Keepers' Diaries, November 2019

Umani Springs Reintegration Unit

Ziwa has become the ring-leader of the club of orphans who like to spend their nights out in the forest. This includes Faraja and Ngasha and, from the middle of the month, it also included Zongoloni. Perhaps she did not want to stay in her stockade at night without her roommate Faraja, and from then on she chose to stay out in the forest with the older bulls too. Who knew that Ziwa, who only a few years ago was treated as the baby of the herd and was doted upon by Murera and Sonje, would grow so much in confidence to become the ring-leader of a herd of orphans who like to spend their nights out in the forest fraternising with the wild elephants. 

01 November 2019

Ziwa, being the ring leader of the big boys club now, likes to take his new cool role very seriously and leads all the big boys out of sight of the Keepers. Today it is two days since all the boys have returned at night, not only including Faraja and Ngasha but also Jasiri too, who normally likes to return to the stockades with the big girls. 

When the Keepers woke up this morning they walked around the bushes outside the compound trying to locate the boys, but they could not find them. Later they heard them but Ziwa just ran away not wanting to follow the Keepers or the others, and all of the boys followed him to the hills leaving Murera and the rest of the herd behind. 

At the mud bath time around midday all the four boys returned. Ngasha followed Faraja very closely and they looked very thirsty and keen for their bottles, but unfortunately they arrived late and found the bottles had been taken by the others like Lima Lima who just grabbed one bottle after another and had them to herself!

02 November 2019

The first elephant to come for their milk bottle was Ziwa, who did not come back again last night, but in the early morning we herd orphans rumbling outside and when the Keepers started making the early morning milk bottles Ziwa was already eagerly waiting at the gate, waiting for his bottle. When he was done he walked over to Jasiri, Ngasha and Faraja to tell them it was time for them to leave, which they did, but Jasiri came back later to stay with girls today as he did not want to go for such a long walk in the forest with the boys.

Mwashoti with Alamaya went to try and walk with Shukuru and seemed to tell her they wished to walk with her and promised not to push her anymore, but Shukuru was not interested in walking with them, especially Alamaya who she does not trust not to be too boisterous, so Shukuru ignored their request and moved off to walk on her own.

At the mud bath today none of the orphans wanted to swim because it is so wet out in the forest so by the time they arrived at the mud bath they felt like they had already had their swim, as their bodies were already all covered with mud. Shukuru, Mwashoti and Murera went for a dust bath and later walked to the fresh green grass that has shot up after the rains – the whole of the forest is looking lovely and fresh and green.

03 November 2019

In the evening when the babies came back home with their Keepers, it was only when they reached close to the stockade compound that they realised Ziwa had left without saying goodbye. As the Keepers released the orphans in groups to go and feed in the stockades, it was when it was time for the last group to go that the Keepers realised Ziwa had dodged them and walked back out to the forest, leaving the others boys Jasiri, Ngasha and Faraja with the rest of the herd. Just as all the orphans were nearly done with their bottles and were being closed into their rooms for the night, Ziwa sauntered up to the compound, but as he reached the gate entrance he just walked to the side and kept walking around the perimeter of the fence looking at all his friends inside, and he seemed quite content to be on the outside!

04 November 2019

Since we agreed to give the older boys who formed their own Boys Club the freedom to come and go as they wish, Ziwa, Faraja and Ngasha have been coming in with the others and having their bottles before turning away and wandering off when they are done. Jasiri still likes to remain back sometimes and stay with the older females, perhaps to offer them some protection. Jasiri remains very loyal to the other females in the herd and doesn’t like to wander off as much as Ziwa, Ngasha and Faraja. In the morning when it was time for the first milk feed, all three boys were found waiting outside waiting by the gates and demanding their milk bottle, before they walked off into the forest.

Lima Lima decided to lead the orphans to the top of the hills today where they could find some fresh grass to eat, and Shukuru found some lovely soft branches too. Alamaya joined to help Shukuru bring them down so that they could all share eating together, which was nice to see.

05 November 2019

At midday the orphans walked with Sonje leading them back towards the hills. No one knew why Sonje was leading them there but upon arriving at the top of the hills we saw Sonje stop and raise her trunk in one direction, and before we could take a seat on the nearby rocks to watch the orphans, a big bull came out of the forest walking straight to where Sonje was with Shukuru. Shukuru took very swift action and ran to where the Keepers were, as she avoided the bull elephant who had just joined Sonje. There were actually two bulls, and the Keepers tried to look at who the bulls might be and if any of them were Sonje’s favourite, Osama, but they found they were two new bulls, who were very handsome. Perhaps they were trying to seduce Sonje but they were rejected as Sonje walked back to her Keepers ready to walk back home.

