Keepers' Diaries, October 2014

Umani Springs Reintegration Unit

October has been a very dry month in the Kibwezi Forest yet rains threaten with pregnant skies and extreme heat. The orphans have settled in and appear extremely happy. They spend hours playing with each other, trumpeting and charging around bush bashing, and they also spend time rotting up the resident monkeys and bushbuck who are beginning to become regulars around their stockade compound. The nighttimes have been full of activity too with many wild elephants visiting them in the night. Their wild friends are weary of the Keepers still so do not stick around too long once day breaks, but this will change in time as we have experienced with our Ithumba Rehabilitation Unit.

01 October 2014

After a long chilly night the morning began with Murera leading the way to show the babies where to go to for the start of their day. On the way to the browsing fields Quanza had to stop and have a scratch on a fallen tree trunk before she could walk any further, as the ticks were obviously worrying her. Zongoloni on seeing Quanza scratching, began selecting the soft branches for browsing. When the juniors finally reached the fields, they came close to a number of bushbucks that were lying down relaxing near a big troop of baboons. When Lima Lima saw them, she gestured to Sonje then whispered something and they all started chasing the baboons far away from the browsing area. The bushbucks then disappeared with the baboons. At the waterhole, all the babies felt the hot sunny weather and went wallowing vigorously with Quanza rubbing her bottom deep in the mud. After wallowing, the elephants left for the shade of the trees making a straight line as if they were to be counted.

02 October 2014

Today when the gate was opened, all the elephants came out happily, joining up with the keepers to begin their day. When they reached the waterhole next to the stockades they were very anxious and raised their long trunks to try and smell the scent of their wild friends who had visited them overnight. One of the wild bulls took a mudbath in the night at the waterhole and they tried to follow the scents of him into the forest, but they soon gave up and came back. As there were lots of flies around today all the orphans went for some soil dusting, to keep away the biting and flying insects from their bodies. Murera and Sonje got up from the dusting and the orphans followed them in a straight line to browse, with Lima Lima running ahead to lead them upfront. Before they reached their destination they came across a lonely buffalo who started charging them. Lima Lima came running to the keepers for protection and Quanza sensed the danger and trumpeted loudly trying to scare the buffalo who was coming at her, they all joined together with the keepers in making a lot of noise until the buffalo sped away from them.

03 October 2014

Today, the keepers took the lead of the elephants who followed behind them to a different side of the Kibwezi forest where there are no lava rocks that would disturb Murera. Lima Lima and Zongoloni were very keen to stay closer to the keepers enjoying their new surroundings. Murera was not happy with Lima Lima and Zongoloni who were walking very fast so she rumbled to Sonje and immediately Lima Lima and Zongoloni answered and then stopped and waited for Murera and Sonje. Murera arrived and the walk to the quarry browsing area continued. They browsed up to midday mudbath time where they went to have their bottles. When taking the milk, Quanza began her fun by running away with the last bottle holding it with her trunk and then dropping it into the waterhole for the keepers to pick up. It was very hot weather and all the elephants went into the waterhole with Lima Lima taking the wallowing very seriously and enjoying the cooling mud on her body.

04 October 2014

The orphans were not happy this morning as they did not believe that the acacia pods were gone and no more. Lima Lima, Quanza and Sonje came running near the keepers tent looking for the pods but found none and the keepers had to coax them back to the forest, to go and find some in the bushes on their own. Murera was not bothered about looking for the pods and went to a different side of the bushes, preferring to browse alone and undisturbed. After the midday browsing all the babies turned up for at the mudbath to have their milk and they found the waterhole flooded with lots of flowing water. Zongoloni and Quanza enjoyed a real swim in the flooded water and played like hippos with only their trunks above the water. After the swimming, Sonje led the orphans out of the waterhole, to rest under the big Shady bushes and after awhile they then continued browsing.

05 October 2014

In the middle of the night, a large number of wild elephants came to the stockades giving the keepers confidence that the orphans were communicating well with the wild elephants and were now making friends. The wild elephants came and spent a lot of time at the stockades whispering to one another. Lima Lima didn't know the intentions of their wild friends coming to visit them at the stockades, but Sonje and Murera knew it was a good idea for the wild elephants to visit and make friends. They will need these allies to show them the tactics' of surviving in the forest when they return back to the wild and the keepers won't be there for them to give care.

