Keepers' Diaries, May 2019

Umani Springs Reintegration Unit

This month 7 year old Faraja was very interested in fraternizing with as many wild elephants as he could. The meetings were not always as amicable as he would have hoped, and sometimes he returned to the other orphans and Keepers with scratches on his side where he had been pushed around a bit, but this did not deter him from seeking such encounters and he often went marching out into the forest in the morning throughout this month in search of some wild friends. 

01 May 2019

Recently, Faraja has been showing more and more interest in meeting up with his wild friends. Sonje and Murera are often visited by a wild bull, who seems to have taken a liking to the young girls. Yesterday morning, Faraja went running off ahead of the other orphans to meet up with his wild friends and when it was time for the orphans’ midday mud bath, he came down to the waterhole accompanied by the wild bull that is regularly visiting Sonje and Murera. Once Faraja had finished his midday bottle of milk, he walked over to Jasiri and Ziwa, as if to greet them, before heading back up the Umani Hills with the wild bulls. 

In the evening, as the orphans were getting ready to return to the stockades, Faraja came back to join them. Sometimes some of the wild elephants can be a little rough when interacting with the orphans and today seemed to be such a case as Faraja had some harmless scratch marks on his body from where some of the wild bulls had pushed him. As he re-joined the orphans’ herd, Lima Lima appeared to go and check that he was okay and the two walked back to the stockade compound together. 

02 May 2019

All the orphans arrived pretty much at the same time for their midday bottles of milk and mud bath. Shukuru, as always, came running for her bottle, and once she was done made her way down to the water trough to have some water. She was closely followed by her new close friend Faraja, who had tried for a long time to gain her trust and be able to spend time with her like today. Shukuru seemed to get upset by the younger boys climbing on her back at the waterhole and because of this she was known to spend time on her own, browsing in the bushes near the mud bath area. 

Once the orphans were done having fun at the waterhole, Faraja, Quanza, and Zongoloni wondered off to the Chyulu Hills to commence their afternoon browsing activities. However, as soon as they were on the hills, Faraja went wondering off to join his wild friends again. Faraja only returned to the orphan herd when it was time to return to the stockade compound. As the orphans got to the stockade gate it seemed as though Ngasha, Ziwa, and Faraja all had a change of heart as they quickly ran back to the forest leaving Murera and Sonje with the younger orphans to go into the stockade compound. Ngasha and Ziwa returned that evening, around midnight, but Faraja was not with him. The Keepers were not worried about him as they knew that he would be with his wild friends. 

03 May 2019

As soon as the orphans had finished their morning bottles of milk, they were eagerly waiting at the gates of their stockades to get their Lucerne pellets. Lima Lima and Zongoloni were so eager that as soon as the gates were opened, they made their way to the store, where they continued to wait until the Keepers grabbed the pellets. Ziwa, Ngasha, and some of the other boys were very patient and stood back as the Keepers came past with the wheelbarrow carrying the bags of pellets. Murera and Mwashoti, on the other hand, were greedily following the wheelbarrow, making sure they got to the pellets first. 

Faraja, who didn’t return the night before, was happy to meet up with the orphans herd this morning and take part in the milk and supplement feeding. As opposed to the day before, he was quite calm and seemed happy to be with the orphans and his Keepers and he was in no rush to go back to his wild friends. Murera and Sonje appeared so happy about his return, that they rumbled and trumpeted in excitement.  

04 May 2019

Ngasha and Ziwa seem to be more and more interested in following Faraja when he wonders off to join his wild friends. Faraja did not seem interested in going to find his wild friends and enjoyed being with the orphan herd again. Faraja has in fact been staying quite close to Lima Lima and Zongoloni. 

Jasiri, on the other hand, seems to have no intention of wondering away from the orphans herd as he is always right by the older females such as Lima Lima and Zongoloni. He has even become quite protective of them, and when wild bulls such as Osama visit, he is often heard rumbling at the wild bull as if to chase him away. 

05 May 2019

This morning, after the orphans received their bottles of milk, Ngasha and Ziwa ran off to the forest before even having their Lucerne pellets. Ziwa seemed eager to head out to the forest very early this morning but Lima Lima kept blocking his path. Faraja did not follow his friends and stayed back to enjoy his pellets with Lima Lima, Zongoloni, and Quanza. 

