Keepers' Diaries, September 2014

Umani Springs Reintegration Unit

Umani Overview

01 September 2014

Sonje began her day in jovial manner, rolling around in the soil Murera decided to join in all the excitement of soil dusting. Suddenly the orphans all got up and raced to the keepers sensing a problem in the nearby bushes. The keepers were then alerted and quickly got up in search for what the elephants had sensed. After approximately 5 minutes the keepers spotted some buffaloes in the distance running away from where the orphans were. The orphans had obviously startled the buffaloes and caused the buffaloes to flee the area. At mud bath time all the babies felt the heat of the hot mid day sun, so they all decided to jump straight into the water hole (that had been made by wild elephants in search of water) in an attempt to cool themselves.

02 September 2014

The elephants stockade doors were opened wide in the early morning in order for the elephants to rush out and feast on their acacia pods and Lucerne. However, today the elephants were far more interested in quenching their thirst in the nearby water hole than eating anything, so they all rushed to the water hole and once they were satisfied at the water hole they then returned and feasted on the acacia pods and lucerne. Thereafter, the orphans spent some time scratching on rocks, but today Sonje and Lima lima found a fallen down tree that was filled with soft pods and greens, this obviously captured their attention for a good hour or so until the keepers ushered them further into the bush.

03 September 2014

Murera got up very early this morning, being the motherly figure that she is, she walked around to make sure all the other orphans were alright and safe. As she rumbled all the orphans awoke and were ready to take on the new day. Murera was in an extremely good mood and it seems her limp seems to be disappearing as one can barely notice her limping anymore. Umani is certainly suiting her. Sonje took the lead and led the orphans to soil where they could all enjoy the dust. Sonje immediately began to roll around in the soil swinging her bottom from side to side. Murera saw all the fun Sonje was having and couldn’t help but to join. So she too began to roll in the soil. The other babies were very busy browsing nearby as they broke dry twigs and branches, filling up their stomachs. The rest of the day was peaceful as the orphans rested under a big yellow fever tree and browsed on nearby bushes before being led home by Lima lima for the night.

04 September 2014

Lima lima woke this morning and immediately went in search for some Lucerne in their stockade. She luckily found some tucked away in the stockade corner but it didn’t take long until Zongoloni and Quanza rushed up to Lima lima and pushed her off her feet in order for them to enjoy the lucerne. Then Zongoloni pushed Quanza to the ground! This was very unusual as the two are normally best friends but when it comes to food there is no stopping them. After all the orphans had enjoyed some lucerne they all walked into the bush alongside the keepers. As they were busy browsing a crane bird startled the herd as it called out, the orphans were terrified and all quickly ran into the thicket of the bush in search for the keepers. Lima lima had never heard this call before and therefore caused the entire herd to be scared. However the keepers were not too far away and after a while the elephants calmed down and continued their day of browsing.

05 September 2014

When the orphans left their stockades in the morning, Zongoloni with Lima lima went their separate ways as they each looked for a better side of the bushes with nice soft greens. Quanza with Murera also went their own directions leaving Sonje alone, but Sonje hates being separated from Murera so it didn’t take long before Sonje ran to catch up with Murera. Eventually Murera, Sonje and Quanza wondered up Umani Hills forcing the keepers and other orphans to follow. On the slopes of Umani Hills there is a beautiful spring that the elephants love to drink from and when it’s hot enough they occasionally swim and play in the clean fresh water. During the orphans mid day feed, Quanza decided to grab her bottle and run away with it expecting more to come out. Zongoloni and Lima lima also stole their bottles, but eventually they all returned and dropped their bottles after realizing nothing more would be forth coming. The keepers couldn’t help but laugh at the orphans and their naughty tricks. Sonje all of a sudden got a gust of energy and pushed down a tree showing off all her strength. Sonje had quite a crowd watching her, a little bushbuck watched in awe as well as the annoying baboons. She felt very good about it.

06 September 2014

Murera and Sonje woke up and went in search for somewhere to scratch their tummies. By good chance, they came across a fallen log so they quickly took their places and began to scratch away. After their scratch, Murera led the orphans into the bush in order for them to enjoy a day of browsing. The weather became extremely hot as we got closer to mid day, so with no delay the elephants walked to the mud hole and enjoyed some quality time wallowing and enjoying the water. The mid day heat was almost unbearable, so after the orphans had wallowed in the mud the keeper slid them to a shady area where they all took their places and slept happily. Zongoloni rested under a dry palm tree and seemed to be very comfortable. Quanza couldn’t help but join Zongoloni as she took her place right next to sleeping Zongoloni. As for Lima lima, she obviously had to be close to her keepers and instead slept somewhere where she knew the keepers would be near.

