Keepers' Diaries, October 2016

Umani Springs Reintegration Unit

Lima Lima continues to entertain her Keepers with her greedy behaviour, so they have decided to feed her last in order not to disrupt the feeding of the others whilst they are taking their milk. In this respect she is being treated as though she were still a Nursery baby when in fact she is just a very greedy girl! Sometimes, in the mornings, she pushes against her Stockade Gate, impatiently demanding her milk, and in the process making such a racket that the Keepers have to relent and feed her first so that everyone can get on with their morning duties!

01 October 2016

Sonje began her day by looking after the babies. She invited them to play with her as she lay on the ground scratching her bottom. Both Alamaya and Mwashoti were very happy to join her and had a lovely time playing with them. Murera in the meantime stood on the sidelines waiting to see if the two little boys would follow her. However all her waiting was in vain as Sonje had their undivided attention. A little while later Lima Lima came up to Alamaya, who went up to her and put his trunk to her mouth whispering something to his friend. After the two communicated for a while the babies were suddenly scared by some buffaloes that crossed their path. As the orphans were running out of the way, Alamaya was separated from the group and no one knew where he was. The keepers called him and heard him trumpeting some distance away. Lima Lima and Zongoloni took the initiative to go and get him and reunite him with the rest of the group. When he returned he was greeting with lots of trumpeting and rumbling by the rest of the group.

02 October 2016

This morning the orphans made their way to the bushes to browse when Jasiri became lazy and wanted to be fed by Ngasha who was working hard to get some grass to eat. Ngasha did not allow him to share though, forcing Jasiri to go and fend for himself. Murera and Mwashoti were busy in the forest feeding peacefully as they moved around picking soft branches along the Chyulu Hills. The group all fed quietly until it was time for the noon milk feed. Lima Lima, who is one of the greediest of the group and who is always thinking about milk, ran towards the milk feeding area, once again fearing that she was late and had missed her share, something which never happens! The keepers however do have to feed her last as she often tries to steal milk from the others if she is fed first. At the dustbath Sonje found some pods that had been left on the ground by Quanza and Ziwa who had missed them as they were hidden in some tall grass. Sonje showed the two how to pick up the pods up slowly. Later in the day a fight broke out between Ziwa and Sonje as Ziwa pushed Mwashoti. Sonje had to reprimand Ziwa as Mwashoti is her “baby” and she is always very protective of him.

03 October 2016

Today the babies made the decision to go to the springs where they could have a drink of water directly from the source. Faraja was trying to compete with Lima Lima to see who would get to the water first but he was unsuccessful, as Lima Lima is a very fast runner and Faraja was unable to keep up. Ngasha was seen approaching Mwashoti and unbeknownst to him he was being followed by some buffaloes. Sonje saw the buffaloes before anyone else did and was quick to come back and get Ngasha and move him out of harm’s way. Murera heard some noise in the sky and looked around to see what was going on but could not see anything to begin with. She then noticed the Hedada birds flying over the elephants’ heads calling out and making a lot of noise. Murera became a little confused and was unsure which direction to take. She then decided it was safest to move away from the birds. As the babies were heading back to the bushes for the afternoon browsing session, Mwashoti decided to try and lead the group back to the stockades. The keepers were very happy to see Mwashoti trying to take the lead, even if it was too early to return home!

04 October 2016

Today Jasiri raised his big ears and kept flapping them in an effort to scare away some baboons who were in the trees near him. He was watched by Faraja who decided that his friend had everything under control and went to join Lima Lima and Mwashoti who were browsing together, enjoying acacia branches which they were chewing on to remove the bark. When the babies arrived at the wallowing waterhole Mwashoti was in an energetic mood and began trying to climb on Murera’s back. Murera was happy to oblige and let him have his fun. While Mwashoti was enjoying himself some birds came flying around over head which meant he stopped what he was doing to watch the birds. Some of the other orphans began trumpeting and charging at the birds trying to chase them away from the waterhole.

