Keepers' Diaries, September 2016

Umani Springs Reintegration Unit

This month the wild bull elephant, who has been named “Ndugu” visited the Umani orphans on a couple of occasions, and it is interesting to see that Lima Lima is not afraid to stride up to greet him, something of which Murera disapproves since she wants to keep her babies away from other wild elephants for fear of losing them. One morning the Keepers were delighted to find him standing outside the stockade compound door, waiting for all of the orphans to come out in the early morning. Wild herds of elephants have been visiting the stockades at night and It is wonderful that they feel safe enough to do so, although we are sure that the presence of fresh spring water in the Water Trough is an added incentive, especially during the dry months of the year. They are always extremely thirsty when they arrive at the compound and still quite wary of the Keepers.

01 September 2016

The wild bull elephant called Ndugu, visited the orphans at the stockade last night to see if they would be able to join him in the forest but saw that they were in their stockades and unable to come out with him. He left dung droppings around the stockade which the orphans found in the morning and which Zongoloni sniffed and tasted as the orphan group made their way along the fence lines to the Chyulu hills following Ndugu’s scent. They met up with him and he approached Lima Lima who was happy to meet him and make his acquaintance. Lima Lima played her role as the mini matriarch and took the time to try and introduce the orphans to the wild bull. Murera however was not happy about meeting him and chose to stay far way keeping Mwashoti by her side so that Ndugu would not get near him. At mudbath time Alamaya led the orphans all the way to the waterhole. Zongoloni went up to him and touched his half tail irritating Alamaya who showed his toughness by pushing hard to get him to stop what he was doing.

02 September 2016

Today Sonje made her way deep inside the thickest forest in search of the softest greens which had not been found by the other babies. She was able to find an area with a lot of greener vegetation and browsed there for a while with Mwashoti before the two were joined by Quanza and Ngasha. Murera escorted Mwashoti all the way to the mudbath point as she was afraid that the bullying older boys, Faraja and Jasiri who were watching the two, would block his path and push him. After short while Lima Lima came charging up running as fast as she could to get to the milk bottles. The keepers had to move quickly to block her path so that the orphans who drinks slower could get their share before she came along as otherwise she would try and steal their milk bottles as soon as she had finished hers.

03 September 2016

It was little bit chilly in the morning as the orphans exited their stockades ready to tackle the new day. They were very hungry following a long night in their quarters and were quick to make it to the milk bottles. Mwashoti took his time coming to the milk as he was waiting for Murera to come and escort him fearful of the pushing boys who stood by his gate. Only Ziwa gave him space so that he could pass and get to Murera or Sonje. At the scratching rock outside the stockades gate, Ngasha got to Lima Lima and pulled her left ear to his mouth and started to chew which was painful for Lima Lima who pushed Ngasha away knocking him to the ground. Ngasha screamed and the two were not on friendly terms for the remainder of the day. The other babies decided to fight over the acacia pods which they were not enough for them all to be satisfied and as such there were fighting over who would get the bigger share. This made the keepers wonder what it is that is so sweet about the pods that could cause so many problems.

04 September 2016

Alamaya was very friendly today and was in a playful mood with his keepers. He went very close to Aden for some love and attention and sidled up to Aden rubbing against him. He even let Aden touch his tail which is something he does not normally allow. Mwashoti with Murera followed each other very closely wish Mwashoti being accorded full security from the matriarchs of the orphan herd who did not want him disturbed any more by the pushing boys. Murera and Sonje would not allow a gap to appear between them as they had seen jealous Ziwa watching Mwashoti. Ziwa tends to be quite jealous of the younger boys in the group, Alamaya and Mwashoti as they have drawn the attention of the matriarchs who mummy them which they love.

05 September 2016

Murera lead her group of eleven baby elephants all the way to Chyulu hills today where they took most of their day long patrols and browsing sessions. The young boys Alamaya and Mwashoti were walking on the rough paths which were full of lava rocks but did not seem to be bothered in any way at all. They walked with the older orphans all the way to the end of the Chyulu hills National Park. Mwashoti who was worrying his keepers, due to his injured leg, is much better than expected and stayed close to Sonje or Murera keeping pace with them and making sure that none of the bigger boys became pushy with the youngsters.