07 September 2014

In the early morning, when the babies left their stockades, a vulture jumped into her nest directly above Lima lima’s head. As the vulture landed a piece of wood fell and landed on top of Lima lima’s head which freaked her out completely. This in turn caused all the orphans to get a fright and run for refuge in the thick bush. They eventually re-grouped a few hundred meters away close to where the keepers were. The keepers couldn’t help but laugh at all this commotion, so they led the orphans to the mud bath to try distracting them from all the stress they had gone through.

08 September 2014

Sonje has found a different method of eating Acacia pods, instead of eating the fallen pods on the ground she has now learnt to dig up the roots and feed on the tubes. She uses her toes to dig up the roots. Quanza too has picked up on this method, so Sonje and Quanza began to dig away at the roots. Except it didn’t take long until Sonje was no longer willing to share her roots that she had found and instead pushed Quanza away with her longer tusks. Murera came across a fallen log and found it necessary to scratch her hind legs on it as for Quanza and Zongoloni they were busy browsing on the dry soft grass. Eventually the keepers led the orphans to the mud hole, Limalima took some time rolling and wallowing in the mud but she was the only one as the rest of the orphans didn’t seem interested today. Murera took Zongoloni for a walk where she led Zongoloni to an area of soft grass. Back at the mud hole Sonje was attempting to squeeze Lima lima with her stomach by pushing up against Lima lima who was minding her own business scratching herself on a log.

09 September 2014

Murera and Sonje took the orphans out to browse in the morning, Quanza, Zongoloni and Lima lima decided to follow the keepers instead. Murera has come to realize that Lima lima is desperately trying to run the little orphan herd but she is fully confident that the orphans will always follow her as a result of her age and wisdom despite being physically inhibated. At midday the orphans ventured down to the mud hole and then wallowed and played for a good hour. After wallowing the elephants decided it was a good idea to go and play in the dust. As the orphans played in the dust, one of the keepers tried to take photos of Murera but instead Murera put her trunk over her eyes and hid away from the camera which was sweet to see. The forest is now dry but the orphans are still accessing tasty and varied food. They all seem so happy, and so is the Keeper team at Umani – it is really feeling like home.

10 September 2014

Once the orphans were let out their stockades this morning, Quanza kept her distance as she browsed away from the other orphans. Lima lima then wondered over to see what Quanza was up too and what treats she was browsing upon. They then spent time just the two of them enjoying the browse and the company. The weather changed and became very warm and uncomfortable forcing all the babies to shelter under trees in order to cool down, but even the shade seemed hot and the orphans were left with no choice but to walk towards the mud hole so that they could soak in the watery mud and keep cool. After wallowing, our clever girl Lima lima knew it was time to lead the girls to the dusting area, Murera played for a long period of time as she exercised and enjoyed all the dust around her. Murera is doing so well in this environment and seems genuinely content with her group of female friends.

11 September 2014

Limalima took the lead towards the field located quite a distance away but constantly checking and making sure the keepers were close by. Lima lima then proceeded to lead the herd to the quarry side of Umani Hill. Going down the hill and into the quarry can be extremely challenging especially for Murera who still struggles at times with her leg, but once the elephants reached the quarry they happily played together and browsed happily enjoying the slopes to slip down. Quanza joined Lima lima as they then led the herd to Umani lodge where the elephants wallowed in the waterhole in front of the lodge. It is the dry season now, so the sun is particularly hot however the rains will come soon we hope and the forest will be transformed into a garden of eden, flowers and butterflies everywhere. Lima lima went and joined the keepers by the rocks where they had seated, as the others continued to wallow and browse before they all walked home for the evening.

12 September 2014

When the stockade doors were opened all the elephants rushed to the acacia pods, but because of the dry season the pods no longer grew. Lima lima searched and searched but there was no use, the pods were gone. Sonje approached Murera is hope that they could play together, Murera didn’t seem to be in the mood to play, so instead left Sonje scratching on a nearby log as she sat on a rock enjoying the sun as it heated up the land. Murera got to the water hole at mid day and persisted on splashing water onto her belly and then splashing about the mud onto everyone else including the keepers. Quanza joined Murera for a short time before she started browsing on the soft grass.