05 October 2016

Some wild elephants came from around the Chyulu Hills and went straight for the orphan group, trying to get in the middle of the group. The older orphans of the group like Murera and Sonje were not happy for them to do this and continued to the fields. While out in the fields, where the wild elephants had been previously, Murera played with Ziwa while Mwashoti tried to copy Murera who was rolling around on her belly on the ground. Jasiri decided to spend some time browsing on his own away from the rest of the group, rejoining the rest of the orphans when they headed to the mud wallow frequented by the wild herds. The orphans all enjoyed swimming in the water and cooling off as they covered themselves with mud in an effort to lower their body temperature. The rest of the day was spent browsing peacefully until it was time to return to the stockades for the night.

06 October 2016

The morning bottle feeding time is done very early as greedy Lima Lima is very impatient and pushes against her stockade doors letting the keepers know in no uncertain terms that she wants her milk bottle. She is very persistent in her actions so the keepers feed her first so that she will quieten down and allow them to feed the rest of the babies before they begin their day. Once Mwashoti and Lima Lima exited their stockades they lead the group to the water trough where they all had a drink. Faraja found a tree which he thought was perfect for him to scratch his head against. Alamaya was in a very jovial and playful mood at the waterhole today. He lay down in the mud rolling around as he watched his friend Mwashoti who was busy enjoying a dustbath.

07 October 2016

The orphans came running out of the stockades looking for acacia pods, which are not easy to find now due to the dry season coming to an end. As such they had to be happy feeding on acacia leaves which were quite high up in the trees. Faraja decided to put his front feet on a rock so that he could reach high up into the branches to get the freshest leaves. Jasiri turned to the matriarch Sonje to engage her in a strength testing game. Sonja was happy to play with him as she knows she is stronger than Jasiri, something that Jasiri did not consider when he decided to take her on. He quickly learned his lesson when Sonje gave him a push which knocked him to the ground, something that he was not expecting to happen and as such he quickly conceded defeat. Today a big bull came from the Chyulu forest and went straight for Sonje. The keepers initially thought that he was Ndugu but quickly realized that it was another wild bull that was trying to make friends with the orphans and went around sniffing each of them as he tried to get to know them. When it was time for the orphans to return to the stockades in the evening they made a quick stop at the waterhole so that they could cool off from the heat of the day before settling down for the night.

08 October 2016

Alamaya has learned already the daily routine inside out and knows exactly what needs to be done in the morning. Whenever he exits his stockade he takes the path that leads him to the lucerne feeding corner. Some Guinea fowls came to the place where elephants get their lucerne. Although, we thought that the Guinea fowls would be able to feed peacefully with the orphan group, Ziwa had other ideas. He started blowing loud trumpets behind the Guinea fowls sending them flying away to the trees. When they tried to come back down the orphans charged around the trees, making a lot of noise as they did not want to share their lucerne with the Guinea fowl.

09 October 2016

Murera was undecided this morning as to which direction she should take the babies for the morning browsing session. Some of the babies picked up on her indecision and headed out on their own following a route that had been taken by some wild elephants. On the way Jasiri stopped to rub his belly against a rock in an effort to remove some of the insects that were on him. Some buffaloes were near the waterhole this morning and made sure to wait for the elephants to leave before they also had a mud bath. Murera and Sonje pushed the babies to the bushes to allow the buffaloes to enjoy the wallow and cool down by covering their bodies in mud.

10 October 2016

Mwashoti was in the lead this morning showing Murera and Sonje the direction he wanted to take the groups. The young boy was thrilled to have been given the opportunity by the matriarchs to lead the orphan herd. Sonje made sure to stop at the water trough for a drink of clean water before following the group to the forest for the day. The babies found some water pipes that had been broken by wild elephants in search of water to drink. Many pipes and been broken and the babies found water spilling out from the pipes, making it easy for them to get fresh water. As it was a very hot day the orphans were happy to make their way to their normal waterhole for the midday bottle feed. They arrived at the wallow and after having their milk they wallowed in the water, splashing mud and water all over themselves. Faraja led the orphans back to their night stockades in the evening but it was not long before Lima Lima took over the lead, as she always does, running to get her share of milk. As she was running she tripped! But was quick to get up and continue running as if nothing had happened. Thus as usual she was the first one to get the evening milk bottle.

