Keepers' Diaries, November 2016

Umani Springs Reintegration Unit

The rains broke in Umani ahead of Tsavo and even Nairobi, returning the forest to a veritable Garden of Eden once more; the Umani Spring producing underground water freely, with abundant fish and crocodiles in residence who call that oasis home. This meant that the wild elephants, as well as our orphans’ wild friend, the adult Bull we have named “Ndugu” were spotted less frequently than during the drier months, the Chyulu Hills now with ample water, so they did not have to rely on that of the Kibwezi forest, although the orphans did still encounter wild friends and interacted with them on occasions. The matriarchs of our orphaned herd, namely Murera and Sonje, are invariably wary of these wild encounters, fearful of losing their charges to the wild elephants, although there was a day when Sonje did approach some of the wild bulls that came to greet the orphans.

01 November 2016

Murera together with Sonje and young Mwashoti in the company of Lima Lima teamed up with Alamaya with Ziwa as they head out to begin their normal activities in the forest where they searched for fresh greens that are beginning to shoot up since the rains. Some beautiful butterflies have also been seen and Alamaya was not happy to see butterflies trying to fly in front of him and started to charge at them while trumpeting loudly. Sonje and her best friend Murera stood by watching what was going on. They made sure to look in all directions to see if any of the naughty boys wanted to bully the young ones, who the matriarchs have taken under their wing. Only the biggest boy Jasiri tried to follow the little bulls but he was quick to turn around and leave them to the big matriarchs.

02 November 2016

The weather at Umani has changed with the rains and the ground is very wet and slippery, making it hard for the orphans to walk around. It has been particularly difficult for Mwashoti who is finding it hard to keep up with the group as he is not able to walk as quickly as he was in the drier months, due to his bad leg. As the babies made their way out for the day, Mwashoti just began to slip on the muddy paths forcing Murera and Sonje to close ranks around him so that he would not fall. Rain started to fall today and Ngasha, who did not want to be rained on, went to his keeper for protection wanting to get under the umbrella with the keeper who was under a tree. Ngasha went to the keeper touching the umbrella and trying to get under it just as he used to when he was a baby in the Nursery. As the rains have arrived we do not see the wild elephants as much anymore as they have moved away to the Chyulu Hills, where there is now an abundance of water. As such they don’t really come to the Umani Springs now and even the orphan’s wild friend Ndugu has not been seen.

03 November 2016

The keepers led the babies all the way to the Chyulu Hills today with Lima Lima and Quanza trying to lead the orphans and following the paths the wild elephants had taken. While walking in the forest the keepers saw a baboon carcass hanging in a tree. Lima Lima raised her trunk and tried to catch the scent of what she smelt. Faraja and Ziwa caught wind of the scent too and raised their trunks towards the tree. The keepers were quick to keep the orphans moving and get them as far away from the carcass as possible, probably left there by a leopard. At the bottle feeding time at noon the babies came walking slowly as if they were very tired. They did not seem to want to come for the milk feed but forced themselves to do so as Lima Lima and Mwashoti could not abide not having their milk. Quanza and Murera are not very bothered about the bottles as they are now old enough to no longer need milk.

04 November 2016

Jealous boy Ziwa crossed to where the young boys Alamaya and Mwashoti were enjoying their pushing games and tried to join them. The two youngsters started rumbling in complaint which caused Murera, Sonje and Lima Lima to come running to see why the boys were upset. When Sonje arrived with Lima Lima they started to push Ziwa away as they thought he was disturbing the youngsters. The keepers came to help Ziwa who was being pushed by the matriarchs but arrived to find that Murera had already sorted everything out and everyone was continuing with their own activities.

05 November 2016

The Umani water spring is now full of flowing clean water from underground and the crocodiles found at the water springs are found happily swimming around enjoying feeding on fish that are once again in abundance in the springs. The orphans made their way to the water springs as they were heading to the Umani Hills in search of fresh green branches. Some buffaloes came and joined up with the babies without the keepers knowing. Jasiri and Faraja were quite close to the buffaloes but did not seem too bothered by them even though they were feeding close by. Lima Lima broke some branches which fell down close to the buffaloes. Upon seeing them she stopped what she was doing to alert the keepers that the buffaloes were around so that they would be careful. Once the keepers saw the buffaloes they started calling the orphans who all ran to them. Mwashoti and Alamaya were the furthest away and were taking a long time coming so the keepers continued to call them which scared the buffaloes away.

