Elephant Encounter & Trumpeter Hornbills

Elephants in Mutare National Park. Photo by Rev. Mary Beth Byrne

Rev. Mary Beth Byrne and I went to the Presbyterian Church in Mutare with Jane and Larry Kies on Sunday. It was a good service, and it was good to see some old friends. I also enjoyed meeting and getting acquainted with some new friends. While we were visiting and chatting in the courtyard after the service, Jane Kies received a text from another couple who had just gone home. The essence of the message was to come quickly to see something special. We went to their home on the outskirts of Mutare (just a bit beyond Mutare Boy’s High School where my brother went to school 55 years ago.)

What we saw when we got there was amazing. Their home and yard is gorgeous, but the special attraction was an elephant grazing just beyond their side-yard fence. It turns out that this home is right next to a small National Park that goes up into the mountains and on to the border with Mozambique. We learned that two elephants live in the park, and every so often they come by this home that is only separated from the park by a high barbed wire fence. Indeed, as we were watching and learning about this elephant history we heard some thrashing in the nearby woods, and pretty soon a second elephant came up to join the first one.

The elephants are a mother and son, ages 13 and 8 respectively. They are clearly comfortable in this setting, and our presence did not bother them a bit. We watched them for about half an hour before going on to see other features of the home and gardens. As we went into the back of the property, a number of very large birds flew out of a wild fig tree, trumpeting loudly as they did so. It turned out that they were Trumpeter Hornbills, a fairly rare sub-species of hornbill. We probably only got to see them because they were attracted by the wild figs that are ripe now. Otherwise, they stay in more remote areas of the park. We weren’t able to get any pictures of them, but it was quite a morning for all of us!