Murera, Our Miracle Matriarch

Published on the 3rd of August, 2022

Elephants constantly remind us that miracles are possible. However, among all the orphans we have rescued over the years, no one's story is more miraculous than Murera's.

Murera came to us a broken elephant. The year was 2012, the height of the poaching crisis. She had trodden on an elephant spike trap, which ravaged her hind leg and left her with deep, poisoned wounds. While struggling in vain to keep up with her herd, she must have fallen and dislocated her leg joints, because her entire hind area was debilitated. Her little forehead was etched in pain, a heartbreaking testament to the trauma unfolding within.

Murera’s situation was so dire that every vet recommended she be euthanised. However, Daphne saw a sliver of hope and insisted that we fight to save her life. The Keepers also recognised Murera’s will to survive and galvanised to heal her.

Thank goodness we did. As Peter, one of our senior Nursery Keepers, remembered, “Murera was so sick when she arrived in the Nursery. We had to make the decision whether or not to put her quietly out of her pain, but she had fought so hard to survive for so long, so we all decided to give her a last chance.”

Murera was a hard-won miracle, Peter recalled, “At the beginning, it was very hard for all of us. Murera required non-stop care. We couldn’t sedate her, as this would weaken her more, but we needed to clean her wounds daily and even support her much of the time, until she could put weight on her legs again. At one point she gave up and stopped feeding, but we persisted and tried to encourage her to eat and showed her our love.”

Their persistence paid off. Step by step, Murera became whole again. Everyone rejoiced when she took her first tentative step, progressing to short forays around the compound and eventually longer walks into the forest. However, it was obvious that she would be forever lame from her injuries. Around the same time that Murera came into our care, we rescued an orphan named Sonje who had similarly lifelong injuries.

As it came time to plan for their futures beyond the Nursery, we were faced with a quandary: Our two existing Reintegration Units, Voi and Ithumba, sit within the vast wilderness of Tsavo. While this is an ideal setting for most elephants, it would be an untenable situation for Sonje and Murera. Given their physical impairments, they simply could not cover the great distances required to find food and water during the dry season.

And that is where our next miracle unfolded: We had just established a Saving Habitats program in the Kibwezi Forest, abutting Chyulu Hills National Park and home to a thriving population of wild elephants. Thanks to a network of underground springs, food and water remain abundant throughout the year, making it a place where elephants like Sonje and Murera could thrive in the wild. And thus, our third Reintegration Unit, Umani Springs, was born.

Murera and Sonje moved to Umani Springs in 2014. While it was founded with their futures in mind, they are by no means victims in this story. Indeed, both girls had enormous responsibilities on their shoulders. Establishing a new orphan unit is a prodigious undertaking, and we rely heavily on the founding matriarchs to set the tone. Murera and Sonje rose to the challenge, fostering a tight-knit orphan herd who now numbers 15 strong.

Murera has been a particular revelation. Despite her obvious physical limitations, she commands absolute respect. The others look up to her and defer to her without exception. Her nurturing presence has changed the lives of so many orphans, from sweet Mwashoti, who clearly considers her to be the mother he never had, to our dearly departed Luggard. A simple walk through the forest serves as a reminder that Murera is loved by all: She moves more slowly than the rest of the orphans, but she never walks alone. The others have adjusted their pace to match Murera’s, ensuring she is always part of the herd.

Murera’s story nearly ended a decade ago, just as it was beginning. Now, she has her whole future ahead of her. It is through your support that Murera is thriving today. Thank you for making her miracle possible.

We will leave you with this quote from Philip, Head Keeper of Umani Springs: "Murera is our 'head girl.' I may be the Head Keeper, but I am number two behind Murera. She is the oldest and a very good defender of our team."

Adan, a senior Umani Keeper, agrees: “There is a saying in kiKamba: ‘The mother of the impala does not have horns like her son, but she is still his mother.’ It’s a bit like that with Murera — she may be a bit lame and a bit slow, but she is still the matriarch.”

Help us make more miracles possible

Because of you, orphaned elephants like Murera have a future. By adopting, you directly support our growing herd as they work their way back to the wild.
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