Keepers' Diaries, October 2019

Umani Springs Reintegration Unit

Rain fell over the Kibwezi forest continuously this month as the short November rains arrived early. As a result the vegetation recovered and looked green and verdant once more, much to the delight of the Umani orphans and the other resident wildlife. Herds of buffaloes grazed along the open plains as well as troops of baboons who were scattered like ants across grassy plains, picking at the delicious fresh grass shoots with their teeth. The orphan elephants love these new fresh shoots as well, and busied themselves kicking the strong grass using their toes and feet to slash specifically chosen pieces before collecting up with their trunk to place in their mouths. 

01 October 2019

This afternoon, after their midday bottles of milk, most of the orphans were not interested in having a mud bath and simply walked over to the edge of the forest, standing in the shade waiting for the Keepers to finish their lunch. Shukuru on the other hand was very eager for her mud bath and walked over to the waterhole and began splashing mud on her head and chest and eventually lay down in the water, rolling around covering her entire body in mud. When Shukuru and the Keepers were ready to head back to the forest, the orphans happily followed Shukuru and Mwashoti back up to the hills. 

02 October 2019

There were huge gusts of wind throughout the day today, and once again most of the orphans refused to have a mud bath after their midday bottles of milk. Murera seemed to try and persuade them to join her in the waterhole but they all refused, and she was left on her own splashing some mud over her body. 

Whilst the orphans were waiting around the waterhole for their Keepers, they were joined by two wild bulls. Murera and Sonje did not seem happy with their two new guests and kept rumbling at the bulls as if to keep them away. The bulls didn’t approach the orphans and kept their distance, drinking water from the water trough. Zongoloni and Quanza tried to follow the bulls back to the forest but they were quickly chased away by the bulls who now appeared uninterested in socializing with any of the orphans. 

As the orphans left the waterhole, they made their way back to Chyulu hills. Along the path they came across a wild herd with very young calves. The young calves were struggling to climb up the hills and were going very slowly. Sonje came over to try and help one of the calves but the calf was reluctant to follow the orphans and stayed close to its mother. 

03 October 2019

With all the orphans at the Umani Reintegration Unit, it is difficult to pinpoint exactly when they will be reintegrated back into the wild. As of late, it has been quite evident that Ziwa and some of the other older orphans at Umani, namely most of the older boys, are becoming more and more confident about venturing away from the orphan herd. Today, Faraja and Zongoloni led Ngasha, Jasiri, Ziwa and Lima Lima out to the field to meet up with some of their wild friends. Whilst in the forest, they were reluctant to leave their new friends, and Lima Lima was the first to eventually call it a night and head back to the stockade compound. Lima Lima made it back to the stockade compound just before midnight and Zongoloni appeared later that evening. Both the girls were let back in by their Keepers and they quickly settled with the rest of the orphans. The four boys, however, spent their night on the Chyulu hills and joined the rest of the orphan herd at the mud bath for their midday bottles of milk. 

04 October 2019

This morning, Lima Lima and Shukuru appeared to be giving each other the warmest of greetings. Shukuru walked over to Lima Lima and greeted her by putting her trunk near Lima Lima’s mouth and then dropping to her belly. Lima Lima then responded by rumbling nicely at her. 

As the orphans made their way over to the pellet feeding point, they came across a very large troop of baboons. Sonje and Mwashoti decided to have some fun and chase after the baboons, trumpeting at them and making sure they didn’t get to any of the Lucerne pellets. Sonje was so busy charging around that she didn’t notice a large rock in her path which she tripped over and fell to the group trumpeting loudly. Murera and Quanza quickly went over, as if to check that Sonje was okay, and helped her up. The three of them joined the rest of the Umani herd as they made their way out to the Chyulu hills to browse. 