06 October 2014

The morning began with very thirsty elephants, rushing to the waterhole for water to drink as soon as the gate was opened for them to come out. Zongoloni led the way to the soil dusting area after taking water and it was a very enjoyable moment for the babies rolling and stepping on one another, sometimes even stepping on each other’s heads! Murera and Sonje did not like the game of jumping on heads and they pushed those behaving badly off to the dusting area. Zongoloni and Quanza were pushed hard because they had stepped on Murera's head and trunk and so they ran away to their keepers. In the bush the young Zongoloni kept close to Sonje to try and see where she was getting the few acacia pods from. At the mudbath, Murera and Sonje were taking a swim together like best friends, whilst Lima Lima, was splashing her chest and also splashing Zongoloni with mud.

07 October 2014

Murera came out of the compound first and waited for the babies outside the gate. When the orphans came outside, they all went to the scratching rocks in the morning to rub off any hanging ticks hiding on their bellies. Sonje and Zongoloni then went for soil dusting to keep away the flying insects and especially enjoyed throwing dust on their bottoms before walking together towards the water springs. Lima Lima was following the keepers closely and they all got a fright, including the keepers when confronted by a crocodile enjoying the sunshine. When the crocodile heard them coming, it jumped into the water making a big splash and the elephants with their keepers made a hasty retreat. The elephants were trumpeting loudly whilst running away and they all looked shocked. This was their first major crocodile experience! At the stockades in the evening, Quanza and Zongoloni showed how they are best friends by sharing their ranch cubes from one plate, but the greedy Lima Lima was desperately looking for more ranch cubes than her fair share.

08 October 2014

Quanza began her day sharpening her tiny tusks to get ready for a day of peeling bark from the big yellow fever and acacia trees that are sometimes hard to peel. She went to the nearby fallen tree and began sharpening the left side of her tusks. Sonje went to a keeper for comfort when she was warned by Murera for not behaving well near her. However, due to their friendships Sonje was quickly forgiven by Murera and joined her in the browsing fields close to where the young Zongoloni was relaxing with a branch on her mouth. At the mudbath, Quanza raised up her ears near Zongoloni who was looking very tired after struggling with some roots and the long walk they had just done to come for their bottles. Some of the elephants were feeling the heat and just went straight to the waterhole for wallowing and after the swimming, all the elephants sped off to the bushes in search of some shade.

09 October 2014

It was a very happy day for the orphans to meet Patrick Omondi of the Kenya Wildlife Service who made it possible for the elephant's orphanage to be in the Kibwezi forest. Murera and her friends and keepers were very happy to receive him and after the reception he was entertained by the friendly girl Lima Lima. Sonje and Murera got bored quickly and wanted to go and browse away from the others, but as they were walking away, many bushbucks started feeding on the Lucerne. Quanza and Lima Lima charged them and they were scared away with Quanza and Lima Lima in pursuit. At the waterhole near the lodge, the weather turned hot and immediately after taking their bottles, all of the babies went straight to the swimming pool that was full of flowing water and enjoyed a marvellous time for over an hour.

10 October 2014

Last night, about four wild elephants came charging in the night knocking down trees, forcing the keepers to come out of their tents to have a look at what was wrong. The wild elephants all sped off when they felt the keepers looking at them, leaving Murera and the babies frightened making lots of noise, trumpeting, rumbling and jumping on the wooden walls trying to follow their wild friends. When they were let them out in the morning, Murera and Sonje tried following the trail of their noisy night visitors, but they were long gone and only their dung was dropped on the way. Zongoloni and Quanza started to eat the dung which is a normal behaviour for young elephants.

11 October 2014

There was not much activity in the morning when the elephants were let out. Lima Lima with the help of the keeper led the orphans to the Umani hills to try and find some greener branches to feed on because down the hill where they had been browsing for a while remained dry. Lots of birds were making strange sounds on top of the hill and the orphans were raising their ears without knowing what was wrong. Later we found that, the birds had spotted a big python snake and we kept the babies away from there to avoid it. Keepers called their elephants with their normal call: kwata, kwata and as always as soon as they called them Lima Lima came running down the hill thinking that it was bottle time but it was too early for bottles. Quanza with Zongoloni followed her then Murera and Sonje came walking slowly behind knowing it was not yet milk time. When they realised that it was not time for milk, the orphans changed their direction from their normal path, to a new path that had no lava stones that would cause Murera and Sonje difficulty.

12 October 2014

Sonje is becoming very strong and energetic and every morning she charges and knocks down big trees and you would not realise she has a bad leg. Murera also tries so much to knock over trees but her disabilities still stop her from breaking big trees. Some crane birds came flying down to the water hole looking for some insects to feed on, the babies were not aware of the flying cranes over their heads and when they touched down near Quanza, she sped off as the crane's wings had almost touched her tail. The birds began making a lot of loud noises forcing Lima Lima and Quanza to run very fast to their keepers. After wallowing the orphans and their keepers went together under a tree for shade, while the keepers had their lunch. During the day the babies had a lovely time together and when the hot weather cooled down the elephants came out of the bushes to browse before walking back home for their bottles and some cubes.

