Keepers' Diaries, September 2019

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. 

01 September 2019

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. 

02 September 2019

This morning there was lots of activity in the forest, as the orphans and their Keepers could hear a troop of baboons shouting from the top of the trees around the water springs. The Keepers started to look closely to see what they were shouting at and spotted two leopards heading towards some bushbuck that were grazing not too far away. The baboons appeared to be scared of the leopards and were trying to get as high up the trees as possible. 

Lima Lima evidently picked up that there was something lurking in the forest and stopped dead in her tracks to check on the rest of the herd. She came looking for all the orphans and the Keepers and when she saw that everyone was safe, she carried on walking towards the Chyulu Hills. She stayed very close to Alamaya and Shukuru for the rest of the morning. 

03 September 2019

In the morning, the orphans went over to the water troughs to have some clean water but unfortunately all the water had been finished by wild herds of elephants that had visited throughout the night. As the Keepers were refilling the water trough, Murera and Zongoloni seemed to be inpatient and decided to head off toward the water springs rather than wait for the trough to be filled. They were quickly followed by the rest of the orphan herd and the Keepers. As they got to the water springs, they came across two adolescent crocodiles having a fight. As the fight was getting worse, Quanza and Ziwa seemed to realise that there was no way past the crocodiles, and they decided to run in the opposite direction. The rest of the orphans were quick to follow them, and the orphan herd followed another path to the water springs. 

04 September 2019

As it was time for the orphans to make their way back to the stockades for the evening, some of the orphans, namely Ziwa, Faraja, Ngasha did not come back from the forest. These boys have shown more of an interest in staying out in the evenings and they have all become quite independent, hesitant to always follow the matriarchs. Some evenings they seem to be interacting with wild friends and following them out to the forest. It is amazing for the Keepers to watch these young bulls gain the courage to stay out as this is all part of their journey back to the wild. 

Ziwa seems to be the most independent of the three as Ngasha and Faraja still like to return to the stockades throughout the evening. No matter how late it gets, Ngasha and Faraja usually come back; sometimes Ziwa will come back them but other nights he chooses to stay out with his wild friends. 

05 September 2019

Sonje appeared to be in a bad mood this morning as she was constantly giving Quanza a hard time. If Quanza would try to go close to her, Sonje seemed to get agitated and would push her away. Sonje then decided to lead the orphans out into the forest. Murera was walking close to Mwashoti and Sonje, when Mwashoti decided to put his trunk inside Sonje’s mouth. Sonje just rumbled in response. She appeared to be directing the herd with her rumbles as most of the orphans would follow her exact movements when she would rumble at them. Only a few of the young bulls decided to walk in a different direction to her. 

At the waterhole, as the orphans had finished their midday bottles of milk, Shukuru kept her distance from some of the troublemakers and went to her own corner where she enjoyed splashing water and mud on her body. Once she was sufficiently covered in mud, she walked over to the dust mound and started to roll around, thoroughly enjoying her dust bath. 

06 September 2019

The Kibwezi forest is teaming with wildlife, when the Keepers and the orphans head out to the Hills they often come across herd of antelopes, dik diks and many others. The dik diks and antelopes used to be quite scared of the Keepers, but they have become used to them as they no longer run away from them. They have even been seen to graze and browse near the Keepers and orphans whilst in the forest, so long as the orphans do not chase them away. 

This afternoon as the orphans were drinking some water at the waterhole, some dik diks came over to also have a drink. As Shukuru saw the dik diks approaching, she was surprised by how close they were getting and she turned to face them, but before she could do anything Ngasha and Ziwa had already chased them away. Mwashoti and Quanza were too busy enjoying a long mud wallow to pay any attention to the dik diks. 

07 September 2019

It was a cloudy morning, so the orphans were not very playful as they made their way out to the forest. Sonje was walking with some of the young boys to the hills and this appeared to upset Ziwa as he wanted the attention. He abruptly turned to push Sonje as she was walking with Mwashoti but didn’t have much success as she took no notice and just kept walking. Sonje is often seen protecting Mwashoti from the older boys, as they like to tease him and push him. 

Whilst the orphans were making their way up the Umani Hills, they were blocked by a large herd of buffalo who were grazing along the path. This made it very hard for Shukuru, who was leading the orphans, to continue walking up the hill. Murera and Alamaya in the meantime were relaxing under some trees, oblivious to how hard it would be to get past the buffalo. Lima Lima as usual was on high alert and was continuously checking on the Keepers, before charging to the front trumpeting and rumbling at the buffalo. As she kept charging at the buffalo, they eventually decided to move off and walked further down the hill. With the pathway now clear, the orphans were able to continue up the Hill for their afternoon browsing activities. 