13 September 2014

The elephants walked to the Quarry again located near the Umani hills, Murera was very cautious walking around the edge of the quarry. Once the orphans reached the quarry they passed by in order to get to the flowing water near the broken pipeline where today they had a small audience, but Quanza definitely stole the show as she began to dry her muddy bottom on the grass causing everyone to laugh and clap.

14 September 2014

The day began with Sonje trying to show the other orphans the beautiful new greens that were growing behind the stockade area, the little shrubs had grow after the few rain showers we had had a couple of days back. Young Zongoloni heard baboons shouting, she stayed very still and listened to all the sounds working out what they meant. The baboons then began to approach the elephants but the keepers intervened, not that they would have done anything, infact they would have provided good charging entertainment for the elephants. At the midday mudbath time the orphans instantly dived into the water and began to wallow but Lima lima instead rolled around on the grass preferring that, and fed on the nearby shrubs. As the sun fell, the keepers and the orphans walked home slowly but happily. There is so much evidence of the wild elephants coming to the same areas under the cover of darkness and our orphans are enjoying their scents and signs. At night the bulls come around the stockades and communicate to the babies.

15 September 2014

The morning started with all the babies looking strong and healthy but a few too many ticks hanging on their chests. So the keepers decided to take the babies back to their stockades for them to be sprayed. Quanza was not happy when the keepers locked their stockade doors behind them, not use to this sort of thing during the day- but they tolerated the spray and continued on their way. Mudbath time was a welcome break from the midday heat. The orphans then went to the quarry side, and closer to the water sources fed on green vegetation. On their return home The elephants settled down to eating their lucerne and then as night fell and Umani’s night souns reverberated through the forest the babies contentedly fell asleep one by one.

16 September 2014

The orphans began to browse in the early morning while Lima lima and Sonje took different routes in search for green bush. Unfortunately the elephants were not satisfied with the browse in the area and this placed them in a bad mood. The hot such and lack of greens makes the dry season challenging for all the animals. Umani Springs is easier than most places, but the rains are nearing. After the elephants were finally satisfied Sonje led the herd to an area of shade where they all slept for the remainder of the hot afternoon. As the day cooled down the orphans became more active, ending up in their stockades with plenty of supplementary Lucerne and dairy cubes to enjoy.

17 September 2014

When all the elephants came out of their stockades Sonje with Murera took the babies to explore the quarry in hope that they would find lush delicious greens. Once reaching the quarry the elephants seemed disappointed as it is a very dry part of the forest. Murera left Sonje behind as she went in search for Acacia roots, she only re joined the herd at the mud hole. Poor Sonje had felt lost and quite disorientated without Murera so instead she patiently waited under a tree until Murera emerged out of the thicket. All the babies enjoyed a long wallow in the cool refreshing mud. Lima lima and Murera had lots of excitement as they rolled in the mud together.

18 September 2014

Near the stockades, the water hole was busy with the orphans taking water in morning and later on, the orphans began following the smell and the footprints of their wild friends that came during the night. The wild elephants must have come in search for water and left their foot prints and scent behind. Quanza and Zongoloni quenched their thirst and left the waterhole, while Sonje followed Quanza to join her in scratching near a big fallen tree. The wild elephants had obviously done the same as all the orphans were constantly smelling the tree finding it extremely interesting. During the day out in the bush Quanza suddenly picked up her ears and alerted everyone that there was something up. After a few minutes we spotted what Quanza had seen, a group of baboons were swinging from tree to tree close to where the elephants were browsing. So the keepers quickly moved the elephants to an area where the baboons wouldn’t annoy them. In the evening Quanza became very naughty while drinking her milk, after she had finished her bottle, she run away with the bottle forcing the keepers to chase after her. She instantly dropped the bottle in the mud where she knew the keepers couldn’t get it. Clever but naughty girl!

19 September 2014

The elephants awoke this morning and proceeded to dust themselves, suddenly a trumpet bellowed out of the nearby bush, Murera who was lying down in the dust tried to quickly stand up, however it took quite some time before she could lift her big belly up and off the ground. The wild elephants had obviously picked up the scent of the orphans but because of our presence they walked in the opposite direction. Quanza took her milk and again ran away with it again, it seems to be her new most favourite trick. The keepers raced her to the mud hole in fear that she would drop her bottle in the mud again. We were lucky today, the bottle somehow fell out her mouth and we retrieved the bottle safely.

