6 min read

Elephant Who Lost Everything Helps Other Orphans Overcome Their Pain

No one understands tragedy quite as well as Mbegu - or the strength that can come from it.

The David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust

The David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust

Mbegu was just a baby when she lost everything.

In May 2014, violence ignited between people and wildlife. An elephant killed a woman from a local village in Kenya and was, in turn, shot and killed. Left behind in the chaos, Mbegu was targeted by the grieving and angry community. Even children began throwing stones at her.

Mbegu just after being rescued from a village where people were attacking her.The David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust

Mbegu just after being rescued from a village where people were attacking her. | The David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust

In the chaos, it was deemed impossible to try to reunite Mbegu with her herd.

Finally, the Naibunga Conservancy stepped in and kept her safe while the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust (DSWT) dispatched rescuers to bring the wounded calf to safety.

Mbegu (right) after her rescue, already bonding with a keeper.The David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust

Mbegu (right) after her rescue, already bonding with a keeper. | The David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust

Since becoming a resident of the elephant orphanage at DSWT, Mbegu has shown how resilient and loving she still is. Not only has she bonded with her keepers, who are raising her to be an independent elephant in the wild, she's also taken on the role of "mini-matriarch" of the motley crew of orphans - each with their own painful past.

Mbegu (right) comforts a younger elephant, Lasayen.The David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust

Mbegu (right) comforts a younger elephant, Lasayen. | The David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust

"As one of the most loving and caring baby girls in our care, Mbegu is a mini-matriarch in the making and dotes on the younger babies," Amie Alden, of the DSWT, told The Dodo.

Mbegu also gives away her own treats to the younger orphans.

Mbegu (right) helps Ngilai play in the dust.The David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust

Mbegu (right) helps Ngilai play in the dust. | The David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust

She even steps in when there's conflict between the little ones. "When Rapa tried to push Naseku and Ndotto during the public visiting hour, Mbegu drove him out of the group for some time out!" Alden said.

But Mbegu knows the importance of play for the babies, who have been through more in their little lives than many beings have in a whole lifetime. "She loves playing with the babies, playing mock hide-and-seek and then running away as though she's scared - comical when it's tiny Ndotto she's running from," Alden said.

Mbegu (left) with good friend Kamok.The David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust

Mbegu (left) with good friend Kamok. | The David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust

When the orphans are let out of their stockades for play, Mbegu often escorts the seemingly defeated or sad orphans with encouragement, showing them how to go on with their lives. "She welcomes them warmly and strokes them with her trunk," Alden said.

Mbegu is also always the first to wallow in the mud bath, according to Alden.

MbeguThe David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust

Mbegu | The David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust

Thanks to the love she knows now, life is certainly looking up for Mbegu.

Mbegu (foreground) playing with younger Ngilai.The David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust

Mbegu (foreground) playing with younger Ngilai. | The David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust

In the next few years, Mbegu will be old enough to graduate to one of the DSWT's reintegration centers. This is the next step in her journey toward becoming a free and independent elephant.

The David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust

The David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust

Her mother would have been proud.

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