06 September 2016

The long day began with all the elephants making their way to the Chyulu hills for the day. Sonje and Murera were at the back of the group while greedy Lima Lima, the sole mini Matriarch of the group was leading infront, looking for fresher vegetation, but everything she found was very dry. When it was time for the mudbath, Sonje felt so hot that she ran very quickly to the waterhole and as soon as she finished her milk bottles, she rushed to mudwallow and began swimming and rolling around having lots of fun in the waterhole. As it was a very hot day all of the orphans made sure to cover themselves in a layer of thick mud in a effort to cool off before heading back out to browse. As they were approaching the slopes of Chyulu national park they met up with some buffaloes that were coming from the opposite direction. Murera and Sonje started to panic and look to where they could move the babies so as to avoid an encounter with the buffaloes. The keepers were able to scare the buffaloes away by shouting loudly which ensured that none of the buffaloes followed the orphans to their afternoon browsing grounds.

07 September 2016

The orphans were in a very jovial mood in the morning with a lot of trumpeting in the forests and charging at anything they saw. Young Mwashoti and his friend Alamaya were also taking part, pushing down trees which were of their small size and as such easy to push over. After the hard pushing and charging to the forests, Sonje brought the group back to the stockade water trough where she scooped a lot of water through her trunk and poured into her mouth. She then saw an acacia branch hanging down and decided to step on the wall to reach it in an effort to pull it down to get its bark and branch. At the mudbath point, Ngasha and Lima Lima began pushing each other in a bit of a strength testing game. At this point Ngasha found out why Lima Lima was the mini matriarch of the group as she was very strong and Ngasha had a hard to win and was quick to surrender and admit defeat.

08 September 2016

Lima Lima has become the best mother to Alamaya who loves her and very much. Lima Lima has a great character which makes her very likeable to many of the orphans. Today Lima Lima noticed that Ziwa and Ngasha seemed to have naughty intentions towards Alamaya and as such she made sure to block their access on one side while Sonje stood on the other side protecting the youngster from the pushy older orphans. Mwashoti is now getting very active and strong and loves to play mounting games with his seniors. She jumped all over Murera’s back. He put his front leg on Murera’s back as they headed to the waterhole for the noon milk bottle and mudbath. The big bull wild elephant called Ndugu was making his way to the waterhole but was quick to stop in his tracks when he caught the scent of the keepers who were still around the waterhole waiting for the orphans to make their way out to the forest and the bushes for the afternoon browsing session. Ndugu waited for the orphans and the keepers to leave before he came to the waterhole for a wallow and mudbath.

09 September 2016

Ziwa led the older orphan group to the Kenze hills base area this morning where they browsed, until it was time for the midday bottle feed. As Ziwa was crossing into the bushes, Alamaya followed him as he was in the mood to be in Ziwa’s company. While they were browsing three buffaloes appeared which surprised the two boys who charged at them and then changed their browsing area to that of the rest of the orphans and their keepers who were busy browsing nearby and as such leave the buffaloes to their feeding activities. When they arrived at the mudbath for their wallowing activities Murera took the babies for a swim in the water. Mwashoti had a lovely time rolling around in the mud and was one of the mudbathing stars of the day.

10 September 2016

Last night a family of about six wild elephants came to visit the waterhole and communicate with Murera and her friends while they were in their night stockades. The wild group had two little babies drinking water with who appeared very thirsty having walked from the Chyulu hills to the Umani water springs which due to the drought is one of the only water sources where they can get a clean drink of water. Upon smelling the keepers who had come out to try and get a photo of the wild group, they quickly retreated into the bushes before the keepers could get a good look at them. As they had drank all the water from the trough the keepers had to refill it in case any other elephants came for a drink. Quanza picked up a scent coming from the bushes around the stockades and though she thought it may be more wild elephants it was infact just some bushbuck and baboons. The baboons were jumping through the acacia trees looking for pods.

11 September 2016

Following the morning milk bottle the orphans were full of energy and began tussling and playing pushing games with one another as well as pushing down trees as they charged around trumpeting making sure to charge at anything that crossed their path. Ngasha exhausted the bushbucks and baboons by charging at them relentlessly following them into the forest. Alamaya was in a very playful mood today and surprised the keepers when he pushed Zongoloni from behind with a lot of strength which is something the keepers thought he would be reprimanded for by the older orphan. When this did not happen the keepers realized that Zongoloni was allowing his behaviour as she was trying to make him stronger so that he could defend himself when accosted by the older boys. At the water trough near the stockades Alamaya followed Zongoloni who was looking for Quanza who was busy dustbathing. It was once again a very hot day forcing the orphans to look for shade and some water where they could cool off before returning to the stockades for the night.