11 October 2016

Sonje was in a playful mood, stretching her body on the ground, ensuring that she was ready for the days browsing activities which usually involved long walks in the forest in search of vegetation. The orphans were all in an active mood and kept charging around at anything that moved in the forest. The charging activities were started by Murera after some monkeys began shouted from the trees. When Murera turned around to find out what was going on she saw the monkeys jumping around and shouting, looking for something. The keepers thought that the Sykes monkeys had perhaps lost a baby and that is why they were so upset and aggravated. Mwashoti was unable to contain his excitement and trumpeted loudly in an effort to scare the monkeys away. It was not long before all the orphans joined in and knocked the trees as they charged around which resulted in some of the monkeys falling to the ground. The orphans did not stop charging until they felt that all the Sykes monkeys were gone. The charging activities continued when they came to the midday bottle feeding. After they had their milk they went to the wallow and kicked the water before enjoying a swim, after which they looked for shelter in the shade as they waited for the keepers to finish their lunch.

12 October 2016

Alamaya got left behind at the lucerne feeding corner when the rest of the group left to head to the water springs. Alamaya did not realise that everyone including his friend Lima Lima had gone. Lima Lima was also surprised to see that Alamaya was not with the rest of the group. Murera and Sonje sounded the alarm that something was wrong and the keepers did a head count, but before they could finish, Alamaya trumpeted loudly and all the orphans ran back to get him. When Alamaya rejoined the group the rest of the orphans put their trunks around his body, comforting him now that he was back in the safety of the group.

13 October 2016

Today Murera decided to lead the orphans to the Chyulu Hills where she knew they would get some acacia trees with branches hanging down, so that she and Sonje would be able to break branches for the young babies like Mwashoti and Alamaya who could not reach the tall branches. While they were busy browsing in the bushes, some elands came over and watched the orphans and the keepers. The elands were very suspicious of the relationship that the elephants had with their human family and were quick to run back into the bushes. Ngasha was very thirsty today and began sucking his trunk as if he was a small baby sucking his fingers. He then took off for the bottle feeding area as the keepers blocked Lima Lima in an effort to slow her down so that the rest of the orphans could be fed before she was. The youngsters all arrived in the company of Zongoloni and Jasiri and had their milk after which Lima Lima was given her share. The little boys arrived at the mud wallow feeling very hot and went directly to the waterhole where they began rubbing their bottoms against the muddy walls as they splashed water on their bodies, covering themselves in mud so that they could cool off from the heat of the day.

14 October 2016

Zongoloni and Sonje, broke down branches to feed on in the morning after enjoying their lucerne supplement feed. Jasiri busied himself scratching his neck against a big tree. Mwashoti came over to lead the babies away from the lucerne feeding corner towards the Umani Hills hoping to find fresher branches to feed on until the time to head to the mud bath. Once there the orphans all wallowed for a while as it was a very hot day again. Once Ngasha was satisfied that he had completely covered himself in mud he stood up looking around to see where to move to. He decided to make his way to the shade where he found his friend Faraja. The two often engage one another in strength testing games which they enjoy playing with each other as they are pretty evenly matched.

15 October 2016

It was difficult for Zongoloni to find some fresh branches to feed on today and she settled for some bark that she peeled from the yellow fever acacia trees that had been felled by some wild elephants during the night. Ziwa came along with Zongoloni and they all began fighting over the tree bark. Murera and Sonje felt it was wisest to take the babies to the Chyulu Hills, where they thought they would find more acacia trees; greener than the ones they were currently feeding on. Ngasha crossed some fallen trees as he made his way to Lima Lima who was in the bushes screaming loudly as if in need of help. Ngasha and Quanza both rushed to Lima Lima to find out why she was so upset only to find that she was calling for Alamaya. At the water springs, all the babies drank from the water springs as they were extremely thirsty. They all sucked up as much water as they could as nothing tastes better than fresh water drawn water directly from the source.

16 October 2016

The normal hay grass type of lucerne that the orphans usually feed on are currently not in the store so we are introducing the orphans to a new supplement of Lucerne pellets which the orphans all enjoyed feeding on before deciding which direction to take for the days browsing activities. Ziwa always tries to be the first to make his way to the supplement feeding area so that he can have more than the rest of the group. Once Ziwa had finished the pellets that had been laid out he saw some bushbucks coming to see if there were any pellets or pieces left that they could feed on. Ziwa was not happy about this and charged at the bushbucks, trumpeting and making as much noise as he could. It was not long before Mwashoti and Alamaya joined Ziwa in chasing the bushbucks away from the lucerne corner.

