A very special delivery arrived in Ithumba this morning: Ex orphan Yatta gave birth to her third calf, a healthy boy named Yogi!
Yogi is the fourth baby born in as many weeks, following in the footsteps of Kaia, Njema, and Noah. And this is only counting the offspring of our orphans — we are also playing host to two wild elephant mums and their newborns. Head Keeper Benjamin reports that Ithumba is fast turning into a crèche, with tiny babies whizzing around in every direction.
In fact, this led to some initial confusion this morning. As dawn broke, Benjamin saw the ex orphans eating lucerne outside the stockades, as has become their custom during the dry season. When he spotted a tiny baby amidst all the towering elephants, he assumed it was one of the five newborns we had already been introduced to. Then, he realised this baby was quite literally newly born!
Elephants can’t resist an occasion to celebrate, so naturally, many of Yatta’s closest friends had gathered to welcome Yogi to the world. There was Nasalot and her rascal sons, Nusu and Noah; Kinna and her daughters, Kama and Kaia; Wendi and her daughters, Wiva and Wema; Galana, Lualeni, and Sunyei, along with their girls, Gawa, Lulu, and Siku; and Makena and Makireti.
In fact, the only conspicuously absent guests were Yatta’s other babies, nine-year-old Yetu and four-year-old Yoyo. This was not entirely unusual, as Yetu is nearly an adult herself and often assumes guardianship of her little brother. Sure enough, they showed up a few hours later in the company of ex orphans Ithumbah and Namalok.
As a matriarch and experienced mother, Yatta knows exactly how to tackle this challenging dry season. She remained in the immediate vicinity of Ithumba for the entire day, feasting on lucerne and taking plenty of water while Yogi frolicked by her side. Yatta knows how important it is to rest and keep her milk bar high for her newborn.
Yatta illustrates how one saved life can have an impact for generations. 22 years ago, a team of labourers heard distraught bellows ringing across the Yatta Plateau. Following the sound, they discovered an infant elephant standing near the carcass of her mother, who had been slain by poachers and robbed of her ivory. Yatta’s initial weeks at the Nursery were fraught. Not only was she haunted by the trauma she had witnessed, but she also grappled with a series of mysterious health issues. Blessedly, she turned a corner and blossomed into a confident and gentle elephant.
Yatta played a pivotal role in the early success of our Ithumba Reintegration Unit. In 2004, when we were selecting the new unit’s founding herd, we knew how important it was to have them anchored by a strong matriarch. Yatta, who had shown great aptitude as a leader from a very early age, was the natural choice. Sure enough, she led with confidence and decisiveness from the moment she stepped foot in Ithumba. Under her guidance, many orphans have found their place back in the wilds of Tsavo.
Motherhood is a milestone for any female elephant, but especially for one who so cruelly lost her own mother. When Yatta first gave birth in 2012, Yetu was only the second wild baby conceived by one of our Ithumba orphans. Since then, dozens of little miracles have followed in her footsteps. Yogi is the 43rd known calf born to an elephant orphan we rescued, raised, and reintegrated back into the wild — and we know that there are many more on the way.