06 November 2016

We have never seen Murera allow anyone to climb on her when she lies on the ground, but whenever she does Mwashoti goes running over and she allows him to climb on her and play. Mwashoti rubbed his belly on Murera’s back which left him feeling very happy. Murera and Sonje, being the head girls of the group, both know they have a role to play with the youngest bulls. Today Alamaya got jealous of Mwashoti and started to fight for space on Murera’s back. Alamaya pushed Mwashoti away. Mwashoti is a quiet calm boy who does not cause any problems. As soon as Zongoloni saw Alamaya pushing Mwashoti she ran over and warned Alamaya to behave and not be aggressive with Mwashoti who not only has a bad front leg but is always a well behaved boy, and does not deserve to have any of the other orphans being rough with him.

07 November 2016

Today Faraja and Jasiri were engaged in a heated pushing game. The two were joined by Ngasha who went and stood between them in an effort to try and calm them down and stop the fighting. Jasiri and Faraja kept on interlocking their trunks in readiness for another strength testing bout. The ground was quite wet and it was difficult for Faraja to stay on his feet as he kept slipping in the wet soil. Lima Lima and Zongoloni went and communicated with them to stop fighting. Jasiri listened to what he was being told and moved away, leaving Faraja alone and able to get to more solid ground. Some crane birds flew down from the trees in search of grasshoppers on the ground. This happened just as the orphans were arriving for their midday feed and mudbath. Alamaya did not know about the cranes as he was running behind Lima Lima for milk. When the cranes flew up again Alamaya got a fright and knocked one of his milk bottles over.

08 November 2016

There was a heavy down pour this morning and the younger elephants did not want to go into the bushes. Sonje and Lima Lima were able to calm the youngsters down and assure them enough so that they followed the rest of the group to the Chyulu Hills National Park for fresh browse. After the rains stopped, the elephants all enjoyed playing and rolling on the wet mud. It was a natural wild mud bath for the orphans which they thoroughly enjoyed. When the orphans returned to the stockades in the evening they found that the power was off and the compound was in complete darkness which upset Lima Lima who started screaming and pushing against the gate. The keepers came to see why Lima Lima was screaming. When she saw their torches she seemed to calm down a little but started fussing again when they went away upon seeing that there was nothing wrong, other than the fact that there was no power, which was being worked on.

09 November 2016

Some wild elephants were making a lot of noise around the pipeline area as they trumpeted and rumbled loudly. The keepers thought that perhaps the orphan’s wild friend Ndungu may be among the other wild elephants. Murera was a little worried about the wild elephants as she thought they would come and disturb the orphans while they were browsing. The wild elephants seemed to be scaring all the other wildlife in the area as they were charging around trumpeting knocking down bushes and pulling branches down from the trees. The wild elephants were making such a racket that the babies soon also began charging around and trumpeting as they tried to copy and keep up with their wild friends. Murera and the other young babies came back to the bottle feeding point at noon to in search of their bottles of milk and were quick to drink their share. None of the babies went into the mudwallow today as it was quite chilly and not really mudbathing weather.

10 November 2016

A few wild elephants came to join the orphans today and tried to make friends with any of the babies that they could. Ziwa and Quanza were in a very rowdy and uncontrollable mood today and became even more so when the wild bulls came to join the orphan group. Sonje and Lima Lima were quite brave and went quite close to the wild bulls to greet them. At the Kenze base hills view point, some baboons were shouting loudly which alerted the keepers to the fact that something may be wrong in the forest. Lima Lima looked around to see if she could spot what had upset the baboons and caused them to panic but she was unable to find anything wrong. As such the orphans continued with their browsing activities, filling their stomachs until it was time to return to the stockades for the night.

11 November 2016

Naughty boys, Ngasha and Faraja began their normal playing routines of pushing and sizing up one another before stopping to browse. Ngasha found a lovely branch and decided to run into the bushes with it so that Faraja would not be able to take it from him. As he was running away he dropped the branch and Faraja went to pick it up. This started a fight between the two boys which went on for some time. Ziwa decided to stand between them in an effort to persuade them to stop fighting. The two boys ignored Ziwa and continued their pushing to determine who was the stronger of the two. The pushing turned into a game of tug of war as the two friends fought for ownership of the branch. At the waterhole, Zongoloni drew water with her trunk and turned to spray water on Quanza who was drinking from the water trough. A baby crocodile decided to make an appearance and put his head on the side of the water trough. Lima Lima spotted the little crocodile and made her way to the water trough and proceeded to kick the water very vigorously in an effort to get the crocodile to leave.