When the orphan came down for their midday bottles of milk, Shukuru was again the first to arrive, followed closely by Mwashoti who appeared to be chasing her. As soon as Shukuru got to the feeding point she picked up her bottle and moved away from Mwashoti. 

06 May 2019

All the orphans came down for their midday bottles of milk and mud bath. Having finished her milk first, Shukuru was the first to enter the water. Alamaya and Mwashoti walked in shortly after her, but Alamaya had a quick dip before moving away to enjoy a thorough scratch on a nearby tree trunk. Shukuru enjoyed a long swim, but when she was joined by Sonje and all the other orphans she seemed to have had enough fun. None of the orphans had a dust bath today.  

The older boys have been enjoying their strength testing matches recently and seem to be really challenging one another in strength and size. Today, Jasiri, Ngasha and Ziwa ended up in a strength testing match that carried on for so long that Murera and Lima Lima eventually decided to intervene and separate the bulls. Ngasha didn’t seem to take any notice and continued to push at his friends until Zongoloni came over and stood in his path. Once all the games had stopped the orphans made their way up the hills to continue browsing for the remainder of the afternoon. 

07 May 2019

The orphans had a lovely morning enjoying and sharing their Lucerne pellets with some wild elephants that had been around the stockade compound the entire morning. As the orphans came out their stables, Faraja and Ziwa greeted one of the young wild bulls and shared some pellets with him. The young bull seemed to be unsure of the pellets as he kept throwing them over his head and to his sides. Lima Lima the came close to the wild bull as if to show him what to do and the wild bull began to eat some of the pellets. After some time, Ziwa and the wild bull made their way out to the forest leaving the rest of the orphans at the stockade compound finishing off their pellets. 

08 May 2019

Today the orphans enjoyed browsing along the Chyulu Hills and they were joined by several other wild animals along the rocks and hills. Some klipspringers appeared to be watching Zongoloni and Mwashoti who were browsing just below the rock they were standing on. Zongoloni and Mwashoti appeared to get a fright from the peering eyes as they started to rumble and trumpet at the klipspringers, chasing them away. Murera and Sonje came over to see what was happening but didn’t join in on the trumpeting. Meanwhile, the Keepers were busy trying to keep the other orphans, like Shukuru, away from a herd of buffalo that were resting nearby. The orphans soon calmed down and return to their browsing activities

09 May 2019

At the waterhole, all the orphans enjoyed a long wallow in the water. Alamaya and Ziwa enjoyed rolling around near one another and they were joined by Faraja. Faraja and Ziwa were even putting their heads under water, with only their trunks sticking out the water. Alamaya seemed to be impressed by the boys as he stood in awe watching and learning from them. 

After their long swim the orphans made their way to the Kenze Hills, where they came across a troop of baboons climbing trees and yelling. The loud screams seemed to frighten the orphans, so they quickly moved away from the baboons, and all the orphans were happy to follow Murera and Sonje who appeared to have found a route that moved them away from the noise. Once away from the screams, Quanza and Jasiri moved away to browse a bit further away from the orphans’ herd. 

10 May 2019

Since the young boys, Ziwa, Faraja, and Ngasha, have become more curious about interacting with their wild friends and some of the wild herds it seems that Murera and Sonje have become slightly more protective over them. Today, Sonje could be seen following Faraja and Ziwa as they made their way further out to the forest. Ngasha eventually stopped but Ziwa kept walking a bit further away before stopping to browse. As Ziwa stopped, Faraja and Sonje went off and joined the rest of the herd, and were soon joined by Ngasha and Jasiri. 

Whilst Lima Lima and Zongoloni were busy browsing, they slowly caught up to Ziwa and the three calmly browsed near each other for the remainder of the afternoon. When it was time for the orphans to head back to the stockades, Alamaya appeared to notice that Zongoloni was far behind so he trumpeted loudly until she came running to his side. 

As the orphans arrived at the stockades, Shukuru came running in first to get her evening bottle of milk from her Keeper. She patiently waited for her Keeper to have her bottle ready, whilst Lima Lima could not stop bugging the Keepers for hers which she finished quickly and then wondered off to browse on some of the greens the Keepers had cut for them. 