08 September 2019

Alamaya and Mwashoti had a very disrupted evening as the two were constantly stealing branches from one another’s stables. Alamaya started by stealing some of Mwashoti’s branches, this seemed to aggravate Mwashoti as he began to push back at Alamaya. The two spent the entire evening like this and when it was time for them to come out in the morning their pushing games continued as they came charging out of their stables at each other. The two seemed so annoyed with one another that the three older girls Lima Lima, Sonje and Murera eventually had to intervene and separate them. 

Whilst browsing along the Chyulu hills, the orphans came across many herds of wild elephants with very young calves, some calves even seemed to still be wobbly on their feet. Ziwa, again, was the first to walk over to the wild herds trying to greet the calves and he was soon joined by Lima Lima who always enjoyed greeting the young calves. The two were however, not able to get anywhere near the calves as they were all hiding under their mother’s bellies, keeping far away from the orphans. 

09 September 2019

Whilst the orphans were browsing in the forest, they were joined by two wild bulls who seemed to be very eager to spend time with Sonje. Sonje, at first, seemed very uninterested in greeting the bulls but eventually warmed up to one of them. The first bull that came over to greet her she eventually appeared to greet back as the two were rumbling softly at each other, and Sonje lifted her trunk to the bull and nuzzled him around his mouth. The second bull, however, was not greeted with such kindness as Sonje appeared to have no interest in him. As he approached, she quickly walked off to Alamaya who was standing under a tree. The bulls eventually decided to leave as they were getting no attention from Sonje. Sonje seems to be waiting for Osama to visit her again. 

10 September 2019

The orphans had a great day patrolling and browsing along the hills. Zongoloni and Shukuru led the orphans towards through the forest and up the hills. Shukuru had chosen a lovely spot with lots of acacia trees. Her spot was so nice that Ziwa was even eager to join them in their browsing activities. Sonje and Shukuru appeared cautious about Ziwa joining them as he is normally mischievous and causes trouble with the younger orphans. He hung around for a little bit, browsing on some of the acacia branches, before heading back to the forest to join Faraja and Ngasha. 

In the afternoon, when the orphans were back in the forest, they were joined by some big wild bulls who came over to greet Sonje and Mwashoti. Mwashoti, unsure of the wild bulls, quickly ran over to Sonje, hiding behind her. Eventually, Mwashoti calmed down and was quite happy to interact with the bulls but if they went over to greet Sonje, he would keep his distance. 

11 September 2019

When it was time for the orphans to have their midday bottles of milk, Shukuru was calmly walking down on her own. However, as soon as Mwashoti and Lima Lima overtook her, she suddenly got a spring in her step and began to run down. She quickly grabbed her bottle before Lima Lima could get it and walked off behind the milk vehicle so she could enjoy it in peace. After she finished her milk, she suckled her trunk for a few minutes and then made her way down to the water trough where she dipped her feet in the water and drank some water in the company of Zongoloni and Sonje. 

Once the Keepers were finished with their lunch, they began to call the orphans so that they could head back to the forest for their afternoon browsing activity. The Keepers have a distinct whistle that they use to call the orphans so that they know it’s them. As soon as the orphans heard them whistle, they all came out the waterhole and made their way to the Keepers. Ziwa and Faraja decided to head off in their own direction, towards Kenze hills, rather than follow Sonje and Murera. 

In the early evening, when the orphans were making their way back to the stockade Ziwa and Faraja did not join them as they were too busy interacting with some wild friends in the Kibwezi forest. The two young boys spent the entire evening in the forest and were only seen the next day when it was time for their midday bottles of milk. 

12 September 2019

Quanza was in a very friendly mood today, nuzzling and staying close to the Keepers, something she does not often do. Quanza’s rescue was very tragic as her entire family was wiped out by poachers, and it took her a long time to trust her Keepers and gain her confidence again. Due to this, she has always remained very cautious of people and is not always so eager to be close to them. This is why it was especially nice today for the Keepers to share in these special moments with her. 

After the orphans finished their midday bottles of milk, they were all so eager to get into the muddy water and have a long mud bath. Shukuru was first to put her feet in the water, closely followed by Jasiri. Ziwa then came rushing in, running in the direction of Shukuru. Jasiri, who seemed to notice Ziwa approaching fast, stood in front of Shukuru, as if to protect and her, and as a result, the two 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. 

