When a friend passes – in memory of Matambu


The circle of woven green grass dotted with flowers hangs gently from your textured ivory. We placed it there because we felt a need to leave something beautiful in your memory. Our 17-year journey can only be described as a journey of friendship.

Once I captured your ear pattern, you were on our records like 2000 other elephants but somehow you were more than a record, more than a name, even more than an elephant.

Matambu drawing
Matambu Drawing by Michelle Henley

You had graciously allowed us to collar you over the years, to follow you, to help you where we can. When we noticed your world had become smaller as your eyesight failed, you allowed our hearts to become larger in the process. We examined your eyes but were told it best we don’t try to help as aftercare for a wild elephant would not be possible. On another occasion, you showed us how you could crawl back to life after a terrible injury when this time round our three treatments could make a difference. You chose to walk over to share the shade with us and would contact rumble for us to follow as you left.

You became the favourite to the community grandmothers no matter the other elephants we showed them on the day. Many a student or visitor whispered your name when asked which of the elephants left the greatest impression upon them.

You were the mentor to numerous young elephant bulls who would place their trunks in your mouth as a greeting filled with respect.

You were the elephant that we would introduce people to if they were scared of elephants because you never failed to represent six tons of tangible peace.

You are no more Matambu. On the 1st of February 2021 at 45 you chose to leave us too soon. Our hearts are heavy and our words are few. They say that sorrow is mute. What words does one have when a giant goes to sleep?

Your greatness of spirit will always be our standing ovation and your gentleness despite your power, our compass.

Thank you for having shared our world and making it a brighter place with your peaceful presence.

Matambu 3 days before he died
Tribute to Matambu

Thank you to Motswari Private Game Reserve and Grant Anderson for making his passing easier. Thank you to Drs. Cobus Raath, Ben Muller and Joel Alves who made Matambu’s life easier when he was in pain.

Thank you to the Elephants Alive team for the respect you showed and that we are there for each other while we share this mutual sorrow. Thank you to all who can share just what an incredible animal he was.