06 November 2019

Mwashoti walked to Murera while all the orphans were still in the stockades area, looking for comfort from her, but Murera led all the orphans to where the Lucerne pellets were so that they could have some before going out to the forest for the day.

Shukuru saw the orphans were almost about to leave for the forest for the day and she came out of the corner where she enjoys her own Lucerne pellets in peace and quiet, and walked to the loading ramp for a scratch. She then walked ahead of all the babies to lead them out for the day, as she did not want to go someplace Lima Lima might lead them, and she seemed to want to decide the direction for the herd to take today. The boys started to follow in her direction and then the entire herd followed in a line behind, following where Shukuru wanted to take them to browse today. 

07 November 2019

Many buffalos interrupted the peace the babies were enjoying on the hills. Murera was on the slopes enjoying the fresh vegetation to be found there in the morning, with Mwashoti and Shukuru. Shukuru was the first orphan to identify the two buffalos and raised the alarm to Lima Lima, who, being very protective of her Keepers and the other babies too, came running to the Keepers side, and took off again to where Mwashoti was. After a short while all the orphans had gathered together in one group as the Keepers shouted at the buffaloes to move aside, along with the orphans who were trumpeting and charging around too. With all the commotion the two male buffaloes ran away to leave the orphans to browse in peace with their Keepers by their side.

All the boys arrived for the midday bottle feeding time today, and today they were on time! Faraja opened his mouth wide in ready anticipation for his milk bottle to be poured into his mouth. 

08 November 2019

Lima Lima tried staying out one night some time back but she didn’t enjoy it and hasn’t done it again, but otherwise all the other females have wanted to stay as one herd, and not join the older bulls who like to stay out at night. Last night however Zongoloni was causing the Keepers a headache as she was trying to open her gate to join the boys who were outside the compound. It seems she wanted to try and see if she would like it!

When morning came the boys did not show up for their bottles or any Lucerne pellets. Shukuru could evidently smell some elephants however and walked behind Lima Lima who is the expert at locating anyone! She walked off into the bushes and we saw her come back with Faraja behind her! It was Lima Lima who went to get Faraja but actually Shukuru smelt the other boys first today, as we saw her raise her ‘periscope’ trunk in the air and smell in the direction Lima Lima went to get them. 

09 November 2019

This morning the orphans were led out to the hills by Shukuru and Quanza, where they settled for the remainder of their morning. They had a long day of browsing and seemed to all thoroughly enjoy themselves and the luscious greens. 

There were some light showers as the orphans were making their way back to the stockades this evening. Mwashoti, Alamaya and Zongoloni are normally always the first to arrive in the evening, but today the Keepers could not see Mwashoti amongst them. He was later spotted with Murera and Sonje. Murera walked him all the way into his stockade and once she was sure he was safe she let him carry on and have his bottle of milk in peace.  

10 November 2019

As the orphans made their way down to the waterhole for their midday bottles of milk, Faraja appeared with a new wild friend. He appeared to have been with this bull all morning, and the bull seemed to want to follow him to the mud bath. The wild bull appeared shocked when he saw the Keepers waiting for Faraja, and quickly turned back towards the forest. The Keepers did not see him again whilst the orphans were down at the mud bath. 

As the orphans were getting ready to make their way back to the stockades, Jasiri appeared to be keeping his distance as if he was showing his eagerness to stay out in the field. Ziwa was often the one to lead his friends out to the forest for the evening, and today he did the same as he headed off back to the browsing fields. The girls such as Lima Lima and Zongoloni are still reluctant to stay out in the forest overnight and are still eager to head back to their stockades for their evening bottles of milk. 

11 November 2019

Ziwa and Ngasha, after spending the evening in the forest, did not show up for their midday bottles of milk today. Murera as always was the last to arrive and the boys were nowhere to be seen. The Keepers were not worried by this because as the orphans get older, they become less dependent on their milk feeds and start to spend more time adventuring and browsing on the hills. This was also normal for the two bulls as they were spending more and more time with their wild friends. 

Sonje and Shukuru, however, seemed worried about where the bulls were as they appeared to be constantly looking around to find them and smelling their surroundings. Sonje led the orphans back out into the forest and she decided to lead them towards the Chyulu Hills where they browsed for the rest of the afternoon. 

As the orphans were making their way back to the stockades for the evening, Ziwa and Ngasha suddenly appeared from the bushes and joined the others as they headed back. Ziwa appeared to have a very full belly, which led the Keepers to think that he must have been enjoying lots of fresh greens during his adventures. 