11 May 2019

The orphans were visited by many wild elephants throughout the evening. One of the wild herds had a tiny calf. The young calf came running over to the fence to have a look at the orphans and gave them a little rumble. Ziwa and Ngasha showed some curiosity to the calf and rumbled back at it. As the calf heard their rumbles he went running back to his mother and stood under her belly. At around midnight, another herd visited the stockade compound and drank some water from the water trough before heading over to the Umani Springs. 

As the orphans got up there was no sign of the wild herds. After their morning bottles of milk and Lucerne pellets the orphan herd made its way out to the Kibwezi forest. As they walked along the lava rocks, Murera, Sonje, and Mwashoti walked a little slower behind the others, treading carefully on the sharp rocks. Once in the open field, the orphans happily browsed for the rest of the day. 

12 May 2019

The orphans were in a very playful mood this morning. Whilst some of them were running around enjoying the Lucerne pellets that had been laid out for them, Faraja and Jasiri were chasing a troop of baboons that was trying to get close and grab some of the pellets. On the other side, Faraja and Lima Lima were chasing some vervet monkeys away who were trying to do the same. When all the orphans had finished their morning treats, Lima Lima went over to get Shukuru and the two came out walking together, and joined Murera, Sonje and Quanza before heading out to the forest. 

At around midday some buffalos came down to the mud bath area to have some water. As they approached, the orphans were still enjoying a swim. Ziwa did not seem happy with the new company and kept rumbling and trumpeting at the buffalos. The Keepers kept a watchful eye on the buffalos and orphans making sure that neither got too annoyed with the other. Eventually, the buffalos continued on their way and left the orphans enjoying their mud bath. 

13 May 2019

The orphans were visited by some wild bulls this morning. The bulls seemed to be interested in Sonje and Zongoloni as they went over to greet the young girls. Jasiri and Ngasha didn’t appear to be comfortable with the visiting bulls, so they began to trumpet and push them away from the girls. The bulls unbothered by the young boys and kept interacting with Sonje and Zongoloni. The young orphans were becoming so frustrated that Alamaya and Shukuru eventually joined them and together they chased the bulls away. 

In the evening, when the orphans were making their way back to the stockade compound, they came across a herd of buffalo that were blocking their path. Alamaya rumbled and flapped his ears at the herd, showing so much courage from the once timid bull and with Quanza right by his side he continued to rumble until the buffalos moved away. Once they were gone, the orphans continued their journey home.  

14 May 2019

This morning, Shukuru led the orphans out to the field along the Umani water springs and was in such a hurry to get to the hills that she didn’t even stop for some water. As of late, Shukuru has been quite active, and in good spirits. Although she still enjoys wondering and browsing on her own, she has been enjoying her interactions with Faraja, Sonje and Zongoloni. 

When the orphans arrived for their midday bottles of milk and mud bath, they were again led by Shukuru, closely followed by Alamaya and Mwashoti. Once Shukuru had finished her bottle of milk she walked over to the water trough to have a quick drink of water before making her way to the waterhole. Sonje and Zongoloni appeared to notice Shukuru getting into the water and moved some of the other orphans away to give her space. Jasiri and Ziwa, on the other hand, decided to rather have dust bath and moved over to the dust mound where they started to throw dust over their backs and under their bellies. Mud and dust baths play a key role in keeping flies away and protecting the orphans’ skin from the sun. 

15 May 2019

The orphans enjoyed a long day of browsing before making their way back to the stockade compound for the evening. Shukuru, Mwashoti, and Murera seemed particularly tired this evening as they had walked along a longer route today. As soon as the orphans were back at the stockade, they all walked over to the water trough to have some water before eagerly waiting for their milk bottles, Faraja and Ngasha were so eager that they even had their heads raised and mouths open in anticipation. 