05 October 2019

Sonje appeared to be in a good mood today as she was happily wondering around in the forest browsing and smelling her surroundings. She seemed to be looking for something and at one point she disappeared into the bushes, leaving Mwashoti and the others behind. The Keepers began to look for her when she suddenly reappeared with two young bulls they had not seen before. Sonje, who has always been particularly picky as to which bulls she would spend time with, always appeared to have a soft spot for Osama, who we have not seen for some time now. It was nice to see her interacting with these two bulls, and Murera eventually joined them. The four interacted for some time before Sonje and Murera made their way back to the orphan herd and their Keepers. 

06 October 2019

Alamaya was in a particularly naughty mood throughout the evening as he kept stealing Shukuru’s branches. His naughty mood carried on in the morning when he kept trying to steal her morning Lucerne pellets. Shukuru appeared to get annoyed by his antics, and eventually smacked him with trunk and pushed him away. This seemed to hurt Alamaya as he rumbled at her, but it didn’t deter him as he kept coming back to steal more pellets. Eventually, Shukuru got very upset with him and chased him away. Alamaya appeared to think he would be protected by Zongoloni or Lima Lima, but he didn’t receive any support today and had to deal with the consequences of his naughty actions. 

As the orphans were browsing and walking along the Chyulu hills, they came across lots of other animals including a troop of baboons and some impala. They decided to have some fun and began to chase the impala and baboons away from their path. All their trumpeting and rumbling attracted the attention of some of the other animals who all seemed to be watching the orphans. Quanza and Ziwa were the loudest and kept going for some time. As they were busy running around, Shukuru and Mwashoti walked off away from the herd, and the Keepers had to go and look for them to bring them back. 

07 October 2019

Faraja and Lima Lima were very playful this afternoon at the mud bath. Once they had finished their bottles of milk they immediately went over to the waterhole and began to enjoy a mud bath. They were soon joined by the rest of the Umani herd. Alamaya and Mwashoti looked like hippos in the water with only their bellies and bottoms seen rolling around on the surface of the water. They would stick their trunks out the water every now and then to breathe. 

Once the orphans had finished their mud baths, they began to walk back towards the forest with Sonje and Murera leading. Jasiri and Ziwa went off in their own direction, walking back towards the Umani hills. Shukuru went off in her own direction and walked back to her Keepers who were still finishing their lunches. Mwashoti and Alamaya also came back to where Shukuru was standing, and Alamaya and Shukuru greeted each other by interlocking their trunks. 

08 October 2019

Lima Lima plays an important role as one of the caretakers of the Umani and this is a role she takes very seriously. The Keepers are always so impressed when she goes above and beyond to protect the younger orphans and the rest of the Umani herd. Today, whilst the orphans were in the forest, Alamaya and Mwashoti were heading towards one of the watering holes and didn’t notice that there were crocodiles in the water. Lima Lima, who had already seen the crocodiles, came charging over and jumped into the watering hole, in front of the two young boys, stopping them from getting into the water. Crocodiles, although they keep their distance from the orphans, can still be dangerous and should be given a wide berth. 

09 October 2019

There was consistent rainfall throughout the day, and the orphans were thoroughly enjoying themselves on the hills as they were seen wallowing and rolling around on the wet and muddy ant hills. Ziwa and Zongoloni moved to where Shukuru was rolling around and began to fool around next to her. She eventually decided to move away, and she was sure to keep her distance from Ngasha and Faraja, who were having a strength testing match, as she made her way to the Keepers. The Keepers were standing with Murera, Mwashoti, and Lima Lima under the cover of some of the bigger trees. 

Whilst in the forest, a herd of buffalo appeared, looking for some fresh grass to graze on. As they got closer to the orphans Alamaya and Lima Lima started to rumble at them and refused to let them get any closer. Eventually the buffalo decided to continue on their path. 