13 September 2019

Zongoloni was very playful whilst at the mud bath. She started playing a strength testing match with Faraja, and the two were pushing each other around the entire water hole. Zongoloni accidentally got her foot caught in some reeds and as she was trying to pull her leg out Faraja started to climb on her back. Zongoloni quickly maneuvered her leg out of the reeds and then turned to keep playing with Faraja. Faraja eventually gave in as Zongoloni was very eager to be the winner of today’s game. 

The orphans quickly left the waterhole when a herd of buffalo appeared. The buffalo were coming in to have some water. The Keepers quickly started calling for the orphans who all made their way back to the forest. When Zongoloni got to the forest, she found Shukuru chewing on some acacia branches. 

14 September 2019

When Murera finished her bottle of milk she started to make her way out to the Lucerne feeding point. Along the way she came across some acacia pods that had fallen from the trees. She and Mwashoti stopped to eat the pods whilst Lima Lima, Quanza and Zongoloni were not interested in having the pods and made their way out to have their Lucerne pellets. Sonje and Ziwa were already outside having a strength testing match, seemingly over who could get more pellets. Murera just walked straight past them, closely followed by Mwashoti who had since forgotten about the acacia pods. After their pellets, most of the orphans headed out to the forest lead by Murera who was followed by Alamaya and Mwashoti. 

Sonje, who was still busy playing, suddenly noticed Murera heading off and she quickly ran off to catch up with her. Quanza walked over to join Murera and Alamaya as the orphans stopped to drink at the water springs. As the orphans were walking around the water springs, they came across a large python that had raised its head as if to warn the orphans away. The orphans, especially Lima Lima, stayed far away from the python and they all moved off with their Keepers, leaving it in peace. 

15 September 2019

After all the orphans had finished their milk, the stockade gates were opened so that they could make their way out to the Lucerne feeding point. Ziwa was the only one to charge out, whilst Murera and the others were busy picking up the acacia pods that were on the ground. They ate so many of the acacia pods that the Keepers didn’t have very many left to sweep up. 

Once Mwashoti was finished eating the pods he went over to Sonje and put his trunk in her mouth as if to see what she was eating and if it was nicer than what he had. The two interacted for a couple of minutes before turning to make their way out to the forest. Mwashoti and Sonje led the rest of the herd out to the forest, where they enjoyed browsing on some of the branches. Faraja and Ziwa were quick to start a wrestling match, Faraja quickly pushed Ziwa to the ground. As Ziwa got up to challenge him, Faraja was quick to retreat and run away so that he would remain the winner of the game. The orphans enjoyed a long afternoon of browsing along the Umani hills.  

16 September 2019

As the orphans were coming out the stockade compound to have their morning Lucerne pellets, they were joined by a new young wild bull. The Keepers did not recognise this bull, and as such decided to keep their distance making sure not to interfere in his interactions with the orphans. Lima Lima was once again protective of the Keepers making sure they were safe whilst the bull was around. Shukuru also seemed hesitant to interact with this new visitor and followed the Keepers and stood aside with them. Jasiri and Faraja appeared very eager to get to know this new friend as they started a strength testing match, and the three could be seen playing for quite some time. 

Later, in the forest, once the wild bull had left, the Keepers settled with the orphans so that they could commence their morning browsing activities. Faraja and Quanza were too busy chasing the baboons around to settle with the others. Lima Lima, Zongoloni and Mwashoti all appeared to be checking the forest for any other wild elephants, but they couldn’t find any. 

When it was time for the orphans’ midday bottle of milk, all the orphans appeared quite tired from their morning activities and they slowly made their way down to the milk feeding point. 

17 September 2019

Today, the orphans were all eager to have their midday bottles of milk. Mwashoti and Zongoloni were so quick to grab their bottles that they finished first and then kept trying to steal some of the other bottles that hadn’t been drunk yet. Mwashoti was being as greedy as Lima Lima and kept trying to grab one of Sonje’s or Murera’s bottles. Mwashoti eventually got hold of one of Sonje’s bottles and managed to have a couple of sips before the Keepers could get it off him. The Keepers had to add some water to give Sonje a full bottle, this didn’t seem to impress her as she could taste the difference. She didn’t bother to finish that bottle and spat it out before making her way to the waterhole to have a mud bath with the rest of the orphans. 

18 September 2019

Whilst the orphans were having their morning bottles of milk, a wild female elephant and her young calf came over and started drinking from the water trough. The wild elephant was seen splashing water over the calf’s body, an important lesson for the calf as it too would have to learn how to splash mud and water on itself to protect it from the sun and the flies. The Keepers tried to get a closer look at the calf but as the mother saw them approaching, she began to mock charge, so they thought it best to keep their distance. Ziwa was trying to smell the calf and the mother, lifting his trunk in the air and he seemed to be rumbling at the two, as if to communicate. The mother and calf took no interest in him and finished drinking before making their way back to the forest to join the rest of their herd. 