As the orphans finished their bottles, the Keepers were carrying the empty ones back to the kitchen to be cleaned and dried. Mwashoti, eager to have some more milk, followed the Keepers along the stockade fence, as if in hope that one of them would turn around and give him some more. Alas, there was none left. Some of the other orphans, including Sonje, Jasiri, and Zongoloni were rumbling and trumpeting at the Keepers, it seemed as though they were also trying to get some more milk. The Keepers were not able to give them more milk, but they did lay out some Lucerne pellets for the orphans to enjoy. 

16 May 2019

The orphans were in a good mood this morning, waiting by their stable gates ready to head out into the field. Some of the orphans were so eager to walk to the forest that they didn’t even bother to eat their morning Lucerne pellets. Shukuru and Lima Lima, on the other hand, were thoroughly enjoying their pellets, so much so that they didn’t want to leave and had to eventually be edged along to follow Sonje and Ziwa out to the forest. 

Whilst on the hills, some monkeys were screeching loudly above the trees, this seemed to make Ziwa and Faraja uncomfortable as they quickly walked off in the opposite direction of the noise. Murera and Mwashoti also appeared to get a fright when they heard the noise as they came close to their Keepers and walked right behind them. Once they were far enough from the monkeys all the orphans appeared to relax and enjoyed their daily activities of browsing, wallowing in the mud bath at midday, and enjoying their midday bottle of milk. 

17 May 2019

This morning the orphans took their normal routes to head out to the field, with Ziwa upfront leading all the boys to the spot of his choosing. The girls, however, had different ideas and went off in a different direction, led by Shukuru and followed closely by Lima Lima and Zongoloni. 

After the orphans received their midday bottles of milk, Ziwa, Ngasha and Faraja went off looking for their wild friends and moved away from the rest of the orphan herd. Ngasha returned around 3pm, but Ziwa and Faraja had met up with a wild bull along the Chyulu Hills, whom they spent some extra time with. Ziwa and Faraja returned when it was time for the orphans to head home for the evening. 

18 May 2019

Today, the orphans were visited by the same wild bull that spent some time with Faraja and Ziwa yesterday. As the young boys saw the bull, they went straight over to greet him. The bull appeared to want to take the young bulls with him and teach them some of the skills they would require in order to survived in the wild. This is a very important step in the orphans’ reintroduction back to the wild and it is a fantastic moment to witness as the young bulls become more and more interested in venturing further away from the stockades. 

19 May 2019

This morning, Faraja was so excited to head out into the field that he did not even stop to enjoy his morning pellets, instead he grabbed a few pellets in his trunk and walked off to the forest. Shukuru ended up following Faraja which caused some concern with the Keepers, so they decided to follow the duo with the rest of the orphan herd. 

Whilst in the forest, Faraja came back to join the rest of the orphans. Shukuru, however, could not be seen and the Keepers went off to look for her. Within a few minutes, they came across Zongoloni and Lima Lima who appeared to be escorting Shukuru back to the herd. Sonje and Quanza were so busy playing and rolling around that they did not notice the three girls returning. 

After their midday bottles of milk, Jasiri walked over to the water trough to have some water and then went over to the waterhole for a long wallow in the cool water. He was soon joined by Ziwa and Shukuru, but Shukuru did not stay for very long as she seemed to be worried that the boys would start to play rough in the water. 

20 May 2019

The orphans had a successful day browsing along the Park boundary with the Kibwezi forest. Murera appeared to try her very best to keep all the orphans browsing along the forest line but Ziwa and some of the other boys wanted to venture further within the Park boundary. Murera eventually gave up and seemed to allow the boys to go off on their own, along the rough terrain of the lava rocks. Jasiri went off with Ngasha, Faraja and Ziwa but appeared to change his mind rather quickly and came back to join Murera, Sonje and Mwashoti. Ngasha, Faraja, and Ziwa returned later that afternoon to continue browsing with the orphan herd. 

21 May 2019

We always say how much Lima Lima loves her Keepers, but today she demonstrated this yet again when the group were surprised by a herd of wild elephants and the Keepers darted into the bushes to get out of the way. One of the Keepers fell as he ran and he shouted out for help. Lima Lima heard him and before the other Keepers could find him to see what was wrong, Lima Lima was the first on the scene, and touched her Keeper with her trunk as if to console and calm him down, telling him the other Keepers were on their way to help him. She started trumpeting loudly, signalling the other Keepers in which direction their fallen friend was lying. We found the Keeper on the ground crying out in pain as he had bashed his eye, and Lima Lima made way for us to pick him and put him in the vehicle to transport him to the hospital for his eye to be treated. 