17 October 2016

When bottle feeding time came, Sonje and Ziwa got their bottles as part of the last group of babies to arrive at the feeding point together with Murera. Ziwa has taken to screaming when he arrives at the milk feeding area as he waits for the keepers to pick up his bottles to feed him. The keepers see this new behaviour as a sign that he is excited to see his bottles and can’t wait to have his milk. The only time he doesn’t scream is when he is fed at the stockades. During the waterhole swimming time, Jasiri went into the water flapping his big ears as he bounced around in the waterhole in pure enjoyment as he tried to swim like Lima Lima and Sonje do, but was nowhere near as graceful as they are.

18 October 2016

The orphans were in a playful mood when out in the bushes this morning. They enjoyed rolling around on the ground and having a lot of fun as they waited for the keepers so that they could all head to the forest to begin their day. When it was time to go Murera collected the group together and calmed them down before heading out. Zongoloni and Ngasha were very thirsty this morning and before they were taken for the bottle feeding time, they stopped to have a quick drink before proceeding to the waterhole. Mwashoti joined the big elephants at the waterhole for a mud bathing session. When Zongoloni exited the water and took the lead back to the bushes she found a fallen big tree which was good for scratching on. She enjoyed a good scratch before following Quanza and Lima Lima who had taken over the lead. Alamaya enjoyed a pushing game with Zongoloni this afternoon. Zongoloni was very tolerant of the younger boy and let him push her as she knew he was smaller than her and not as strong as she was and thus could not hurt him. In the evening the orphans came running through the stockade compound entrance to get to their nightly quarters as quick as they could. Zongoloni competed with Jasiri to see who would get in first. Ziwa arrived on his own which surprised the keepers as he usually comes back in the company of Sonje and Murera who were the last to arrive today.

19 October 2016

As the dry season continues, the wild animals and the orphans are all struggling to find browse to feed on. Ngasha found some trees that had been felled by wild elephants that had passed through in the night. The older orphans pulled down the branches to give the younger babies easier access to the fresh vegetation. The acacia tree is the only tree that helps the wild elephants in the dry weather. The orphans have also learned to feed on the acacias as their wild friends do. A fight erupted between Jasiri and Ngasha today when Jasiri ran off with an acacia branch that all the orphans had been feeding on. Murera who was waiting to make her way to the midday milk feed was curious to see why the boys were fighting. As such Murera arrived at the milk feeding area to find Zongoloni trying to finish the last bottle by picking it up and putting it into her mouth, sucking the nipple to make sure she finished every last drop. The young boy Mwashoti seemed to want to talk to Sonje and he was seen by the keepers putting his trunk to Sonje’s mouth who listened very carefully to what Mwashoti was saying. The keepers all wished that they could of know what the elephants speak about when they communicate like this.

20 October 2016

When the orphans went off to the forest to being their browsing activities some wild elephants came to join them. Not all the orphans were not ready to meet them though and Lima Lima and Zongoloni were the only ones to approach the baby in the wild herd. Lima Lima is very good with little babies and has very good motherly instincts. The moment the wild calf approached her she ran towards the baby but was charged at by its mother who warned her to leave the baby alone. Zongoloni was having a good time feeding on twigs which had been dropped by the wild elephants when they sensed the keepers and ran off as they are very wary of humans. The wild elephants were careful to keep the baby between them to ensure it was not left behind. Zongoloni and Lima Lima then walked to the waterhole where they enjoyed wallowing as it was very hot and they needed to cool off.

21 October 2016

When the elephants came out from their night quarters in the early morning hours the babies proceed to the lucerne feeding corner for their supplement feeds. Mwashoti stopped and looked for Murera and Sonje who were both waiting for Alamaya to come and join them. Alamaya rumbled loudly calling for the matriarchs to come and find him. Murera and Sonje were the first to get to him follow by Lima Lima who was wondering why her “baby” was upset. Quanza joined the other babies in the forest and they all shared the shade that they could find. Quanza found some fresh looking grass and kicked at it with her foot before trying to pull it up so that she could eat it. The orphans all enjoyed the mud bath and had a drink at the water point before they stared to make their way back home in the evening.