Whilst at the mud bath, the orphans were again joined by some wild friends. One of the bulls seemed very anxious by the Keepers presence as he kept facing them with his ears flared as if he was getting ready to charge. The bull eventually calmed down when Ziwa, Faraja and Ngasha came over to greet him. The orphans interacted with the wild elephants for some time before coming back to join the Keepers. 

19 September 2019

Bushbucks and baboons were waiting for the orphans to finish eating their morning Lucerne pellets so that they could come in and have some. As the orphans were starting to walk away, one baboon and bushbuck were quick to grab some of the pellets. Lima Lima, who saw them appearing from the forest, quickly teamed up with Alamaya and Zongoloni to chase them away. It then became a game of who would leave first. 

Murera and Sonje eventually joined in on the game and gave Lima Lima some back up. The three were trumpeting loudly and kicking up some dust to scare the baboons away. They kept charging the baboons who climbed up the trees and just sat there patiently waiting for the orphans to leave. The orphans were eventually called away by the Keepers as it was time for them to head off to the hills. 

20 September 2019

Murera seems to be a bit fussier about the bulls that she chooses to interact with. She doesn’t seem to ever interact with the bulls that are too cocky or causing a lot of trouble. Whenever bulls are eager to interact with her, she always seems to give them the cold shoulder. Today she ran away from the bull which approached her and this seemed to agitate him as he began to push at some of the orphans, including Mwashoti. Sonje eventually walked over to Murera and appeared to calm her down, which as a result calmed the entire situation. Once the bull had calmed down, Murera and Mwashoti moved away leaving him to interact with some of the other orphans. 

21 September 2019

The water hole where orphans always take their mud bath every day was very dry today, so that the orphans would not be able to properly wallow. We organised for the water bowser to fill the waterhole with water before the orphans arrived for their 11am milk bottle. The bowser was still not done by the time the orphans arrived, running in to get their milk bottles, and afterwards all the babies walked straight to the water hole to find the truck still there filling the mud bath. Ziwa and Faraja did not want to wait for the hole to be filled, and walked around and held the pipe with their trunks, spraying water everywhere and enjoying the freshness of it. To them it was a wonderful game. As they played with the pipe, the others were already splashing and kicking the water around to make a muddy mess. This wallowing session went on for quite some time, as the Umani babies were taking their time and enjoying cooling down from the heat of the intensely sunny day today. Even the Keepers could feel the heat and took refuge under some trees for shade, just like fair-skinned Faraja and his friend Jasiri who both walked to the shade after rolling around in the freshly filled mud bath to protect their skin. 

22 September 2019

Shukuru and Mwashoti were naughty this morning and invaded the hay stores, demanding more Lucerne. Most of the other orphans had already walked out of the gate and were busy picking up pods that had dropped from the trees by the wind overnight. The Keepers pleased with Shukuru to walk out with Mwashoti but neither of them wanted to leave. Eventually when they decided to leave, each one had a bale of hay in their trunks as they ran off to join their friends. Greedy Lima Lima saw Mwashoti running away carrying Lucerne and she ran up to him to grab it from him, leaving Mwashoti stranded by the gate on his own and with nothing left. Murera walked over and put her trunk around Mwashoti , and Mwashoti responded with happy little rumbles. The others started to walk out to the forest, leaving Lima Lima alone with the bale that was now scattered all over the place as the other bulls had demanded some share from her as well. 

23 September 2019

We are so fortunate to have such a good role model in the form of Murera and she is such a good 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 any of the others, she pushes them away and is never afraid to hand out any discipline. Today Ziwa and Ngasha walked over to Mwashoti and pushed him over. This was a big mistake as Murera saw them and she really punished both Ziwa and Ngasha for it.

Later on at the mud bath, Murera arrived to enjoy the water with Mwashoti. Mwashoti ended up falling asleep beside Murera, as Murera and Sonje were busy splashing the chests with water.

Lima Lima walked to pick up Alamaya and take him to the scratching post to help him scratch the itchy soft areas below the belly. Then all the orphans later moved under the big trees for shade because it was another very hot day and they could feel the sun burning their bodies, especially Faraja and Jasiri.

24 September 2019

Many wild elephants invaded the Umani water springs today as they find the area very safe and a wonderful place to drink plenty of fresh water and wallow as well. Today when these wild elephants were done drinking and wallowing, some came to the stockades looking for the orphans and their friends Ziwa and Ngasha in particular. These two boys are still testing their independent in the Kibwezi forest and the Keepers are not sure when they will come back in the evening or not. Sometimes when it nears time to return to the stockades for the night, they deliberately dodge the Keepers and wander off, so that they can stay out for the night and not return with the others. But this is a very good sign and the Keepers are very happy that the two bulls feel confident enough to leave them and the protection of the stockades, as they make this bold step towards living a normal wild life. 