In the evening when orphans came back from their day of browsing, Lima Lima arrived and could not see her Keeper who had hurt himself earlier in the day. She went to all the Keepers, looking around trying to locate where he was before she would go for her bottle. Eventually she went for her milk, but she kept looking all around for the Keeper who was missing. 

22 May 2019

Today all the orphans were happily playing around the Lucerne pellet eating area after their morning milk bottles. Lima Lima and Faraja began a pushing game, sometime during which Faraja accidentally stepped on a line of safari ants. He did not realise however until the ants climbed up his feet and began biting him which caused a lot of problems as he started running around, which made all the other orphans start running around. Faraja didn’t know where to run to because some of the ants even got into his trunk. As the orphans ran about the ants spread out and started biting some of the others as well, but Zongoloni had a brilliant idea and she walked to the water trough and put her trunk in and began blowing bubbles to drown the ants and get them out of her trunk; after a short while all the orphans who had the same problem with ants in their trunks did the same thing and came over to the water trough to blow bubbles.

Murera and Mwashoti did not fall victim to the ants as they realised the problem and stepped around them to walk off in a completely different direction.

23 May 2019

Lima Lima is always amazing the Keepers with her different antics and how clever she is as well. A Keeper took of his dust coat and sat on it in the shade as he watched Lima Lima and the others browsing. When he got up he left the dust coat behind under the tree. Lima Lima picked it up and the other Keepers thought Lima Lima was running away with it, and some began shouting at her thinking that she was doing something naughty, but they didn’t know the other Keeper had forgotten his dust coat. She just carried the dust coat on her head, taking it to where the Keepers had relocated under some big trees for shade. She walked up to all of them and took the dust coat with her trunk, waving it around to the Keeper who had left it behind. All the Keepers then laughed and congratulated Lima Lima for being a good girl, and Lima Lima walked away after all the Keepers had finished clapping for her.

24 May 2019

When all the orphans were headed for home after a long day out browsing in the Kibwezi forest, it started raining just before the orphans reached the stockades. When all the other babies had arrived in their stockades for their bottle, the Keepers realised Murera was missing, and Sonje had arrived alone. Murera was nowhere to be seen, and the Keepers had to go back out and look around in the bushes to see if they could find her. Murera must have heard the Keepers calling her name but she was hiding out in the forest, so the Keepers assumed she wanted to spend the night out like Faraja did; perhaps Murera too wanted to spend the night out with wild friends. Eventually the Keepers had to come back because it was getting dark and none of them could stay out in the forest in the dark.

An hour later the Keepers found Murera standing by the gate entrance waiting to come in and demanding her bottle, which the Keepers had already given to her roommate Sonje when she didn’t arrive home. The Keepers made another bottle of milk to give to Murera though, so she was happy. 

25 May 2019

It began raining today when the orphans were at the water hole which stopped them all from wanting any kind of mud bath. It was as if Shukuru did not want to get wet at all and she ran away from Sonje and the others to walk under some big trees very far from where the Keepers and Sonje could see her. The thunderstorm caused the orphans to run around and want to keep close to the Keepers, but the Keepers were avoiding them as they were so rowdy. 

When rain stopped a bit later the Keepers had to round up all the orphans who had gone in different directions. The Keepers call Shukuru but the orphans did not come, but then when they called Mwashoti and Lima Lima all the hiding orphans came running up to them. Lima Lima came running as if she was being called for a milk bottle, and even Murera followed her to see if they might have the chance for an extra bottle.

26 May 2019

Some wild female friends appeared around the stockade area with tiny two babies walking around with their mothers. When the tiny babies heard some humans their natural instinct told them to run and hide. As we walked through the bushes later we heard the little ones trumpeting as they ran away to the thickest part of the forest where they would feel more secure from human contact. Some of the orphans were left wondering where their wild friends had gone so quickly, as they could not see them anymore. Ziwa, with the help of Zongoloni, tried to trumpet to call them back to play with, but the babies and their mothers were already deep in the forest. 