12 September 2016

As the orphans were headed out to the bush this morning led by Sonje, Murera made sure to get Mwashoti to the front away from the trouble makers in the group and the three remained together for the mornings browsing activities. Jealous boy, Ziwa felt it was good day for him to make his way to the waterhole ahead of the rest of the group so that he could wallow and swim before the rest arrived there. In the afternoon the orphan group made their way to the Chyulu hills by walking along the park boundary between the forest line and the Chyulu Hills national park. There were some trumpeting wild elephants with their young babies screaming in the bushes. Ngasha and Faraja heard them and decided to go and join them for some playtime. They found that the game was too rough for their taste and quite different from what they were used to and as such it was not long before they came back to their keepers and their matriarchs Sonje and Murera.

13 September 2016

The Keepers have been waiting to see if the wild elephant, called Ndugu, would return and see the orphans as it has been a while since he last visited Murera, Sonje and the rest of the orphan group all of whom are also eagerly awaiting his return. At the bottle feeding point, Quanza was following her friend Ziwa who rushed to the feeding point to see if the bottles were ready but found that the bottles had not yet been off loaded from the car. Ziwa tried to help the keepers offload the bottles by grabbing a bottle which he dropped as he is not able to hold his own bottle the way Zongoloni and Ziwa do. Sonje was feeling quite hungry today and was practically her bottle once the milk in it was finished.

14 September 2016

This morning, Mwashoti walked slowly towards where Sonje was standing and upon reaching her he raised his trunk and started to suckle her ear before rumbling gently to her showing his contentment at being in her company and being allowed to suck on her ears. Later on he went up to Murera who was chewing on a stick in an effort to peel off the bark and tried to copy what she was doing by chewing on the other end of the stick. Little Mwashoti is very fond of his “mothers” Sonje and Murera and is often found in their company.

15 September 2016

When the gate was opened for the elephants to exit their night stockades, Sonje and Murera waited for Mwashoti to come out of his stockade so that they could give him some love and attention before they headed to the morning milk bottles. When they got to the bushes, Ziwa was already in the forest with Lima Lima, Jasiri, Ngasha and Faraja. The four of them had found a yellow fever tree which had been pulled down by the wild elephants. They stopped by the tree to peel the bark off and enjoy the soft leaves, which they rarely get these days due to the current drought. The Lucerne pellets are proving to be a great supplement for the orphans as it boosts their energy. Alamaya is now looking very healthy and is plump and has a good appetite.

16 September 2016

Zongoloni was today the greediest girl to compete for food at the feeding time, she competed with Jasiri and Ngasha, because greedy Lima Lima was not given the chance by her keepers w ho ensure she is one of the last ones to be fed. Jasiri tried his hardest to eat the most but was not able to defeat Zongoloni who was on top feeding form today. Mwashoti went up to Sonje and Murera and started smelling Murera’s mouth to see what she was chewing on as it sounded crunch and smelled very sweet. After the noon mudbath, Lima Lima was in a very relaxed mood and was lying on the ground rubbing her bottom and belly on the grass, waiting to see if Alamaya and Mwashoti would be tempted to come and clambour on her back. It was not long before Mwashoti walked over to Lima Lima and started climbing all over her which made her very happy.

17 September 2016

Today all the orphans decided to go to the top of Umani hills in search of greener vegetation. Mwashoti was kept in between the matriarchs in order to avoid the bullying boys who were very like to try and push him. Ngasha seemed to be in a mischievous mood and was spotted by Lima Lima walking towards Mwashoti. Sonje had also already seen what was happening and made sure to keep a close eye on Ngasha. Upon seeing that he as being closely watched Ngasha instead went to his keeper where he began sucking their fingers. This seemed to have a very calming effect on Ngasha and it was not long before his eyes started to droop and he became sleepy. Quanza went to the waterhole to test the temperature of the water so as to see if it was warm enough for a swim. She however found the water to be too cold and as such led the rest of the group to another waterhole where they enjoyed a mudbath before resuming with the afternoons browsing activities.

18 September 2016

Wild elephant families came to the stockades during the night, bringing their young babies with them for a drink of water at the water trough. Due to the ongoing drought, the Umani Springs remains the one permanent source of clean water in the area and all sorts of wildlife come for a drink. Murera could smell the wild elephants and their young baby’s drinking water and rumbled a greeting to them. The keepers came out from their sleeping tents to get photos of the wild group. The babies ran back to their mothers and the whole herd retreated a little as they were afraid of the keepers. They did not go far however and stopped at the lucerne feeding point where they enjoyed some leftover lucerne in the company of some bushbucks. Alamaya’s personality has changed quite a bit these days. He has a lot of energy and enjoys pushing games with the older orphans, like Zongoloni who sees his games as training sessions to make him stronger so that he will not be pushed or bullied by any of the older boys.