22 October 2016

Ngasha walked along the Kibwezi forest line to the rocky area which has very big rocks. He used all his courage to jump and crawl over the rocks to the other side where he found Lima Lima enjoying the acacia branches that had been pulled down by the wild elephants. Some buffaloes who had been startled by the keepers ran past on the other side of the rocks which did not bother the orphans who were busy browsing. Jealous Ngasha misbehaved today by trying to remove some grass from Alamaya’s mouth whilst he was eating. Alamaya could do nothing to stop him as Ngasha is bigger that Alamaya in both size and age and all Ngasha had to do was give Alamaya a look which stopped him from resisting at all. Lima Lima and Zongoloni were very playful with Alamaya who was pushing Zongoloni’s bottom to get Zongoloni to walk to the shade faster than she was, as it was very hot and Alamaya wanted to be escorted to the shade where he could take refuge from the sun that was beating down on them all.

23 October 2016

The Chyulu Hills have been dominated by the wild elephants as well as other wild life who are coming to the area for fresh grass as the other areas are very dry due to the persisting drought. The Umani water springs remains the only water source for all the wild life as well as our orphans. Murera and her orphan elephant family walk along the Chyulu Hills trying to follow the trails and footpaths taken by the wild elephants. Alamaya walked with Mwashoti and tried to link up with the older orphans who were being led by Faraja and Ngasha who were by the roadside getting ready to walk to the waterhole for their midday bottle feeding session. Faraja would not walk without seeing his keeper in front of him so he stopped to wait for the keeper to lead him. Sometimes Faraja behaves like a small baby in the nursery, wanting to be led everywhere by a keeper instead of behaving like the big boy that he is who has begun the reintroduction process that will lead to him living a wild life. At the waterhole Faraja climbed on Ngasha who was enjoying wallowing in the mud. Ngasha screamed loudly due to the heavy weight on him which caught him off guard. He hoped that by screaming Faraja would get off him!

24 October 2016

At the waterhole there is a lovely acacia tree near the water pool which Sonje began peeling bark off to chew on and enjoy. Whenever the orphans arrive at the mudbath, Murera and Sonje always stop to break and peel some of its branches which they share with the babies. The keepers moved the elephants to the forest for the remaining part of the day. As the elephants were walking along the bushes, Ziwa and Quanza got the smell of running water which was coming out from a broken water pipe. When Ziwa arrived he added more holes to the pipe using his tusks so that the orphans could drink directly from the spilling water. All the orphans drank their fill as the keepers watched and waited for them to finish so that they could all return to the stockades for the night.

25 October 2016

When Lima Lima saw that she was once again the last in line for the milk bottle she tried to run faster and got to the milk feeding area to find Sonje finishing the last of her milk bottle. She seemed upset at always being the last one to be fed but as she is the greediest orphan this is the way it has to be otherwise she tries to steal milk from the other orphans. After finishing his share Alamaya ran to the waterhole to wallow as he was feeling very hot and wanted to cover himself in mud to cool off. He left Mwashoti standing and waiting for Murera and Sonje who were with Zongoloni trumpeting loudly as they made their way to the mud bathing point. Murera took some time to play with the youngsters. Lately Mwashoti has got into the habit of climbing on Murera‘s back to play. He is the only orphan out of the herd that Murera allows to climb on her which he loves doing, as none of the others will let him play on their backs.

26 October 2016

All the elephants in the morning decided to form a very straight line as they headed to the Chyulu Hills to begin their day. Jasiri who is a roommate to Zongoloni made his way to Zongoloni who mistakenly thought that Jasiri was aiming to grab her tail which she doesn’t like and turned around ready to fight him. When Ngasha and Quanza saw what was going on they ran to Zongoloni to stop her from fighting with Jasiri who simply wanted to keep her company. The babies arrived for the midday bottle feeding with the sun beating down on them and as such immediately after the bottle feeding every elephant headed to the waterhole to swim so that they could cool down. Alamaya rolled and rolled around in the water so much that all that was visible of him was his tail. After the wallowing activities the orphans went back to the Chyulu Hills for the afternoons browsing session. Lima Lima and Quanza led the orphans back home for their night.

