The birth of a baby elephant marks a significant moment in the life of any female pachyderm. This is especially true for Mutara, who lost her own mother during her early years. Mutara’s journey has been challenging, but she has now entered into an exciting new phase as a mother herself.
Mutara was discovered wandering alone on the road between Rumuruti Town and Mutara Ranch on July 26, 2009. We were prepared to receive a small elephant, but we were surprised by the tiny creature that arrived via the rescue plane. She still had her umbilical cord attached and her adorable, pink ears were a clear indication that she was a newborn. Our analysis of the location and timing of her discovery leads us to believe that she may have lost her mother to poachers.
Back in 2009, we welcomed Mutara as a newborn into our Nursery. As she grew up, she became a leader among the “kindergarten group”, and her remarkable qualities continued to shine through. In 2013, she moved on to our Ithumba Reintegration Unit, where she proved to be an exceptional matriarch. As she transitioned into the wild, she formed a tight-knit herd with Suguta, Sities, Turkwel, and Kainuk, who had been her close friends since their Nursery days.
While all elephants are remarkable, Mutara has a special quality that sets her apart. She emanates gentleness, and simply being in her presence is enough to feel a sense of peace. At the same time, she commands respect from her herd and has a strong bond with Benjamin, the Head Keeper at Ithumba. All in all, Mutara is a truly extraordinary elephant.
Mutara and Ithumba’s Head Keeper, Benjamin, share a special bond that has been present for a long time. In May of 2020, Mutara discovered that she was in-season during one of her visits to Ithumba. She attracted many bulls’ attention but ultimately chose a handsome mate to spend time with. Over the next 22 months, her belly continued to grow as she spent most of her pregnancy around Ithumba. Mutara and her fellow females exercised caution during her pregnancy, ensuring that she did not overtax herself, especially during the dry season. This little miracle is the first baby for their herd, and we are delighted to see them taking care of the new arrival.
For 22 months, we have been following Mutara’s pregnancy journey. During this time, her companions Suguta, Sities, Kainuk, and Turkwel have been preparing themselves to be great nannies. They even chose Dololo, an orphan, to be their surrogate and showed immense care towards him. Their dedication to Dololo was remarkable as they slept outside the stockade compound to keep an eye on him and greet him first thing in the morning. It is safe to say that they will make excellent nannies based on their commitment to Dololo.
Most ex-orphan elephants typically introduce their newborns to the world in the morning, but Mutara opted for an evening debut. On the night of March 8th, 2022, our team at Ithumba was preparing to turn in for the night when we were surprised by the arrival of Mutara and her herd outside the stockades. To our delight, we discovered that Mutara had given birth earlier that evening and that her newborn was a picture of health. Instead of venturing off early in the morning, Mutara chose to spend her first night as a mother with us at Ithumba, sharing this magical moment with Benjamin and the other Keepers who raised her.
Baby Mambo is in excellent health, eating well and full of energy. The next day, Yatta, Wendi, and their former orphaned elephant groups were present outside Ithumba, but Mutara and her group were not. Benjamin discovered them nearby in a quieter area. Mutara’s intuition led her to avoid the wild male elephants’ boisterous behavior. Motherhood often changes an elephant’s disposition, but Mutara remains unchanged and gentle. Her girlfriends, Suguta, Sities, Turkwel, and Kainuk, have taken their roles as caretakers seriously and are very excited.
With the help of her devoted nannies, Mutara has quickly become a pro at being a mother. It’s hard to believe that she was actually raised by humans, considering how natural she is at taking care of her little ones. Despite not having her biological mother around, she was fortunate enough to grow up with a loving family. And now, she’s passing on that same love and support to her own offspring as they navigate life in the wild. We’re honored to be a part of Mutara’s journey, especially considering that it almost came to an early end 12 years ago.
Being a part of Mutara’s journey is an honor and a joy. We are excited to announce the name of her newborn baby, which we have lovingly chosen as Mambo. The word ‘Mambo’ is a well-known Swahili greeting that creates a sense of happiness and curiosity. Its literal meaning is ‘tell me your stories,’ which is fitting given Mutara’s incredible story. As she begins this new chapter of her life with Mambo by her side, we look forward to witnessing the beautiful moments they will share together.