12 November 2016

Wallowing at the mud today is not guaranteed as it is rather chilly and the orphans don’t feel hot and as such don’t want to go into the water and also tend to not have a dustbath as the dust has become mud. It has been raining a lot lately and this is another reason for the increase in the number of insects. The matriarchs Murera and Sonje together with Lima Lima have started to take the orphan herd to browse in different areas now as with the rains there is much more choice and there is ample fresh greens for the orphans to feed on.

13 November 2016

After a long day browsing out in the fields, Lima Lima led all the orphans back to their night stockades for a rest. Mwashoti returned running behind Alamaya and Zongoloni, trying to compete who among them was the fastest. Despite his bad leg, Mwashoti did not want to lose the race, cheered on by the keepers who were clapping and supporting him, he arrived at the stockades second followed by Zongoloni and then Jasiri. As soon as he got in he slipped and fell. Sonje and Murera both rushed to his side to help him get back to his feet and to ensure that the older boys would not find him on the ground. They were both quick to help him and by the time the older boys got there they found Mwashoti being escorted to his stockade by Sonje and Lima Lima.

14 November 2016

Lima Lima led the orphan herd to Kenze Hills today. The orphans were all in front with the keepers bringing up the rear. Zongoloni had a plan to take Alamaya and slow him down but was prevented from doing so by Lima Lima who had seen what Zongoloni was trying to do and managed to stop her from keeping Alamaya back. Ngasha and Quanza stopped at the water springs as they contemplated which direction to take while feeding on some flowers that had sprung up with the rains. As the journey to Kenze Hills continued, some of the elephants separated after disagreeing with Lima Lima and Sonje as to which way to go and formed their own group. While they also remained undecided as to which direction to take, Quanza concluded that it would be best for them to follow Sonje and Murera who were heading to the bushes with the other orphans.

15 November 2016

Today the young boys went with Mwashoti and Ziwa to the hay store in an effort to steal some hay. They managed to get some which they dropped on the ground. The keepers shouted at them to stop removing hay from the stores. Ziwa ignored the keepers who had to shout some more and point a finger at him which showed that they were displeased with his actions. Ziwa was quick to run away from the keepers who called the rest of the orphans to follow them out to the fields leaving Ziwa behind to be disciplined by Murera and Sonje. Murera pushed Ziwa with her tusks forcing him to run away to join up with the keepers who were heading towards the Chyulu Hills. In the bushes along the Chyulu Hills, the orphan elephants had a lovely time feeding on the fresh green vegetation. With the rains Umani has once again become a paradise with lush greenery everywhere that all the wildlife can enjoy.

16 November 2016

The orphans came to the mudbath at noon for their midday milk bottle which some of the greedier orphans like Lima Lima cannot miss. Today Alamaya seemed to be greedy like Lima Lima and was running for his milk bottle. After the milk feed the orphans went to the fields looking for soft grass, which they found and all of the orphans were in competition to grab as much grass as they could to fill their bellies. Quanza was last as the group returned to the stockades. She walked slowly behind the naughty boys who were playing rolling games on the muddy soil in an effort to try and get some insects off of their bodies. Mwashoti was very busy scratching against a tree as he did not want to roll around in the dirt like the rest of his friends.

17 November 2016

Ziwa and Alamaya are trying very hard recently to become friends. In the past Ziwa had been known to be jealous of the young boys and would sometimes bully them as he felt that they were taking the matriarchs away from him. Things however are better now and Ziwa seems to be getting on much better with the youngsters. Today Sonje decided to take the orphans to the lodge watertrough to drink the clean water. None of the orphans got into the water for a swim as it was very cold today and as such all they did was quench their thirst. There were some pretty birds around the orphans as they were drinking and they waited for them to finish before going to the pond to look for insects. Quanza seemed to enjoy the company of the crane birds who were standing next to her.