12 November 2019

The orphans seemed to be in a very good mood this morning as they were enjoying their morning bottles of milk. Before Ziwa and his friends could finish their morning bottles, one of their wild friends appeared from the forest. The wild bull did not seem too worried by the Keepers as he calmly approached the Umani orphans. Sonje was also not bothered by his presence as she happily began to enjoy her morning Lucerne pellets near him. 

As more Keepers carried on with their morning routine, the wild bull became more alert and as they got closer to him, he decided to quickly turn away and head back to the forest. The Keepers thoroughly enjoyed having one of the orphan’s wild friends around. 

As the orphans were making their way out to the hills, they came across the same wild bull resting under a tree. Lima Lima walked over to him, as if to check everything was alright, before running over to her Keepers to alert them of his presence. The Keepers had a quick look at the bull before they continued on their path with the orphans. 

13 November 2019

As Ziwa, Ngasha and Faraja are spending more of their evenings in the forest, there seem to be more wild bulls visiting the stockades in the mornings. Faraja, Ziwa, and Ngasha seem to be growing into big bulls, especially as they grow in confidence too. Compare to the other orphans they appear very big in size as of late. Shukuru seems to be gaining her confidence too and sometimes appears keen to follow the boys out to the forest.  

Ziwa, Ngasha, and Faraja all appeared for their midday bottles of milk and as soon as they had finished their bottles, they immediately made their way back towards the hills. 

After finishing her bottle, Murera made her way to the water trough and started to have a drink of water. Whilst she was there, she heard Mwashoti rumbling, this caused great concern. Sonje and Murera both went over to check on the young bull and because everything was fine, they walked him over to the dust bath where they met the rest of the Umani orphans before making their way to the Chyulu Hills. 

14 November 2019

The orphans are normally very happy to follow Zongoloni and Quanza out to the hills, but today they didn’t seem eager at all. As the two girls started to head to the forest, they seemed to quickly notice that none of the other orphans were following them. They were following Sonje and Lima Lima instead who were heading towards the Umani Hills. 

Whilst the orphans were browsing along the hills, a troop of baboons could be heard shouting nearby. Some of the orphans were so bothered by the baboons that they began to charge them before moving away. The baboons were quick to climb up the trees away from the reach of the orphans. Eventually, all the orphans moved away from the noisy baboons to a quieter spot not so far away.

15 November 2019

It began to rain heavily as the orphans were enjoying their morning bottles of milk. Ziwa, Faraja and Ngasha, who had spent the evening in the forest, all appeared from the forest to come and have their morning bottles of milk. As the ground was so wet and muddy the orphans’ normal routine was disrupted, and orphans such as Shukuru chose to stay under the shelter of the roofs, waiting for the rain to stop. 

When the rain eventually stopped, Lima Lima led the orphans out to the Umani Hills for their morning browsing activities. Shukuru, still hesitant about the muddy and wet terrain, chose to not walk far up the hills but instead she stayed back with her Keepers, breaking branches off some of the lower down trees. 

Murera and Sonje did not show up for their midday bottles. Mwashoti, Alamaya and some of the other orphans came charging in as usual. It was only once the orphans had finished their bottles that Murera and Sonje appeared from the forest. Neither of them walked towards the Keepers, instead they made their way straight to the water trough and had some water. After some time the orphans made their way back to the Chyulu Hills, where they spent their afternoon browsing. 

16 November 2019

Zongoloni was in an odd mood this evening. When the Keepers put her in her stable for the evening, she kept pushing at the gate to be let out. The Keepers wondered if she wanted to go and join some of the boys that had stayed in the forest for the evening. However, when they opened her gate, she had no interest in going out to the forest but simply walked over to Alamaya. She interacted with Alamaya for a short while before making her way back to Jasiri who shared a stable with her. 

When she got to Jasiri, she placed her trunk inside his mouth to see what he was munching on; it seems as though she was curious to see what he was eating. When she realised, he was eating the same greens that she had she spat the leaves out and walked away.

17 November 2019

Since Faraja, Ziwa and Ngasha have been spending more and more evenings out in the forest the orphans seem to be spending more time in their two groups. The three bulls will often come and have their evening bottles of milk before making their way back to the forest, whereas the others will come back with Sonje, Mwashoti and Alamaya. 

After their evening bottles, Ziwa would always be the first to start making his way back and Ngasha and Faraja would be quick to follow. They seem to know that should they wish to have their morning bottles they shouldn’t wander too far away, and the Keepers can often see them heading to an area not too far from the stockade compound. In the morning they can be seen waiting by the gate for the Keepers to open and quite often they will spend their days browsing with the rest of the orphans before heading off again after their evening bottles of milk. 

