Keepers' Diaries, September 2019

Select your unit:

Umani Springs Reintegration Unit

The Umani orphans were joined by many wild elephants this month given that the areas surrounding the Kibwezi Forest become increasingly dry this time of year, but we expect the short rains imminently and all signs are there that they will arrive soon. Though water and vegetation are never an issue within the Kibwezi Forest itself, the orphans’ mud bath did dry out towards the end of the month, and one of the Trust's water bowsers came to do the refill. 

Access to a mud bath is so important for the orphans in the hot weather, so they can wallow and cover themselves in mud for a protective layer so as not to burn their skin, and this is very important especially for fair-skinned Faraja and Jasiri. 

This did mean there were some good interactions with wild elephant herds as well, who came to seek sanctuary in the forest and drink from the perennial water sources too. Wild bulls came as well as family herds too, led by matriarchs whose incredible memory, so key to their survival, year on year leading their herds safely to the all-important water points, understanding where to go at different times of year. One of these herds had very young calves indeed, still wobbly on their feet, much to the delight of Lima Lima who cannot ever resist a baby, as well as Ziwa who is always happy to receive a wild herd. Unfortunately for Lima Lima, the babies stayed firmly tucked away under their mothers’ bellies, not wishing to socialise with strangers. 

Sonje was most happy to receive the wild bulls that came by who were interested in meeting her. She seems to always be on the lookout for her favourite chap who the Keepers named Osama, but who we have not seen for some time. Many of the wild bulls who came by were new faces, and Sonje was happy to walk with them most of the time, but some of the others, especially Murera, Mwashoti and Shukuru were not so keen for these interactions. Murera is cautious because of her compromised leg and she doesn’t want to be hurt by the bulls, Shukuru stays away for the same reason and Mwashoti is probably just scared of the massive forms before him with such large tusks!

Ziwa and some of the other bulls have no fear though, and welcome these meetings with wild herds and wild bulls. Ziwa is gaining such confidence while spending more time out in the forest alone, which is so wonderful for the Keepers to see. He often disappears during the day with Ngasha or Faraja, and sometimes even spends the night out as well. More often than not, they choose to return to the stockade at some stage during the night, but on occasion they spend the whole night and only come for their milk bottle in the morning, or even at noon close to the mud bath. Sometimes Ziwa employs different tactics to avoid walking with the other orphans under the control of matriarchs Murera and Sonje, like one day when he came running and charging out of his room chasing after a troop of baboons just outside the compound. The Keepers thought it was very funny, but soon realised his main intention was to keep running out to the forest, so he could browse on his own. He didn’t show up until later that day. Another day he was so eager to get out of his room and greet the wild visitors outside the compound, the Keepers let him out even though they had not done the milk bottles yet. Ziwa walked out in a hurry and went off to greet the wild elephants very nicely; it was as if they all knew one another. They all walked off into the forest, leaving the other orphans behind who were happy to have their milk bottles.

One day this month the Keepers were very pleasantly surprised by Quanza’s behaviour. She was in a very friendly and almost affectionate mood, nuzzling and staying close to the Keepers, something she does not often do. Quanza’s rescue was very tragic as her family was wiped out by poachers and it took her a long time to trust her Keepers and gain her confidence again. Because of this, she has always remained very shy and reserved, and of course, cautious of people, and why it was especially nice for the Keepers to share such a special moment with her.

We are so fortunate to have such a good role model in the form of Murera and she is an excellent matriarch. Whenever any of the other orphans misbehave she comes over to see why and who was the trouble maker. If she finds any of the older bulls bullying the others, she is never afraid to hand out any discipline. One day Ziwa and Ngasha walked over to Mwashoti and pushed him over, which was a big mistake as Murera saw them and she really punished both Ziwa and Ngasha for it. Sonje is often seen protecting Mwashoti from the older boys too, as they like to tease him and push him. None of the other girls like Lima Lima and Zongoloni are afraid to step in and help other members of their ‘family’ either, and sometimes if they think certain pushing games are going on too long, they will step in in-between them to resolve them.

Surprisingly it can also be one of the bulls that sometimes steps in as well. One day older bull Jasiri, who can be quite sensitive as well, saw Ziwa approaching the mud bath, where Shukuru was mud bathing quietly, at a pace. Jasiri moved and stood in front of Shukuru, as if knowing that she does not like to be around boisterous boys and thus he was trying to protect and her, and as a result, he and Ziwa ended up in a strength testing match. They pushed each other around the entire mud bath, but at least Shukuru was able to finish her mud bath without Ziwa disturbing her thanks to Jasiri’s preventative measures.

September 2019 day to day

01 Sep

This morning, whilst the orphans were enjoying their morning Lucerne pellets, they were joined by many wild elephants. Sonje appeared to get excited when she saw the wild herds approaching; it looked as though Osama may have been amongst one of the herds and Sonje always thoroughly enjoys seeing him. She immediately stopped what she was doing and went rushing over to the herd to look for her friend. Sonje quickly realised that Osama wasn’t there however, as all the visitors were females with their young calves. Some of the young calves were under their mum’s bellies, while some of the others were suckling. 

Ziwa seemed intrigued by the young calves and was trying to get closer to them. As he was slowly approaching them, one of the female elephants, who appeared to be the matriarch, quickly turned to face him, warning him to stay away from the calves. Ziwa quickly moved away from the wild babies and went off to the forest, leaving the rest of the orphans and wild elephants to enjoy the remainder of the pellets. 

Ziwa mudbathing

Mwashoti and Quanza

Orphans at the milk & mud bathing area