20 September 2014

The sun rose and it was a beautiful day, Murera gathered up the herd to head out into the forest with Sonje her best friend very close by as always. The three girls Zongoloni, Quanza, and Lima Lima began to browse near the keepers throughout the morning before they all walked to the mud hole. At the mud hole Lima Lima began to play by rolling up and down on the grass, turning her body round and even sitting on her bottom. The Keepers then called the babies by shouting ‘Kwata Kwata’ to follow them to an area where there would be shade and good vegetation. The orphans fed well and enjoyed the rest of the day exploring the area.

21 September 2014

Quanza came over to Sonje and began to annoy her by constantly touching her, so Sonje began to kick her legs in the hope of kicking Quanza. Eventually Quanza got the hint that she best move away. She then tried her luck with Lima Lima who was happily drinking water. She insisted on putting her trunk in Lima lima’s mouth and expecting Lima lima’s water to taste better than her own. Lima lima got tied of this and took refuge alongside Zongoloni. Poor Quanza was definitely not been accommodated today.

22 September 2014

After letting the babies out of their stockades, the orphans went directly towards the acacia pods but unfortunately they were disappointed again and found no pods or any lush greens on the nearby trees. The dry season has bitten that’s for sure, but at Umani there are many places thanks to the plentiful water where good browse can be found. Murera led the babies to Umani hill, where they all searched for soft greens. The sun was very hot and babies continued exploring until eventually ending up at the water hole in order to have a mud bath and cool off. Quanza with her lovely Zongoloni skipped the mud bath and instead played in the dust together.

23 September 2014

The elephants had to be sprayed again as the ticks seem to desperate during this dry weather and it was Quanza and Zongoloni who went first. Quanza was not very happy when the keepers began to spray. Zongoloni seemed okay knowing very well that the keepers were just spraying the ticks and would only benefit her later. When the mudbath time came, all elephants were walking happily without any ticks latched onto them. The elephants began wallowing and relaxing in the waterhole. Suddenly Zongoloni picked up her ears, but nothing was spotted... false alarm. Then the babies continued their day by playing in the dust and sleeping under the shade, before they all slowly ventured home to their beautiful stockade compound which they have become so attached to.

24 September 2014

Quanza refused to come out of her stockade until she knew that there were pods, but the keepers were pushing a wheelbarrow of ranch cubes and lucerne ao Quanza quickly ran towards the barrow assuming there were pods. . Lima lima saw Quanza racing to the keeper and also raced towards him trying to get the food before anyone else could. The keeper had no choice but to run and jump onto a tree to stop being trampled by these two naughty elephants. Quanza was disappointed that they were no pods but she didn’t seem to mind too much as the lucerne and cubes were just perfect anyway.

25 September 2014

Quanza came running for her milk bottle, but greedy Lima lima refused to leave until she received more milk. Quanza was not impressed and charged at Lima lima causing the keepers to intervene and give Quanza her equal share of milk. The elephants are so clever and extra milk for one never goes unnoticed. After bottle feeding all babies went and played in the dust. Lima lima was blowing dust at all the babies and keepers until Murera disciplined Lima lima in order for her to stop these disruptive games of hers. Murera then led the orphans throughout the day, feeding, resting under the shade of the giant Newtonias and then finally guided them safely home with the Keepers following then keeping an eye on proceedings.

26 September 2014

Murera left in the morning for the bush with her herd following her from behind. The serious business of feeding was the main objective of the day, but in the midday heat there is always room for a siesta which the orphans did, sometimes lying in the soft cool dust to really rest.

27 September 2014

The elephants were busy browsing on Umani hill when suddenly a loud trumpet bellowed out of the bush, Sonje quickly picked up her ears but in no time at all Murera had gathered the herd and leading them to another safer area away from any aggressive wild elephants. Lima lima led the herd away but soon the role was Murera’s instinctively knowing that for these more pressing matters someone with a cooler head rather than Lima lima should be leading the group. The wild elephants are definitely taking more of an interest in the orphans during the day.

28 September 2014

After the orphans got out of the stockades, the wild elephants were lingering around the stockade causing our orphans to show great interest in their presence. While interested they are definitely a little shy and not quite sure about the whole wild elephant thing. The keepers led the orphans into the bush to try distract them going towards the wild elephants, as they remain milk dependent and we worry about potential baby snatches in the wild herds. Luckily the orphans didn’t pay much interest in the wild elephants after awhile and Zongoloni was far more interested in searching for roots than to investigate the wild herds any further.