18 November 2019

Zongoloni decided to follow the boys out into the forest the night before. Ziwa, who always moves quickly did not take note of Zongoloni following them, and continued with his path forcing her to walk even faster to keep up. 

There had been heavy rains throughout the evening, leading the Keepers to think that Zongoloni must have had a stressful evening. When she returned in the morning with the boys, she looked very tired and all the mud had been washed off her body from the rain. Throughout the day, she was sure to remain very close to the Keepers and some of the younger orphans and when the orphans headed back to the stockades for the evening, she was one of the first to fall asleep, getting her much needed rest. 

19 November 2019

Zongoloni has decided to join the boys club team being led by Ziwa and Faraja; it seems she has decided to become the first female baby girl to join the boys club to stay out for the night with Ziwa and Ngasha. When all the orphans came back from the forest after a long day browsing and socialising with wild friends, the boys followed the Keepers very keenly, then as soon as they had finished their milk bottles they all walked out. Zongoloni started to push on her gate as well signalling to the Keepers that she wanted to leave as well. She was so determined the Keepers had no choice but to open her gate and let her walk out with Ziwa and the other boys.

Before dawn Zongoloni was standing by the gate knowing that soon the Keepers would come to open it for her – so she was not so comfortable yet with being fully outside! The Keepers only opened the gate when the morning bottles were ready, and when the boys outside heard the milk mixing bucket being used they all came and stood at the gate demanding their milk bottles too. When they were done they all left again but Zongoloni stayed and walked over to Alamaya and she did not follow the boys back out to the forest.

20 November 2019

Alamaya seemed to be in a quiet mood this morning as opposed to his normal jovial self. This appeared to worry Sonje and she kept walking slowly up to keep an eye on him. A few minutes after the orphans had left the stockade compound Alamaya suddenly sat down. This worried all the orphans and the Keepers who all ran over to his side to check what was happening. Murera and Zongoloni seemed to try and help him stand up and when he eventually got up the Keepers noticed that one of his legs was sore. The Keepers had a look and noticed that he may have strained a muscle walking along some of the rocky terrain and this was giving him a slight limp. 

Although limping Alamaya was happy to continue with the others out to the forest. Lima Lima, Murera, and Quanza walked beside him, whilst Shukuru led the orphans with one of the Keepers. 

21 November 2019

Zongoloni has started to gain her confidence in the evenings and has now been following the boys out to the forest more often. She appears to love being a part of Ziwa’s little herd and spending more time out in the forest, and the Keepers feel that she and the boys will become ex-orphans very soon as they become fully reintegrated back into the wild. 

Zongoloni, Ziwa, Faraja, and Ngasha, however, are still always there waiting at the gate in the mornings, as early as 5 o’clock, to receive their morning bottles of milk. Recently the Keepers are having to give them their bottles before the others. If they fail to do so, Ziwa and Zongoloni start to protest and bother the younger orphans. After the four have had their bottles the Keepers can carry on with feeding Mwashoti, Alamaya and the others.  

22 November 2019

The orphans were in a very playful mood today at the mud bath. With all the rain over the last few weeks the waterhole has filled up nicely and is great to swim in now that the warmer weather is back. Mwashoti was very clever as he walked around the mud bath looking for the best area to get into the water while the others were on the banks splashing mud on their bodies. 

Lima Lima joined Mwashoti and as the others saw her entering the water for a swim, they all began to follow. It was fun to watch the orphans splashing around thoroughly enjoying themselves. Shukuru joined them for a little bit before making her way to a scratching post that was nearby. 

23 November 2019

The big orphan boys and Zongoloni came in for their morning bottles and then quickly made their way back to the forest. Jasiri, on the other hand, has been choosing to stay behind with the rest of the Umani orphans, looking after the girls, such as Sonje, and the younger bulls Mwashoti and Alamaya. Zongoloni is in a huge rush to head out that as soon as she finishes her milk, she pushes the gate to head back out. Quanza and Lima Lima, however, have no interest in following Zongoloni and the boys out to the forest, and seem happy to stay with Jasiri, Murera and Sonje. The other four walk off in their own direction and sometimes join the orphans whilst browsing but can often be seen at the mud bath waiting for their midday bottles of milk. 

As the orphans were making their way to a waterhole, they noticed a small crocodile lying by the water; this caused alarm amongst the orphans. Lima Lima and Zongoloni started rumbling and charging at the crocodile which quickly ran into the water and disappeared. 

