The Remarkable Journey of Yatta: From Orphan to Grandmother, Inspiring Generations

In 2012, Yatta became a mother for the first time, welcoming her calf, Yetu, into the world. Over the years, we’ve witnessed several wild calves born to orphans we saved and nurtured at Ithumba.

However, this week brought something extraordinary – Yatta, one of our Ithumba orphans, became a grandmother, filling our hearts with pride as honorary great-grandparents.

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But before we celebrate this heartwarming news, let’s take a moment to reflect on the past. In late 1999, a poacher tragically killed a female elephant for her ivory, leaving behind a vulnerable one-month-old calf without her mother’s protection.

Fortunately, the cries of the young calf reached the ears of nearby laborers, who acted swiftly to save her. They transported her to Nairobi, giving her a second chance at life.

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This calf’s name was Yetu, and her journey marked the beginning of Yatta’s incredible story. Yatta, first raised at the Nursery and later at the Voi Reintegration Unit, was pivotal in establishing a solid foundation for the orphans.

She and three other female elephants formed the backbone of the inaugural herd, ensuring the project’s success.

Despite being born during a severe drought, Yetu thrived under Yatta’s guidance. Yatta’s maternal instincts and leadership abilities made her a cherished community member, nurturing young orphaned calves and forming strong bonds with them over two decades.

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Yatta seamlessly integrated with wild herds and became a mother, solidifying her irreplaceable role.

The celebration reached new heights when Yatta, a proud grandmother, returned to Ithumba with her entourage.

It has become a tradition for Ithumba’s ex-orphans to visit the enclosures shortly after giving birth, sharing their happiness and introducing their newborns to their human family.

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Yatta and Mulika’s daughters, half-sisters, continue this tradition, as they are born to the same remarkable male elephant known as “Dad” with sweeping ivory.

Yebo, Yatta’s grandchild, was born during a dry season but remained robust under Yetu’s care. Yetu’s unique bond with the human-elephant family was evident as she introduced Yebo to Benjamin, the respected honorary grandfather and headkeeper at Ithumba.

They named Yebo, which means “ours” in Swahili, fittingly reflecting the inclusive nature of this unique family.

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Yetu’s younger brother, Yogi, is thrilled to become an uncle to Yebo. Like their mother, Yetu, they are known for their responsible and nurturing nature.

Yetu’s pregnancy was a delightful surprise; her growing belly marked her journey over the past year.

On November 11th, during the dry season, three generations of elephants, including Yetu, Yatta’s eldest child; Yebo, Yatta’s first grandchild; Yogi, Yatta’s third child, and Yatta herself, returned to Ithumba after an absence of over three months.

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Yetu, with her adorable baby boy, took the lead, accompanied by her half-sister, Mwende, and ex-orphan Mulika’s offspring.

Benjamin, the Headkeeper, warmly welcomed them, marking a new chapter in their lives as they worked together to raise the little one.

Despite her wild upbringing, Yetu maintains a strong bond with the human family that cared for her mother.

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Her excitement was palpable as she introduced her offspring to Benjamin and the Keepers at Ithumba.

With Yatta and her herd joining the celebration, trumpets blaring, and everyone rejoicing, Mwende, Yetu’s half-sister, took on the role of primary caregiver for the newborn as the head nanny.

Introducing Yebo, the newest member of the Ithumba elephant clan! This adorable calf’s name, derived from the Zulu language, means “yes” or “confirmation.”

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Yebo’s life is a testament to the heroic act of his grandmother, Yatta, who was rescued over two decades ago.

Thanks to her, Yebo now belongs to a thriving family of elephants, establishing a new lineage of these magnificent creatures.

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