10 October 2019

With the heavy rainfall the other day, the orphans seem to be in more of a rush these days to make their way out to the forest in the morning, and they were all racing one another rather than following one leader. The Keepers had to quickly follow the orphans this morning as they made their way out to greener areas and didn’t stop to browse along the route. Sonje was joined by Mwashoti and Zongoloni, and Quanza was walking with Jasiri. Jasiri seemed to enjoy the company of the female orphans as he didn’t choose to always follow the other boys, such as Faraja and Ziwa, when they went off to interact with wild friends. 

11 October 2019

This morning as the orphans were making their way out to the forest, Faraja decided to head off in his own direction and go look for some of his wild friends. The Keepers knew that he would be fine and let him carry on. At the midday mud bath, all the orphans came down for their milk and the Keepers waited for about half an hour to see if Faraja would be joining them. When they realized Faraja wasn’t joining them, they decided to give his bottle to Mwashoti, who thoroughly enjoyed the extra milk. Lima Lima kept trying to steal the bottle from Mwashoti, so the Keepers had to keep her away. 

In the evening, when the orphans made their way back to the stockade, the Keepers had a look around for Faraja but he was nowhere to be seen. Murera and Sonje were the last to enter the stables before the Keepers finished up with their evening duties. Later that evening, the Keepers heard many elephants outside the stockades. They came out to see if Faraja might be amongst them and they immediately noticed him being escorted back by his wild friends. 

12 October 2019

As the orphans were heading out for their day of browsing, Quanza and Zongoloni were walking with Alamaya while Mwashoti walked with Sonje and Murera. Murera and Sonje always protect Mwashoti, especially when some of the older boys such as Ziwa try to playfully tease him. The two girls are always first to chase the naughty boys away. 

As Quanza, Zongoloni and Alamaya were making their way to the water springs, they did not notice some crocodiles basking in the sun. Alamaya unknowingly walked so close to them, giving them a fright and as a result they quickly back into the water. Alamaya also got a fright and began to rumble at the crocodiles. Quanza and Zongoloni took no notice of the commotion and continued to browse on some nearby bushes. 

Ngasha and the boys again made their way out to the hills, leaving the girls behind with Mwashoti and Alamaya. 

13 October 2019

Whilst the orphans were browsing in the forest today, they were joined by several wild herds of elephants, many with young calves and some were just bachelor herds moving through. Many of the calves were very young, and Lima Lima immediately tried to assist and babysit the calves. Sadly, however, none of the mothers would let her get close to the calves and they kept chasing her away. Lima Lima was always the first to try and get close to the calves and hopefully bring them over to introduce to the Keepers. However, the herds are always so protective of their young that she rarely succeeds.  

Ziwa and Ngasha always went over to the wild herds, trying to get close to the calves but they too were chased away by the older females. The Keepers really struggled to call Lima Lima back as she kept trying to get close to the young ones and even tried to follow the wild herds. Eventually she gave up as it was getting late and it was time for the orphans to head back to the stockades for the evening. 

14 October 2019

After their midday bottles of milk, the orphans were joined by a group of wild bulls all making their way down to the water trough to have a drink of water. Mwashoti was the first to smell and see the wild bulls and he began to trumpet and rumble. He was soon joined by Murera who was also raising the alarm. The Keepers had a look to see if they could spot Osama, but he was not there. As the large bulls approached the waterhole Murera stepped back giving them their space, whereas Sonje and Lima Lima walked over and joined the bulls as they were drinking. Murera and Mwashoti moved even further away and walked over to Shukuru who was standing near the Keepers. 

Once the Keepers had finished their lunch, they called the orphans to make their way back to the forest. Faraja and Ziwa headed straight towards the Chyulu hills, followed by the other boys. They were not seen for the rest of the afternoon and evening. As Faraja, Ziwa, Ngasha and Jasiri all gain their confidence and independence they are beginning to spend more and more time away from Umani herd and the stockade. 