13 October 2014

In the early morning, when the orphans were having their morning milk bottles, we heard leopards causing trouble to the baboons in the bushes. The baboons and their babies were shouting very loudly as if a leopard had killed one of their babies and they left fearing another attack. Murera and her mini herd did not want to go out fearing the noises from the baboons and the leopards; instead choosing to remain inside their stockades until the big shouting in the forest stopped. Lima Lima and Quanza did not want to leave the keepers and still fearful kept close to them as if they were listening to the stories from their keepers. When the shouting stopped from the hills, the elephants were forced out by the keepers to a different side where they would not be afraid. By midday, the babies were settled and browsed well up to the time for mudbathing. When they turned up to the waterhole, they found a terrapin jumping into the water and it passed near Quanza's legs. Quanza let out a bellow and ran away so fast charging out of the waterhole thinking that something was grabbing her toes.

14 October 2014

It was very unique thing, to see Zongoloni leading the big orphans into the forests. She copied this character from Lima Lima who overturned the leadership from the matriarch, Murera. Zongoloni was getting jealous of her leading the group and so took her turn today. She is still young to lead the crowd and this is the first time she tried it since coming to Umani. Lima Lima again took over leading the young Zongoloni and the others. It was a long day's walk looking for food to fill up their stomachs with and the babies were tired by midday and decided to rest in the shade, before continuing for mudbath. The wallowing was nice, where the funny Quanza sat on the mud scratching her bottom and the side of the body that had not got enough mud. Murera wallowed and was not able to get up from where she was wallowing lying down. Sonje went to pull her but she was too heavy for Sonje and Murera was not kind and began pushing them away showing that she was just relaxing not stuck.

15 October 2014

Orphans went to the scratching rocks in the early morning to remove some ticks. They soon went for the soft dusting soil and sprayed the soil on their backs to completely take away all the remaining biting insects. When the babies, went to the bushes, for browsing, they climbed up the Umani hills looking for greener branches. Zongoloni, Quanza and Lima Lima understanding that the hill was still looking green and therefore might have more soft greens. Murera and Sonje remained down the hill because they are not so good at climbing hills and descending would be a problem for them. The babies then came down for the milk at the normal time and since it was getting hotter and hotter the elephants went running to the waterhole after bottle feeding.

16 October 2014

The elephants were very thirsty and forced their way to the waterhole in the early morning. Lima Lima came across a fallen tree that was pushed down by the wild elephants during the night and started to pick up the green leaves of the fallen acacia. The remaining herd were busy dusting their bodies on the ground, but Murera and Sonje were beginning to go for patrols looking for the greener pastures in the forests, but only found the dry branches. Lima Lima changed every movement and led the babies, leaving Murera and Sonje following slowly behind with the keepers. The keepers came across the greener leaves on the way and stopped to give some to Murera and she grabbed them all into her big mouth whilst Zongoloni tried to reach for the greens on the very top of the acacia trees by herself. After the morning and midday patrols, the elephants were looking very happy and were ready to walk back home in the evening.

17 October 2014

Murera took to the mudbath after a long and hot day and after reaching the waterhole she immediately began splashing her body, beginning at her chest. Later on she saw the other babies wallowing in the mud, and went to join them so they could have fun together. Sonje had a really nice time rolling around in the muddy mudbath. Lima Lima then took off, leading Quanza to the dusting area and to dry off her body. The rest of the babies were enjoying dusting and soon their skin colour turned brown and they were now nice brown elephants. Sonje left for the scratching rock but the rock didn't seem to do the trick and her body was very itchy, so she found a fallen tree and scratched her legs on it. The day turned very busy as the orphans went into the bushes to fill up their stomachs after spending some time in the shade.

18 October 2014

At ten o'clock in the morning, the babies came across a walking buffalo; they tried to trumpet and make the buffalo go away but he did not and the babies turned to the keepers to save them. When the keepers saw the buffalo, they shouted loudly until he left, disappearing into the forest and the orphans could continue to the field browsing near the keepers. Zongoloni walked to Lima Lima who was holding her trunk over her head. Quanza was sharpening her tiny tusks on the ground getting ready to peel off the bark from the big trees, After soil dusting, the orphans went down to the swampy area near the lodge to look for at least soft grass there and they continued walking and disappeared in the bushes until evening when they returned to the stockade.