18 November 2016

There were heavy rains in the morning which changed the orphan’s daily program. Lima Lima with her close friends grouped together on the hills to browse and also break branches down for the young boys who are smaller than they are and cannot reach as high, thus needing help from their older friends. Jasiri stopped at a very big tree and he enjoyed a scratching session as he was feeling very itchy from the insects that were bothering him. Lima Lima came to find Jasiri and see why he was not climbing the hills with the others. Lima Lima had a lot of rolling around on the wet soil rubbing her belly. She exhausted herself so much playing that she decided to just relax and lay on the ground for a bit before getting back to her feet and rejoining her group.

19 November 2016

It was raining again and all the orphans were very happy to play in the rain today. They rolled around in the wet soil covering their bodies in mud and changing the colour of their skin to match that of the dirt they were playing in. Alamaya went to find some fresh green grass to eat and was soon joined by Sonje who decided to keep him company as well as protect him from some the older boys who would try to push him and engage him in strength testing games. Greedy Lima Lima tried to snatch some foods from Ngasha’s mouth, thinking that Ngasha was eating something sweeter and nicer than the rest, but soon discovered that Ngasha was feasting on the same vegetation and branches as the others.

20 November 2016

The bushbucks that used to be found around the stockades in the morning have now disappeared as the rain has brought back the green grass for all the wildlife. The elephants now look very happy as they feed on the fresh green grass which, due to the dry season, they have not had in quite a while. The orphan group were being led out to the fields by Lima Lima together with a keeper. Alamaya and Mwashoti were in a greedy mood from the moment they stepped outside their gate entrance today. They put their heads down and fed as fast as they could as if they were in a competition as to who could eat the most. When the orphan herd arrived at the mudbath area they found the waterhole full of rain water which made it hard for them to swim as the water was overflowing and was quite cold. As such once the orphans had their milk bottle they all followed Faraja’s lead and browsed nearby until the keepers had finished their lunch.

21 November 2016

A big acacia tree fell down last night due to strong winds and heavy rains. Sonje and Ngasha came out in the morning, ready to begin their and they together with the rest of the orphans all stopped at the fallen tree before heading to the fields. Sonje and Murera stopped to break some soft branches for the young babies to feed on as they were not strong enough to break the branches themselves. After feeding on the branches, Zongoloni and Quanza took the lead of the babies towards the hills, but it was very slippery for them to walk and we were concerned about Murera and her bad leg and hip. Sonje came to help Murera get up the hill by pushing her from behind. Murera was very happy to have assistance from her friend. The keepers also had a hard time getting up the hill due to it being so slippery and some of them fell on their bottoms.

22 November 2016

Naughty boys, Faraja and Jasiri turned on each other today as they fought over who would get to climb their other playmate Ngasha. The pushing game continued until Ngasha got annoyed with the two after Faraja pushed him causing him to fall down. Jasiri, who is big and heavy, and then tried to climb on Ngasha while he was on the ground still struggling to get up. Ngasha started screaming for help which brought Sonje and Zongoloni running to his aid. They arrived to find Ngasha on the ground unable to get up as it was very wet and slippery. The two girls tried to help Ngasha but were unable to get him to his feet. The keepers had to come and with all of them working together were finally able to get Ngasha up. By this time Jasiri and Faraja had run away as they were scared of being reprimanded for their actions.

23 November 2016

Today Murera and Sonje decided to lead the orphans to the forest by way of the Umani Hills. Sonje wanted Mwashoti to be with them and looked around for him eventually finding him walking together with Zongoloni and Quanza. She rumbled to him and he was quick to join her as they made their way to the chosen browsing area. While the orphans were busy browsing it started to rain and most of the orphans and keepers decided to get out of the rain and take shelter under the trees. Lima Lima however was not bothered and continued feeding on the soft branches that she had found. Ziwa and Zongoloni decided to have some fun rolling around on the wet soil while the rest waited for the shower to end. Once the orphans had drank their noon milk bottle Murera led the group to the Chyulu Hills where they found a natural water hole which had been used by some wild elephants. The orphans had a quick wallow after which they headed back to the water troughs for a drink of water.