15 October 2019

This morning, Ziwa, Faraja and Ngasha again made their way out to the forest ahead of the rest of the Umani herd. They headed out all the way to Kenze Gate. Zongoloni and Quanza tried to follow them but they were quickly stopped by Sonje and Shukuru. In many ways, it seems as though Sonje knows that the girls will struggle to find their way back to the stockade compound in the evening. The other evening, for example Lima Lima was escorted back by a herd of wild bulls. She appeared to be quite exhausted when she arrived back and was happy to be back with the rest of the Umani herd. Sometimes Ziwa and the boys can be off on their adventures for several days. It will be a proud moment for the Keepers when they finally become fully reintegrated back into the wild. 

16 October 2019

We have come across a few wild elephants in the forest where the orphans always like to browse, as if they are roaming there intentionally trying to greet the orphans or even entice them into joining their herd. Ziwa liaises with these wild herds on an almost daily basis, and he likes Faraja and Ngasha to join him and be by his side too. Ziwa and Ngasha always go together so that they are stronger together, and they can defend themselves if need be.

When the babies were browsing along the Chyulu Hills they heard some baboons yelling and warning their friends of danger. It is the kind of noise they make when they see a leopard, so everyone was on alert. 

17 October 2019

Murera and Sonje came out and walked straight to the gate for some tasty Lucerne pellets. When Jasiri and Faraja came out and walked over to join them, they began play-fighting for a very long time, leaving Quanza and Lima Lima wondering how to separate them and at the same time not get hurt themselves. Murera was not bothered by the big boys play-fighting, instead she just walked peacefully past them to where she could see some big yellow acacia branches that had been pulled down in the night by wild elephants. She had a very good meal there with her friend Mwashoti. When she was done she rumbled to Mwashoti and we all saw them all leaving to walk towards the water springs area.

18 October 2019

Alamaya and Mwashoti were fighting from either side of their partition over their water troughs last night. Alamaya was drinking water from Mwashoti’s trough and when Mwashoti saw his water getting lower and lower and knowing that Alamaya might finish it before morning, he began to get annoyed and started pushing on the partition for Alamaya to stop and go and drink his own water. Both orphans were pushing on their partition very hard, making the Keepers come out and talk to them to stop fighting. Mwashoti very quickly stopped which made Alamaya stop too. This was when he noticed that Shukuru had been stealing some of his green braches through the wooden wall posts of their own partition. 

19 October 2019

Since the rain down here at Umani, the shrubs that were drying up are now resurrected and it is beginning to look green and lush once more. This is wonderful for all the animals in the Kibwezi forest. Troops of baboons spread out across the grassy fields picking fresh grass shoots with their teeth, and the elephant orphans too enjoy these fresh grassy shoots whenever they walk across any open ground – they are all spotted being very busy kicking the strong grass using their toes and feet to slash pieces they can pick up with their trunk and put in their mouths. 

When the orphans arrived for their noon milk bottles they all looked very thirsty and eager for their milk. Shukuru ran the fastest to the milk feeding point, leaving all the others behind her. Mwashoti, Alamaya and Zongoloni arrived some minutes after Shukuru. When Shukuru finished she swiftly moved towards the waterhole leaving the others still having their milk – she wanted to keep moving so as not to meet with the trouble making boys. 

20 October 2019

It began raining in the morning as soon as the orphans finished having their milk bottles, so none of them stopped to pick up any Lucerne pellets that had already put out for them to enjoy. They don’t like the pellets when they are wet, so instead they all skipped them and, following Murera and Mwashoti, they walked off into the hills.

In the forest some wild elephants came to join the Umani babies. They walked to where Ziwa and Faraja were play fighting over who could climb on Zongoloni. Zongoloni was lying down on the ground waiting to play with Faraja and when Ziwa walked over and climbed on her she tried to get up, as it was Faraja she wanted to play with and not Ziwa who can be quite rough.