19 September 2016

From the morning hours it was a very hot day. The orphans spent most of the day browsing on the hills where there was some shade that they could take cover under. This was especially important for the albinos, Faraja and Jasiri who due to their light skin really feel the heat and the strength of the sun. Faraja found some soft and sweet branches that he wanted to feed on but due to the sun beating down he did not want to come out to the open areas as it was too hot for him. The keepers made the decision to move the orphans to the waterhole so that they could wallow and cool down for a bit. Each and every one of the orphan elephants enjoyed swimming at the waterhole and was able to cover their bodies in a thick layer of mud.

20 September 2016

Ngasha and Zongoloni teamed up together to lead the orphans to the Chyulu hills, but Jasiri did not want to follow and turned to Ngasha pushing him back so as to get him to follow the rest of the group. As the day got hotter the orphans were still around the Chyulu hills and as the time for the mudbath approached the keepers could hear how hungry the orphans were as they stomachs were rumbling. It was not long before Murera and Sonje started to lead the group down the hill so that they could all quench their thirst at the milk feed and mudbath. Alamaya and Mwashoti were particular hungry and as they waited for their milk bottles Alamaya started to suckle Sonje’s ears. Lima Lima rumbled at Alamaya trying to signal Alamaya and Mwashoti to follow her and her favourite keeper to the wild elephants waterhole where they have often enjoyed a mudbath and is a place that their friend Ndugu will meet up with them from time to time.

21 September 2016

Mwashoti was feeding very happily this morning and seemed to be in a good mood. As he could not see his adoptive mothers he rumbled loudly to them to let them know where he was. Murera was quick to get to him as was Sonje as his rumbling was one of distress and they rushed to see what was wrong. They found him kneeling down as he struggled to pull up some grass hence his calling them. Today a fight broke out between the orphans over the pods that had been spread on the ground from them by the keepers. Lima Lima came rushing in grabbing more than the other orphans could. Zongoloni and Lima Lima were grabbing the pods very quickly and the babies of the group, Mwashoti with Alamaya were not able to keep up. Quanza tried to block Lima Lima and Zongoloni’s access to the pods so that the rest of the group could also get some. Jasiri was in a playful mood and enjoyed some games with Ziwa. Murera lay on the ground to entice Mwashoti to come and mount her back, something that he enjoys doing. As soon as Mwashoti saw Murera lying down he rushed over and climbed onto her back rubbing his belly against her. The rest of the afternoon was spent browsing before it was time to return to the stockades for the night.

22 September 2016

Today Mwashoti tried to stay away from his matriarchs as he wanted to show them that he is a brave boy and is not a coward that is afraid of the older boys. Murera and Sonje were happy to leave him to his own devices and continue with their browsing activities. Murera did however try to entice the younger boys over to her by rolling around on the ground so that they would come over and mount her back. Her efforts were futile however as neither of them came to play with her and as such she ended up having a good scratch and squishing any ticks that were on her stomach. While the orphans were bush playing and rolling around at the dust bath some crane birds flew over them. As they were so engrossed in their dusting activities and were being quite noisy most of them did not notice the birds. Faraja was the first to spot the cranes and got up from the dustbath to charge at them but was unsuccessful in his attempts as they just continued to fly above the orphans heads before settling out of reach in the trees.

23 September 2016

During the night a group of wild elephants came with two young calves for a drink at the waterhole near the stockades. The orphans wild friend Ndugu was among the visiting group. When the keepers opened the stockade doors for the orphans to come out and begin their day Murera and Lima Lima took the lead and followed the path taken by the wild elephants when they left last night. Ziwa and Quanza expertly followed the trail of dung left by the wild elephants. A short while later Quanza became distracted by some Sykes monkeys that were headed to the bushes along the Chyulu hills and decided to charge at them in an effort to chase them away. The rest of the orphan herd joined in and the bushes were full of the sounds of elephants charging around knocking over trees. In their fun and excitement to chase the Sykes monkeys away the wild elephants and the path that they had taken were forgotten by the orphan herd.