27 October 2016

It was very windy today at the mud bath point. The wind was so strong that it was blowing up the dust making it difficult for the keepers and the orphans to see one another so they all took refuge in the forest. Alamaya got scared when he saw that no one was caring for him as they all ran for shelter. Alamaya had to run for his life to the keepers who were also looking for shelter that would keep the dust out of their eyes. Some baboons were screaming as the branches of trees they were in were being broken by the wind and they had to move to sturdier branches. Unlike the rest of the orphans, who were running for safety, Faraja and Jasiri were walking very slowly to the trees as if oblivious to all that was going on around them. The two boys seem to be rebelling as adolescents often do, and not listening to the keepers or the older orphans. Murera often has to push them with her big tusks in order to get them to do as they are told. Alamaya came to Lima Lima where he was greeted warmly by her and the rest of the orphans who were with her, Zongoloni included, all of whom were happy to have the youngster back with them.

28 October 2016

Ziwa has started to change his habit of pushing Mwashoti around whenever they meet. This habit of his started due to the jealousy he felt towards the youngster ever since he came from the Nursery. Mwashoti is now often seen communicating with Ziwa, with Ziwa responding to him very calmly; a sign that he is now accepting the youngster and is nearly over his jealousy. Some buffaloes came out of the forest and made their way to the fence line behind the stockades to see if they could find any leftover hay or lucerne pellets that may have been left by the orphans. The keepers know that like the rest of the wildlife the buffaloes are struggling with the lack of food due to the drought, and gave them a bundle of hay to eat. When the orphans were out with their keepers a very big wild bull elephant made his way among the orphans. The keepers though it may be Ndugu but when they looked closer they saw some big cuts on the bulls ears which Ndugu does not have, and as such they knew it was a different bull. Sonje and Murera did not want to greet him as they were scared. Lima Lima and Zongoloni however were very brave and went a little closer to him sniffing the air for a bit before turning to rejoin the orphan group.

29 October 2016

The day turned out to be a very hot one for the orphans with all the babies flapping their ears as they looked for a place to have a swim and slather their bodies with some mud. As soon as they were done drinking their milk bottles Ngasha led them to the water pool to wallow. Every elephant was fighting for space so that they could get as much of their body as possible into the water to cool off, which they all managed! Faraja had mud all over his body and face, forcing him to shake his head a little so that he could get the mud out of his eyes. Once he was able to see he found Ngasha near him and jumped over Ngasha who was rubbing his belly and bottom on the ground. Mwashoti on the other side saw Zongoloni passing by and went to push Zongoloni who knew that Mwashoti wanted to play with her and as such was happy to let him do what he wanted to do.

30 October 2016

Mwashoti has been very energetic these days and wherever he sees Sonje or Murera he feels like jumping on their backs but finds it hard to do as they are much taller than him. As such he prefers to climb Murera when she lies down dust bathing, and which Murera is happy to let him do. Quanza caught the scent of some wild elephants coming from the forest close to where she was selecting some fresh branches to feed on around the Umani water springs area. She found Ngasha already drinking fresh water directly from the source. He was scared by some crocodiles and stopped drinking to rush and join Quanza who continued to smell the wild elephants. When the orphans left for the Chyulu Hills, they met up with Ndugu was coming to the water springs for clean water. Jasiri and Zongoloni went to greet the older bull before making their way to the bottle feeding area while Ndugu went on his way not wanting to mix with the keepers today.

31 October 2016

It was another extremely hot day again today and the temperature began rising since early morning. Quanza ran behind Lima Lima who was headed for the water trough and upon arrival quickly put her trunk into the water and had a drink before splashing water all over herself. When the keepers arrived with the bottles at the mud wallow they found many crane birds, monkeys, and some antelopes drinking at the waterhole all of whom were feeling very thirsty as it was so hot. Mwashoti and Alamaya joined forces and trumpeted loudly before charging at them which made the birds and other wildlife scatter as they saw the elephants running towards them. The crane birds and monkeys took refuge in the trees as the antelopes headed for the bushes.