27 May 2019

Many trumpeting wild elephants were heard before the babies began coming back to the stockades this evening, which made Faraja, Ngasha and Ziwa run in the direction of where the wild elephants were making this loud trumpeting. When Ziwa and Faraja got closer to a wild bull they came across, they found he was not very welcoming towards the orphans and threw some dust towards them, signalling that they should not try to approach him. Faraja tried rumbling and communicating with the wild bull to be given the chance to join the herds. One wild bull stopped throwing dust and welcomed Faraja and Ngasha to approach them, but Ziwa was not welcomed as he behaved very rudely and did not listen to the warning he was given by the junior wild bull; he charged at Ziwa many times but after a while, when Ziwa joined the other orphan bulls, some of the wild friends now greeted him and gave him a very warm welcome.

Shukuru walked off far away, leaving the orphans to interact with their wild friends; Shukuru did not want any close association with the wild elephants who could be very rough and could fight her, and she did not want any one pushing her.

28 May 2019

Faraja took off again with more orphans this morning, to see if he would introduce them to his wild friends. Ngasha, Ziwa and Jasiri ran out to the forest with him, but it seemed as if Jasiri changed his mind throughout the course of the day as he stopped and began looking for Sonje and Zongoloni so that he could come back home with them. He remembers how Faraja stayed out for the night all those days ago and it seems like he is not ready for such independence yet. It was not long that time before Faraja came home looking for some milk, which he cannot find out there in the wild! Jasiri left the boys and joined Murera and Sonje to arrive back in the stockades very early, leaving Faraja, Ngasha Ziwa to come back to the stockades later on once they realised they were the only babies left in the forest!

The three boys came running in and ran straight up to a Keeper who was just cleaning the bottles, demanding their milk. He had to prepare three bottles for Faraja, Ngasha and Ziwa who would not stop bothering him until they had finished their share.

29 May 2019

Murera was not very happy today and seemed to be in a bad mood. She kept pushing all those who came close to the pellets at her feet that she was feeding on. She pushed Zongoloni to keep away from her pellets, but Zongoloni fell into Mwashoti, who found himself almost falling into the water trough. Even Sonje was surprised with Murera’s mood today. Mwashoti did not give up trying to interact with Murera today, and tried to walk with her out in the forest. Murera stopped to look for Mwashoti and rumbled to welcome him to join her, which made Mwashoti very happy.

All the orphans were browsing together when a dik dik ran amongst them and gave them a fright. Shukuru and another Keeper were not with the others but heard all the running around. All the orphans soon settled down however as there was no real problem, they had only just got a fright. 

30 May 2019

Shukuru came out from her stockade this morning and walked straight to look for her Lucerne pellets in her normal feeding corner, where there was a wheelbarrow already loaded with pellets just waiting for her to arrive. Lima Lima, however, also knows the place and was really bothering the Keepers by trying to get to Shukuru and have some of her pellets too. The Keepers were steadfast and took care, closing the gate so Lima Lima could not reach the place where Shukuru was enjoying her pellets. 

At the midday bottle feeding time none of the elephants dared to go in the waterhole because it was very cold today; as we now approach the cold season none of the babies will be going into the water hole to wallow or even play, perhaps for the next two months or so!

31 May 2019

The orphans were delayed to go out to the forest today to begin their new day. Some wild families of elephants were just hanging around very close to the gate waiting to greet the orphans, but the Keepers were afraid of how many there were. Ziwa and Faraja rumbled and shouted for the Keepers to let them out of the gate to meet the wild friends. When the Keepers finally gave in to his shouting Faraja soon regretted it as the wild elephants turned out not to be very friendly towards him and he was pushed from the bottom to go back to his group of orphans, forcing him to run back to where the Keepers were still standing with Murera and Sonje. 

Jasiri and Quanza were happy to lead everyone towards the hills, but shortly later it began to rain with fat drops of rain falling all around. Mwashoti walked to the Keeper to cover his head under his umbrella like he normally does, but found it too small to accommodate his head; Mwashoti has grown taller and he is a big boy these days, no longer small enough to fit with a Keeper under an umbrella.