21 October 2019

Faraja, Ngasha and Ziwa decided not come back to the stockades for the night. The three bulls seem to have made a ‘boys club’ and we don’t expect them to always browse with the other orphans or come back on time in the evening. Sometimes they come back but they arrive late; other times they choose to remain out for the entire night if their wild friends have been very welcoming towards them. Often the Keepers will try to follow them and call them to bring them home in the evening but Ziwa is very determined and leads the other bulls, and if he wants to stay out then that is what they will do. 

Around midday today the Keepers heard a lot of elephants trumpeting loudly near the Umani water springs and they thought Faraja and Ziwa might be being pushed around by some wild elephants, so the Keepers tried calling the three boys. Shortly later only Faraja and Ngasha came back, leaving Ziwa alone in the forest with their wild friends and he only arrived back at the stockades the following morning.

22 October 2019

At four o’clock today many wild elephants came to look for Sonje in the forest. Sonje was browsing very far away from the Keepers. All the other orphans crowded together as if in some sort of meeting that Lima Lima was chairing, and they seemed to decide that they did not want their wild friends taking Sonje away with them and disrupting the peace. Lima Lima informed the Keepers there were wild bulls about, and then after a few minutes we saw Lima Lima bring Sonje to the Keepers. The wild bulls came and tried hard to take Sonje with them but she was with the other orphans and Keepers now and they all began to walk away, back down the hill towards the stockades to return for the night and have their evening milk bottle too. 

23 October 2019

The sun rose very early today without any cloud cover around to obscure the morning, making the Keepers let the babies out as soon as they had finished their morning milk bottles so they could go to the pellet feeding area. Murera came out with her normal little limp, and she seemed to be in a bit of a bad mood today. She wasn’t being very nice to Quanza and Jasiri and wouldn’t let them eat pellets in peace. Faraja kept dodging her but she kept interrupting everyone, excluding Mwashoti of course who she loves dearly. 

When the orphans reached the Umani Hills, Murera seemed to be her normal self again, now being friendly towards Quanza and all the other orphans, who were happy to be able to browse near her again. 

24 October 2019

Faraja and Ziwa disappeared in the forest a few minutes before the noon milk feed. All the other orphans came to get their milk bottles but the two boys did not show up. Ziwa arrived later when the Keepers were now having their lunch under their normal tree. They looked up to see Ziwa running from the bushes going towards the bottle feeding area but when he reached there none of the other orphans were still there. He turned away to join his friends who had already started browsing again. Faraja then appeared from the forest but he was not in a hurry. He slowly ambled over to join Sonje and Zongoloni without even stopping at the milk feeding area because he knew the feeding was over. Lucky Mwashoti and Shukuru had grabbed the extra bottles for those who did not come on time. In the evening both Ziwa and Faraja came on time, not wishing to repeat their mistake earlier and miss the bottle feed – they were the first ones to the stockades to get their milk bottles on time!

25 October 2019

Sonje was playing at the stockades and rolling around on the ground as Mwashoti climbed on her back. This attracted Ziwa, Faraja and Zongoloni to try and see if they could find space to climb on Sonje as well while she was on the ground. When all these big babies tried to climb on her back however she felt pressed down by all their combined weight. She yelled out for help and Murera quickly responded to her. She disciplined the misbehaving baby’s Faraja and Ziwa naughty behaviour for hurting Sonje, but she left Mwashoti to be with Sonje enjoying the game as he was not hurting her. When Sonje got up she was not walking very well as her bad leg had gone very stiff but after a while it loosened up again.

26 October 2019

This morning it was raining which forced the orphans not to stop to eat the Lucerne pellets in the compound which they don’t like to eat when they’re wet. Sonje just walked out leading everyone towards the Chyulu Hills to fill up their empty stomachs. Zongoloni and Faraja found a termite hill which they decided to roll on and as they did they slowly turned the colour of the muddy termite hill. Murera kept going and did not stop, she knew the boys would catch up and left them to play as the Keepers waited for them along the path.