19 October 2014

Sonje opened up the day in the morning by going to scratch on a rock, but Murera and Quanza did not follow her instead they went for the Lucerne where Quanza walked away holding Lucerne with her trunk so she could have it all to herself. Lima Lima was very busy drinking water at the hole while Murera joined the rest in the forest. When they were in the bush, they had a nice time browsing as they found some soft grass that they had been looking for since the dry season begun. When it was time for their milk feeding, Murera was fed by a keeper and then walked straight to the waterhole, joining the other girls for wallowing. Lima Lima was not safe in-between Sonje and Quanza, because she was full of movement and causing mischief which forced Murera to push her away so the others could wallow freely. Poor Lima Lima had to move to the side and made her own separate mudbath where she could splash as much as she liked without the risk of upsetting the others with her exuberance.

20 October 2014

Sonje went to the water tank only to find there was no water and so began getting into the tank to see if there was any at the bottom. She could smell water inside the tank but when she reached for it, she couldn't find any. She eventually gave up and turned around for some scratching, rubbing her belly to remove any pesky ticks. The Keepers ensured the water hole was filled up again as it had obviously been drained in the night by visiting wild elephants. Sonje then came to the dusting point, and blew some dusting on her back, to keep away the biting tsetse flies, whilst the other babies were playing, jumping and stepping on each other. After the daylong patrols, the elephants were led back home by their loving human family, Lima Lima was the second in command following the keepers.

21 October 2014

The elephants came out of their stockade in a jovial mood and were very playful in the early morning hours, making lots of noise running and trumpeting in the thickest bush forcing even the birds to fly away from them. Murera charged the monkeys that were jumping on the tree around her, she then knocked down an acacia tree. The rest of the herd followed her and all the charging and noise caused a loud echo on the hillside. The two monkeys that became stranded in the tree, began screaming at the elephants, but the orphans went on regardless enjoying the chaos they were causing. After the play time Lima Lima came back to the dusting soil to sharpening her tusks as she played with the dust. Murera then followed Sonje who had both used lots of energy charging the monkeys. The other babies followed them to the dusting point, and they played with the dust whilst Sonje and Lima Lima, went looking for a rock to scratch on. At midday; the babies went for wallowing after a long, dry and hot day.

22 October 2014

Murera saw some birds on her way to the field where she was heading to browse. She opened up her big ears getting ready to charge at them, but the birds saw the big ears up and knew they were targeted and so flew high up into a tree. Murera was left looking into the sky and watched the birds in the tree over her head. The keepers called the elephants to go towards the Umani hills. Murera and Zongoloni were walking at a slow pace while browsing on the dry branches that they come across. In the dry fields they got busy with the grass before the buffaloes came out from where they were hiding in the bushes. When the orphans saw the buffaloes, Quanza and Lima Lima looked to the keepers for support. So as to avoid the buffalos the babies were led to the mudbath and they enjoyed themselves wallowing instead.

23 October 2014

Sonje together with Zongoloni, were the stars this morning as they went out to the bushes and took the leadership of the group. They led the others to the place with lots of little green branches, but all the big branches were still dry. All the babies came for soil dusting, and they started blowing the dust into the air making it look like it was a windy day, forcing the keepers to move out of the way. Lima Lima saw the keepers moving away from all the dust and she thought the keepers were leaving them and so decided to follow them but when she realised they weren't going far she went back to the dusting soil.

24 October 2014

Zongoloni and Sonje took the leadership this the morning, with Murera with Lima Lima following Sonje and Quanza following Zongoloni in different directions. The Sonje group went for shade and Zongoloni and Quanza went looking for the soft green branches in the bush close where they could see the keepers and the other babies. At the waterhole, the babies came rushing for the mudbath, after finishing their bottles. The keepers had their lunch under some shade near the waterhole watching the orphans enjoying wallowing together. Quanza was pushed hard onto the mud by Zongoloni and let out a loud scream. Quanza got her own back and pushed her away from her. The keepers were surprised by the scream, but when they came looking for what was wrong they found Zongoloni was already pushed away from the waterhole leaving the others wallowing peacefully.

25 October 2014

Trees got into trouble in the morning, when Lima Lima came out from her stockade and went straight to the trees around her and began punishing them looking for big branches to shove in her mouth. Quanza led the orphans this morning to a different field looking for soft branches and the greenest pasture for the day. After a long day of walking, the keepers and the orphans took to the shade to rest and wait for the hot weather to cool down. When it was almost time to go home, the babies went to the waterhole swinging their trunks and splashed muddy water on their backs to cool them. The keepers called Murera and Sonje, to come out but it was Lima Lima who came very fast, followed by Murera then the other babies running behind. Sonje was annoyed at Zongoloni who was blocking her way, but she did not want to punish her so just gave her way, as Sonje knows Zongoloni is just a baby not knowing what she was doing wrong.

