and Sonje looking after them. As expected Ziwa has been very jealous as he has lost his two mothers who are very excited about the two new arrivals. Ziwa has been a little mean to Mwashoti but Sonje has kept him in order. Murera is enjoying the bigger herd and loves seeing all her little babies running around, as now there are eleven baby elephants. The keepers thought the new ones would not adapt very fast, but they have been very glad to see they are settling in well and interacting with the others with only a little trouble from the naughty boys. In the afternoon some tsetse flies stung Alamaya’s bottom and he did not know what the pain was and when he got stung again he ran to the keepers who were close by to help. Lima Lima followed trying to rumble something to him, to reassure and calm him down.

31 May 2016

The orphans started their day being let out of their stockades early. Immediately Sonje and Murera rushed out to the new babies, Alamaya and Mwashoti, to say hello. Ziwa got very jealous and tried to push Alamaya away but Ziwa got disciplined by Sonje which he did not expect. Sonje gives a lot of attention to Alamaya and Mwashoti these days, which is normal in every elephant family as the youngest are always well taken care of. Mwashoti and Alamaya have very good appetites and they are very active, especially when finding the softest foliage and branches to eat in the Kibwezi forest. The two little babies have behaved like they have been at Umani for years and they are already very familiar with everything and everyone whilst they are very humble babies and not trouble makers!