24 September 2016

Murera spent some time this morning watching Alamaya mounting on Sonje’s back, something which took Murera by surprise because Alamaya was not one to really do this as he was one of the better behaved boys in the group. However, as he is getting stronger and older he is changing and is becoming naughtier and often mounts on Sonje or Zongoloni’s back even when he is not invited to do so. Ziwa was making his way to the Chyulu hills today and wanted Murera to follow him. Murera was however busy watching Alamaya rubbing his belly while rolling on Sonje who was lying on the ground enjoying the attention she was getting from the youngster. When he saw that no one as paying him any mind Ziwa decided to walk on his own to the Chyulu hills in search of fresher vegetation. He met back up with the group when it was time for the noon milk bottle and mudbath which the orphans relished as they were feeling very hot and needed to use the mud and water to cool down their bodies.

25 September 2016

Today the keepers had a wonderful surprise when they exited their stockades in the morning and found the orphans wild friend Ndugu walking around near Murera’s stockade waiting for all the orphans to be let out for the day so that he could greet them and interact with them. Some of the orphans were still asleep when he arrived in the early hours of the morning and as such were not yet aware of his presence. Once out of their stockades the orphan herd all had their morning milk bottle before joining their wild friend. Faraja was in a very brave mood and tried to push Ndugu away from the females in the group. Lima Lima however had other ideas and tried to make her way to Ndugu who put one of his big tusks on her shoulder, which frightened her causing her to run away. Faraja did all that he could to keep Ndungu away from Murera and Sonje but due to his size he was not strong enough. The presence of the keepers however was enough to stop Ndugu in his tracks and it was not long before he left the orphan herd to their daily activities and headed into the bushes.

26 September 2016

The gates were opened for the orphans in the morning for them to head out and begin their day. Mwashoti was the first to exit his stockade and went straight to Sonje so that she could guide him on for the morning’s activities. Sonje was enjoying feeding on acacia pods that had dropped from the trees during the night and was happy to have Mwashoti join her. It was not long before the rest of the orphan herd joined the two. Upon seeing Sonje and Mwashoti heading towards him Ziwa decide to back away and make sure that they had open path ahead of him so that Sonje would not think he had an naughty intentions towards the young Mwashoti and push him out of the way. At the waterhole and milk feed, Quanza was feeling very hot and decided to go into the water for a swim to cool down. She made sure to roll around in the mud to get a full layer of mud all over her body which would help keep her cool for most of the afternoon.

27 September 2016

Faraja spent his time in his cage but thinking of his wild friend Ndugu whom visited the whole hard last week but Faraja played the pushing game with Ndugu so he again today thought of him deeply, after getting out from his room, Faraja began walking along the bushes looking for Ndugu, he did not get him but only met some very big wild dung’s dropped on the paths, making which prompted us that he was around the stockades in the night but we were unable to see him. Murera came back heading to the babies after feeding her milk bottles, taking Alamaya to the waterhole, then when their keepers finished their bush lunch, orphans walked again heading to Chyulu hills with their keepers and Limalima in front leading their way out to the Chyulu hills for more branches.

28 September 2016

The orphans were quite tired by the time they reached the mudbath as they had spent the better part of the morning walking around looking for vegetation to eat. While browsing around the Umani hills they met up with a herd of buffaloes which caused the orphan group to scatter and run in different directions in an effort to get away from the buffaloes. Alamaya stood strong and firm wanting to charge at the buffaloes backed up by Zongoloni . Alamaya kept his small ears raised to show the buffaloes how strong and big he was. Jasiri who is the oldest boy in the group was too scared to face the buffaloes and was quick to run into the bushes together with Faraja and Ngasha. It took a while for the keepers to locate the three and found them a resting under the shade of the trees quite a distance from where they had crossed paths with the buffalo herd.

29 September 2016

Mwashoti and Alamaya made their way out to the forest in the company of Murera and Sonje. Ziwa tried to sneak a peek at Mwashoti but he was prevented from doing so by Murera who pushed him aside. Quanza followed Ziwa from the back as she thought that he had an intention to bully the youngster. At the mudbath time Quanza surprised the keepers as she came running to the milk feeding area thinking that Lima Lima would finish everything before she arrived. As it was a very hot day the babies were all flapping their ears in an effort to keep cool. They were all happy to get to the waterhole where they had an amazing time swimming and rolling around in the water covering themselves with mud.

30 September 2016

Today Alamaya started bellowing loudly and it was not long before he was surrounded by Sonje and Murera who came to see what the problem was. Upon arriving they discovered that Alamaya was upset with Jasiri who touched the stub of his tail, something that Alamaya does not like having done as it reminds him of what the lions and hyenas did to him. The keepers were watching how Alamaya was behaving with Jasiri who Sonje made sure to chase away so as to prevent him from getting close to the youngsters and upsetting them.