Let’s set the scene: seemingly unaware that she is 1,700 pounds, MmaMotse tiptoes into the food storage, desperate to avert the eyes of her handler and find them. Her trunk skims cabinets, pounds on rice bags, and opens the refrigerator. Yet they are nowhere to be found. She aggressively shakes her head, trunk flailing about, padded feet vibrating the dirt-packed “tilework.” And in the midst of this tantrum, her eye—darting about, checking to see if her handler has noticed her cunning crusade—spots them: they glisten, reflecting the Botswana sunrise in a coral swirl of vibrance. Oranges. MmaMotse’s mouth waters, but there is no time for indulgent decadence. She swiftly intertwines her trunk with the mesh bag holding her precious treats and runs into the trees, ears wide and flapping. But just as MmaMotse’s fierce teeth crush the first orange, AK—one of the dedicated elephant handlers—realizes what his mischievous girl has been up to and snatches the bag from her grasp. He laughs with an unmistakable fatherly love… a laugh so pure it echoes throughout the savannah, becoming a part of the intricate ecosystem of Botswana as it harmonizes with humming cicadas.
MmaMotse, at almost three years old, is just like a human toddler—mischievous yet gentle. Desperate for affection yet wrestling with newfound independence. Kind-hearted yet cheeky. And while MmaMotse is still discovering the intricacies of the world around her as a mere child in the elephant world, she has assumed a matriarchal role at the orphanage, taking care of our younger babies and teaching them the ropes. She is shaping up to be a strong, tenacious female… a feminist icon of Elephant Havens.