24 November 2019

Browsing up towards the Umani hills continued today as the entire herd walked in a line behind Shukuru. Slightly later Ziwa decided to overtake them all and walk with a Keeper up to a place in the hills where he knew they would find lots of nice food. Faraja also walked along with a Keeper but he already looked very full and had a big tummy as he had spent the whole night out in the forest browsing. Ziwa and Ngasha also had rather full bellies and are looking so healthy and strong, enjoying all the food to be found out in the forest during the night. Still they walked along this morning like they were in a hurry to find the best food and as if they were starving, even though they already had what looked like very full tummies. Ziwa and the boys did not want to stay with the Keepers the whole time though as they are feeling very independent these days, and kept straying off to walk alone in the forest and coming back again.

25 November 2019

Zongoloni with her new found friends, Ziwa, Ngasha, and Faraja (since she joined the boys club) has become very fond of living her life out in the wild and staying out at night. She never wants to be locked inside the stockade at night like the others now. While they like to stay out in the forest Zongoloni and the other boys still make sure they are counted for with their milk bottles and they never go without in the morning – they are always there demanding them first thing in the early morning hours. 

Murera and Sonje are normally given their milk bottles in the morning before anyone else and Mwashoti last, before he comes out of his room to join the matriarchs in the compound. Shukuru today took over the lead role and led all the orphans out to the forest as Sonje did not feel like leading today. Shukuru did a lovely job and guided them all into the forest to enjoy the fresh vegetation found all around the Umani Hills, which are looking so fresh and green everywhere now after all the rain.

26 November 2019

There was so many herds of wild elephants in the forest today with their young ones. It was all female herds who were interested in meeting the Umani orphans as well, which made Shukuru a little worried. She was wondering why all these big herds of elephants were trying to follow her and she kept moving towards the Keepers. The Keepers stayed with Shukuru, Mwashoti and Murera who was guarding Mwashoti. Ziwa and the other boys of course were happy to meet the wild herds and enjoyed walking around with them.

For two days the orphans have enjoyed walking to the big waterhole which their wild friends use as well, and it has now become daily practise to have lengthy swimming competitions there, where they all get into the water and compete after having their milk bottles. Sonje and Lima Lima were the first to jump into the water to begin the competition, swiftly followed by Mwashoti.

27 November 2019

All the elephants were in a very good mood this morning. Only Faraja managed to annoy Ziwa by walking behind him and trying to climb on his back. Ziwa turned to push him away, and then Sonje and Zongoloni walked in between them trying to separate them so that they would keep away from one another.

Some wild friends tried to link up with the Umani orphans along the Chyulu Hills but the rain that began last night continued on throughout the day which made the orphans stick very close to the Keepers. The Keepers don’t want to lose sight of the orphans in such heavy rain, but Ziwa and his newly formed group of boys are not bothered and don’t come when the Keepers call as they like to do what they like now. 

28 November 2019

The orphans today all walked towards the Kenze hills so the Keepers followed them there, but as they climbed the hill they found it was not a very easy climb and it was quite slippery from the middle to the top of the hill, so Murera and Mwashoti found it very hard to get to the top. We thought Shukuru would also find it hard to get to the top but she proved us wrong, and she was actually second to the top after Ziwa! Only Murera and Mwashoti found it very hard and took longer than the others to walk up, but they eventually made it.  

Today the milk bottles were taken to where orphans were as decided to stay on the hills enjoying the fresh branches, until they realised it was too late to walk down, so the Keepers drove the milk bottles to where they were. They called Lima Lima and Shukuru to bring all the orphans down for the milk feed. Lima Lima seemed very confused at first as she could not believe the milk bottles had been brought to them. Normally Lima Lima is very good at telling the time and she should have realised it was milk time, but still she was surprised to see the milk bottles!

29 November 2019

Today for the first time only Ngasha returned home in the morning, leaving the two boys Faraja and Ziwa to stay out together with Zongoloni. We wondered why Zongoloni did not come back with the two boys for their morning milk bottles as usual. As the orphans walked out to the forest and the Keepers were wondering where they could have got to, Shukuru found them relaxing and enjoying the branches of an acacia tree that had fallen down in the night. Zongoloni brought the others to enjoy the branches of the tree and the Keepers praised Zongoloni and Faraja for such a nice find. Again it was clever Shukuru, the wise girl, who took the Keepers to where the boys had been hiding their heads.

30 November 2019

There was such heavy rain this morning as the orphans came out of their stockades to begin their day of browsing in the forest. Ziwa and his band of boys plus Zongoloni who stay out in the forest during the night, arrived back this morning, but too late to get their milk bottles which had already been given to the others. Poor Zongoloni and Faraja came running to get their bottles but they were already too late and they had been swiped by Mwashoti who had kept an eye on the bottles left down on the ground.