When the orphans were at the mud bath later on, some buffalos came with a little calf. They watched the orphans at the waterhole and it seemed as if the buffalo and her baby wanted to come in for a swim. Lima Lima and Jasiri saw the buffaloes and decided to walk towards them. When the mother buffalo saw the elephants approaching they both ran away leaving the place to the elephant orphans.

27 October 2019

Some antelopes around the Umani Hills came to browse among the elephant orphans this morning and they didn’t seem to mind the Keepers at all.

Mwashoti and Alamaya were playing but then Alamaya wanted to try and climb on Mwashoti which he could not stand for because of his bad leg and he knew he wouldn’t be able to keep his balance. He pushed Alamaya away as he didn’t want to play anymore, but Alamaya still insisted and started trying to pull his tail, so Mwashoti turned to fight him using his tusks which have grown a lot.

All the babies turned up for the bottle feeding time a noon. As the orphans were finishing their bottles, some crested crane birds flew from the forest right over their heads at the mud bath where they were standing. Faraja with Alamaya got a fright and they ran off as they couldn’t see what it was flying above them.

28 October 2019

Alamaya walked to the loading ramp this morning to show off to the other bulls how big and strong he is – the extra height gave him confidence and he was demonstrating that although he has no tail they should not underestimate him. Alamaya hates it when anyone touches his tail and he always puts up a big fight if anyone dares to. Ziwa was being very naughty this morning however and would not stop playing and touching his tail, so in the end Alamaya gave up and walked off, leaving Ziwa to play a pushing game with Faraja. 

Buffalos were spotted around the slopes of the hills, trying to forage on the grass that has begun shooting up after the rain. Lima Lima, Faraja and Zongoloni were trying to move the buffaloes away to give the orphans the space to browse there too, without fear of getting mixed up among them. Murera and Sonje decided to go and play some dusting games on some soil piles they found, where Sonje rolled around and dusted her whole body. Murera stood by watching how Sonje was enjoying the dust and then she started copying her. 

29 October 2019

The leader of the boys club Ziwa took all the other big boys off and walked far off with them into the forest, leaving only Jasiri, Alamaya and Mwashoti to stay with Murera, Sonje and Shukuru too. Ziwa had planned for the bulls not to come back today for any milk bottles. They failed to come back at midday, but the youngsters Alamaya and Mwashoti were quite happy about that because they were the lucky beneficiaries of the extra bottles!

When it was time to return to the stockades for the night the boys still did not return and it was almost as if Lima Lima came to try and inform the Keepers that they were not coming. It seemed Ziwa and the other bulls had joined some wild friends and they planned to stay out the whole night. Again Alamaya, Mwashoti and Lima Lima were the happy beneficiaries of the extra bottles and they seemed very happy not to have the older boys around and dutifully followed the Keepers around everywhere.

30 October 2019

Sonje was playing in the bushes and rolling on the ground when some of the bigger boys, Ziwa and Ngasha, came over and started climbing on her. They climbed all over her with their full weight, so when Sonje tried to get up and couldn’t manage, she yelled out to alert her friend Murera to come and help her. When Ziwa and Ngasha saw Murera walking over they got off Sonje and ran away into the bushes to hide and avoid being disciplined by Murera who they all respect.

At the waterhole around noon, the other orphans decided to join Shukuru and Lima Lima who were already there. When Shukuru saw the others approaching she decided to walk away leaving them there with Lima Lima, as she didn’t want anyone to start any boisterous games with her. 

31 October 2019

Rain continues to fall here at Umani turning many of the puddles throughout the forest into larger water holes. The orphans are choosing to play in these new puddles out in the forest and avoid the larger main mud bath after their noon milk bottle. Zongoloni arrived with Jasiri to the noon milk feed with their bodies looking very muddy, so after finishing their milk they just went straight off to go and feed on the grasslands where lots of tasty fresh grass was growing. They left Murera and the rest of the herd near the Keepers who they were waiting for to finish their lunch and walk with them back into the forest to continue browsing. They walked for the rest of the day along the Kenze hills, before returning home.