24 November 2016

Today all the elephants seemed to be very happy and energetic as they headed out for the day’s activities. They were trumpeting and charging around, crashing into bushes and having a lovely time. The keepers were happy to see the orphans in such a playful mood. At around midday, some buffaloes came to join the orphans who were feeding on some soft branches in the fields. The buffaloes were in a very big group which made the keepers wonder if this is what had brought about the playfulness out in the orphans earlier in the morning. It is very likely that the orphans had sensed the buffaloes were around and were trying to scare them away. In the later afternoon, just before the babies returned to the stockades, they were visited by some officials from the judiciary who found the orphans looking happy and healthy. When they saw Murera and Mwashoti limping from the injuries caused to them by poachers they felt awful and said that poachers should be jailed for life.

25 November 2016

Umani is once again lush and green and is a bountiful paradise full of wild animals, birds, butterflies and insects all of whom are thrilled to see the lovely greenery of the Kibwezi forest. Greedy Lima Lima has been taking advantage of the fresh vegetation and is always practically always seen munching on grass or other greenery. Today Faraja was in a playful mood while out in the field feeding and put some grass on his head while he kicked up more with his feet as his trunk was also full. At the mudbath, Murera took Alamaya around the field to the milk bottles as she was trying to avoid the older pushing boys who were looking at Alamaya and Mwashoti for some pushing and strength testing games. The rest of the afternoon was spent browsing until it was time to return to the stockades for the night.

26 November 2016

Lima Lima joined the company of Zongoloni and Quanza were playing by kicking the muddy ground with their feet. When Jasiri saw Lima Lima and Quanza playing happily, he tried to squeeze his way between them in an effort to play with them. The girls were not happy about this and Zongoloni decided to leave together with Quanza. When Lima Lima saw she was being separated from the group of girls she also walked away leaving Jasiri on his own. At the bottle feeding time, the orphans stopped and waited for the keepers to give them a signal that it was time to make their way to the milk feeding area. When the keepers whistled they all headed for their bottles. Lima Lima had to be blocked by the keepers so that she would be the last to arrive and as such would not disturb the others while they were feeding as she tends to down her milk quickly and then try and steal more from the other babies who drink slower than her.

27 November 2016

As soon as Murera exited her stockade in the morning she joined up with Sonje and the two of them went to greet Mwashoti before the orphans started walking out to the forest and to Umani Hill so that they could browse on fresh branches and vegetation. Mwashoti tried to break down some branches but was not strong enough to do so and as such both he and Alamaya waited for Murera and the other older girls to break some down for them. Mwashoti followed Alamaya to the dustbath and the two enjoyed dust bathing and covering themselves from head to toe in an effort to keep the annoying biting insects away. A keeper went up to Ngasha to give him some love and attention. Ngasha was happy to see the keeper and opened his mouth wide so that the keeper would put his fingers into Ngasha’s mouth so that he could suck on them. When he saw that the keeper was being slow he grabbed the keepers hand and put it in his mouth sucking on the fingers in complete content.

28 November 2016

The rains are ongoing and we continue to get showers in the early morning hours just as the orphans leave their stockades to begin their day. This morning Murera walked over to the young boys Alamaya and Mwashoti and got between them as Alamaya was in a pushy mood and was being a little rough with Mwashoti. When out in the grasslands some grasshoppers started to jump around in front of Murera. She raised her ears in an effort to scare them but was unable to do so as they just jumped around and were not at all scared of her. The babies stopped at some muddy water along the swampy area in the forest where they all had lovely time throwing water over their chests in an effort to cool down as they were all feeling rather hot.

29 November 2016

Quanza took the baby boys to walk by her side as the orphans made their way out to the browsing fields. It had rained quite heavily during the night and continued to drizzle as the orphans headed out. When Murera saw Quanza and the boys walking together she was happy to keep company with the keepers who she knew could assist her should she encounter any difficulties walking on the slippery ground. She had to walk slower than normal due to the injuries she suffered when she was orphaned which cause her to walk with a limp. When the Keepers and Murera caught up with the group they found Zongoloni rolling in the red soil, while Quanza and Lima Lima were very busy fighting over some sweet branches that Quanza had picked on the way to the forest.

30 November 2016

Alamaya took the lead this morning and kept a steady pace as he led the group to the pipeline area. Alamaya was joined by Mwashoti and the two had a lovely time feeling like the bosses of the group. Greedy Lima Lima and Ngasha stopped to feed on any branches that crossed their path and continued to do so at the milk feeding area while the rest of the group waited for their milk bottles. It was an uneventful day spent browsing on fresh green leaves and vegetation before it was time to return to the stockades for the night.