25 September 2019

Today we decided to follow a different path into the forest when a python decided to come out from her hole where she had been hiding to enjoy the sunshine. Lima Lima was the first to see the big snake and pointed it out to her Keepers who had not seen it yet and were not aware of it lying in the grass sunning itself. The Keepers spotted the snake after paying attention to Lima Lima and they were careful not to go near or disturb it.

For the rest of the day the Keepers and orphans encountered many wild elephants which meant the Keepers had to remain vigilant and didn’t get any rest the whole day. Mwashoti, Murera and Shukuru were also very tired because the whole day they kept running away from the wild elephants who they didn’t want to mingle with.

26 September 2019

In the morning when Ziwa came out he decided to run after some baboons trumpeting loudly. The Keepers laughed a lot enjoying the chase, but it the end they realised it was also a tactic Ziwa was using to leave the orphan herd behind. He knew the Keepers would try to call him back so he ran off to a different part of the forest. Today he wanted to be in his own world; he did not want to be controlled by Murera or Sonje but to do his own thing.

Zongoloni and Alamaya decided to walk off to try and find Ziwa but that was in vain. Ziwa was left alone for the morning but all the orphans met again at the milk feeding area close to midday. All the orphans played very nicely in the waterhole taking a good mud bath. Shukuru kept her distance wanting her own space. When she saw the bully boys leaving the water hole, Shukuru decided to walk into the mud bath and wallow nicely on her own without any disturbance from the others.

27 September 2019

In the evening today when all the orphans came back home to their night stockades, four big wild bulls we spotted foraging behind Murera and Sonje’s room. When the Keepers were just about to leave to have their dinner, before they could go any further, the found the bulls had camped at the stockade water troughs just in front of the gate. It seemed like they were very thirsty, but in fact perhaps it was an excuse to try and approach Sonje. Sonje was very interested in meeting them too and she thought that her boyfriend Osama might be among them. Osama was not there but there were a lot of new good looking faces among them. However after some time and seeing that neither Sonje nor Murera was going to approach them, the wild bulls left and walked off into the forest. 

28 September 2019

Early this morning a herd of wild elephants walked around the stockade compound trying to approach and talk with their orphan friends. Zongoloni and Quanza were trying to look out to see them, while Ziwa and Faraja were pushing on their walls to try and get out to meet the wild visitors. All this was going on while the Keepers were still getting the milk bottles ready for the morning feed. Ziwa did not want to wait for his bottles but kept on pushing the wall very hard, so that the Keepers came and opened the gate for him like he wanted. Ziwa then 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. 

The Keepers gave the orphans some remaining Lucerne pellets and a few acacia pods that were still in the stores, when two baboons sneaked over and tried to help themselves to the pellets too. The baboons got it very rough from all the elephants however, who did not want to share their tasty treats and they were chased away by the whole herd, who were united over trying to keep the baboons away.

29 September 2019

At one point today, Murera and Sonje walked to see their wild elephant friends but they found very new faces. When Murera found they were wild bulls and looked as if they might want to begin pushing her, she kept away as she always keeps away from any bulls that might be too rough with her. Later, when all the new wild bulls had gone, Murera walked around collecting up the herd and her close friends, namely Shukuru, Mwashoti and Sonje, to be with her, but unfortunately she found Sonje had left with the bulls for a walk.

When the Keepers walked back home in the evening with the babies, Ziwa and Faraja decided to stay out with their wild friends. Very late in the night the boys decided to return to the stockades and they were welcomed back by the Keepers on duty but they could not have their bottles as it was very late, but they did not seem to mind and did not ask for them, and seemed happy to wait until morning. 

30 September 2019

Jasiri and Faraja revived their on-going rivalry today over some sweet branches that Faraja had found. As he was walking over to where Jasiri was whilst carrying them, Jasiri tried to take the branches away. Jasiri then turned and tried to take Faraja’s tail like he used to do years ago. Jasiri found that Faraja was not the young baby he once was however, and Faraja really fought for his tail not to be pulled or bitten by Jasiri. The fight went on for hours as Faraja kept Jasiri at bay, and later managed to push Jasiri down as he slipped on the muddy floor, then Faraja took advantage of Jasiri being on the ground and climbed on him so he couldn’t get up, forcing Lima Lima and Zongoloni to separate them.