26 October 2014

Two hornbills were shouting loudly in a tree when the orphans left their night stockades, Quanza was leading and the keepers walked behind watching to see which way Quanza wanted to go. When Quanza heard the hornbills shouting she turned around and went running back to joining the others fearing the sound coming from the hornbills. Lima Lima then took the lead and continued into the forest knowing the right way to go for the soft greens. By mudbath time the elephants were feeling really hot and they needed the cooling waters of the mudbath. During their wallowing time, they all stopped abruptly to watch the oncoming bushbucks that arrived at the waterhole, to drink water with them. Zongoloni became scared and came out of the water very quickly which in turn scared all the others so they all jumped out of the water to run away. When Quanza and Zongoloni realised they were just running away from some Bushbucks they felt rather sheepish, they turned and scared the bushbucks away with loud trumpets.

27 October 2014

It was early in the morning, and the elephants went to the shade earlier than expected, it was very dry for the orphans, and so they went to relax and discuss where to go for the green and soft branches that was not in the normal patrol areas. Murera and Sonje did not spend much time under the shade but just relaxed a bit, then began moving away to show the other babies where to go for the soft branches. The keepers also followed, watching them closely, to the Quarry area where there was some greener pasture. Zongoloni then led the babies to the waterhole to have their milk bottles, after which all the orphans went directly to the waterhole. The keepers then took them to a different place to rest under the shade and wait until it was cool enough to walk back in the evening. The elephants were very happy coming back home and trumpeted the whole way. Zongoloni and Quanza were the ones who began to trumpet loudly as they ran here and there knocking trees down as they headed back home; it was a sign of true happiness after a long day in the forests.

28 October 2014

Sonje led the orphans out to the bushes to start their day, followed by Murera then Lima Lima. Quanza looked very busy breaking down big trees and peeling off the bark to eat. Zongoloni was fed up with the dry area and she began looking for the keepers, because keepers had not realised that it was almost time for mudbath and milk bottles! When they found the keepers, Lima Lima whispered to Zongoloni and they started walking to the waterhole for milk and wallowing in the mud where they stayed until they heard 'kwata kwata kwata' the call sign from the their human families to go back into the bushes and relax, for a while. All the orphans came for the soil dusting and shared the soil dusting whilst some babies blew big dust into the air forcing the keepers to keep away, because the dust was getting into their eyes. Quanza and Lima Lima was so happy enjoying the dusting and Lima Lima kept trying new styles of playing with soil.

29 October 2014

Jovial Lima Lima, in the morning wanted to keep off the biting insects, like tsetse flies by swinging her trunk down on her chest; when she went for dusting she sat down on her bottom squeezing any tiny ticks hiding there. When they went into the bushes, Lima Lima took Quanza for a patrol where they were trying to pick up some dry branches from the ground. The weather turned hotter and the babies walked to the waterhole for some wallowing to cool them down. They had plenty of water to play with and as their usual routine, Lima Lima and Quanza went all the way in for a swim, even joined by Sonje and they were the swimming stars of the day leaving Murera to look for the fallen trees around her to go and have a scratch. After a long wallowing session all the elephants continued with their daily patrols until the evening. When they were coming back home, they went again for a mudbath and found a terrapin resting on the edge which scared the baby elephants who decided against wallowing and ran away instead, following the keepers leading the babies home.

30 October 2014

In the morning, the juniors had to stay in their stockades as there were wild elephants in the compound. Their wild friends came to visit the girls, but the girls could not mix with them instead content to rumble as their usual way of communication and we, humans do not know what they talk about. Keepers heard lots of noise and the elephants' rumbling outside their tents and when we came out to look at them and take some pictures, they all sped off running quickly into the forests fearing the human smell. Murera made several attempts to get out and meet them, as did the other three girls; Zongoloni, Quanza, and Lima Lima. When Lima Lima came out in the morning she still had the mentality of going to look for the wild bulls and found none. The other babies had no interest to follow, so she then turned back to the scratching tree, to scratch her bottom and her hind legs. After the midday patrols all the babies were kept busy dusting to change their colour from the normal greyish colour to brown colours.

31 October 2014

Lima Lima was not happy with the two bushbucks coming for the Lucerne this morning. When she spotted them she charged at them with her big ears up. Sonje also picked up a bunch of soil with her trunk to try and throw dust at them, helping Lima Lima chase away the uninvited guests. The babies were very playful on the way to their lovely browsing areas that had sweet branches but still very dry. Later they went to the soil for a second round of dusting in one day.