It was unexpected and not part of our original itinerary, but we had the chance, at the very last moment, to spend a night at Abu Camp. Besides the beauty and luxury of Abu Camp, we were delighted to have the opportunity to meet the newest addition to the Abu elephant herd – the little Naledi.
The sight of Cathy the matriarch majestically stepping out of the thick, lush treeline, leading the way, greeted us. Tucked close to her ankles was the tiniest baby elephant, the newborn Naledi. At only seven weeks old she was small enough to easily walk under Cathy’s underbelly. Naledi was not interested in meeting us; she was only interested in suckling from Cathy. Meanwhile, the older youngster of the herd, Warona, jealously nudged Naledi in a display of sibling rivalry as she remembered it was not so long ago when the limelight was on her and she still felt the need to be the star of the show.
We stood there in awe to see the miracle of the sweet baby Naledi. Her name means “star” and she was given this name because she was born on a beautiful African starry night. Her mother was Kiti, which is short for Kitimetse, which means ‘thank you’ in Setswana, the language of Botswana. As we watched the beautiful baby, we listened to the tragic story of Kiti told to us by Wellington who is the head elephant handler at Abu.
On the 11th of January Kiti had a complication – it isn’t clear if it was related to the recent birth of Naledi or not – which resulted in her losing condition to the point where, despite every effort and the best medical attention being rushed to Abu (including via helicopter), she passed away.
Wellington pointed to the place where she was laid to rest and told us that after they had buried her, the wild elephants appeared around her grave for a while and then moved on. Naledi understandably was heartbroken by the loss of her mother, but remarkably the mother of all mothers, Cathy, allowed her to suckle and now has adopted the little orphan.
For anyone who has ever known Kiti, they will have had the privilege of meeting one of the most magnificent souls. She was a remarkable elephant with the gentlest personality, a generous, giving and kind elephant. She is going to be so sorely missed, not only by baby Naledi, but also by the people who have lived with and cared for her.