Ex-orphan Elephant Brings Her Babies on a Surprise Visit to Meet the Human Family Who Saved Her

August 13, 2019 Updated: August 19, 2019

On an ordinary autumn fall day at the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust in Kenya, staff and caretakers were going about their daily schedule when three unexpected visitors showed up on the doorsteps. Yatta, an 18-year-old ex-orphan elephant of the Orphans Project at the trust, brought her newborn baby boy along with her firstborn daughter to surprise those who took care of the mother so many years earlier.

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Over 10 years ago, Yatta was released back to the wild to be with friends of her kind. However, like any other mother, Yatta cherishes and wants to show her treasure, her precious babies, to her human family, who took care of her since she was a calf.

In September 1999, a labor team was working nearby at Tsavo East National Park when they heard Yatta’s distressful cries. They followed the weeping sound and found Yatta pacing around her mother’s deceased body below the Yatta Plateau. Sadly, the mother was killed by poachers for her tusks, leaving the 1-month-old baby all by herself.

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The men helped to transport her to the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust Nursery in Nairobi for care. Upon arriving at the facility, Yatta was very weak with periodic stiff joints, but she grew strong over the years under proper care and medical attention.

In 2001, Yatta was slated to be reintegrated into the wild by moving her to wild herds of Voi, where the other ex-orphan elephants were reintroduced to the wild. Yatta’s gentleness and motherly nature stood out to the staff such that she was chosen to be relocated to the new Ithumba Rehabilitation Stockades at the facility to assist in caring for younger orphans from the Nairobi Nursery.

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As she matured over the years, Yatta was prepared to mate, and she gave birth to her firstborn daughter at the beginning of 2012. The calf was named Yetu—“ours” in Swahili—and she was the second wild-born calf in the Ithumba Units, fathered by a wild elephant.

Around the time when Yetu was born, staff at the stockade hadn’t seen her in a couple of days. After giving birth sometime between midday and midnight, Yatta came back the next morning with a stumbling, adorable baby girl.

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Over 50 elephants at the stockade greeted and welcomed the little friend, showering her with trumpeting cheers and kisses. The group proceeded to take their daily walks, carefully protecting Yetu by surrounding her in the middle with their large bodies.

According to the caretakers, it’s not uncommon for ex-orphans to return with their calves, but it definitely brings a smile to their faces each time they visit. When the second, newest born Yoyo showed up with his mother at the sanctuary, caretakers were not startled, but were amazed.

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“We have not only saved an orphan baby and raised her, but she has successfully returned to the wild and started her own family,” staff member Rob Brandford told The Dodo. “For elephants, family is everything—so it’s no surprise that they choose to share their new family member with their former human carers, for they are part of their family.” But each time they stop by with a visit “is amazing,” as he puts it.

Two of Yatta’s orphan “sisters” also gave birth in the same month that she did. The project has over 28 wild-born calves, and the number continues rising. A field team is constantly on the lookout for poachers to keep the animals safe and happy.

Meet Yoyo

Meet miracle mum's newest babyYatta is an orphaned elephant who grew up in the care of the DSWT and reintegrated back into the wild more than eight years ago. She's now a proud momma to two wild born calves and, in a show of absolute trust and affection for her former carers, brought her newest baby Yoyo back to meet the people that saved her! Yatta is one of more than 100 orphaned elephants we've helped return to the wild, all watched over by our field teams who patrol to keep these miracle mums safe. Meet the other orphans, and their calves, who beat the odds to return to their birth right: www.thedswt.org/wild-born-babies

Posted by Sheldrick Wildlife Trust on Wednesday, December 6, 2017

“We are delighted to witness the ex-orphan herds beginning to expand so naturally,” caretakers added. “There could be no greater gift for us, or testament to the success of the Orphans Project, than to share the joy of such perfectly healthy baby elephants like our three ‘October kids.’”

Although departed from the home she grew up in, Yatta always keeps the people who saved her in her heart. “She’s a proud momma,” caretakers said. “And in a show of absolute trust and affection, she brought her newest baby back to meet the people who saved her.”

Love and compassion flow in both directions. When people show care and love to those in need, they shall receive the same in return.

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