Fleeting Wonders: First Elephant in Somalia in 20 Years - Atlas Obscura
Unusual adventures and hidden discoveries. Explore our 2018 trips now »

Fleeting Wonders: First Elephant in Somalia in 20 Years

The bull, named Morgan, may have remembered the route there from his childhood.

Somalia is a rough place for elephants. Ongoing civil war has left the country rife with militants who raise money through poaching along the Kenyan border. In fact, until last week, no one had spotted an elephant in Somalia since the mid-1990s.

But in mid-February, one bull, named Morgan, decided he just had to go, reports Agence France-Presse. Morgan trekked from his home in coastal Kenya all the way to the edge of Somalia, which he reached in early March. “Out of all the tracking we’ve done in Africa, these movements… are exceptional,” Iain Douglas-Hamilton, a conservationist with Save the Elephants, told the outlet. “No one has seen anything like this before.”

Elephants trekking across Serengeti National Park.

Elephants trekking across Serengeti National Park. (Photo: Ludi/CC0)

Morgan began his journey in mid-February, when he left the Tana River Delta in coastal Kenya and began marching purposefully north. Conservationists were able to watch his progress using a tracking collar he has been wearing since December. After days of 12-mile marches and nights spent hiding in the forest, he crossed over the Somalian border earlier this month. Then after about a day of looking fruitlessly for mates, he turned back.

Morgan was “likely following a route he learnt earlier in his life,” said Ian Craig, conservation director at Kenya’s Northern Rangelands Trust. If they need to, elephants will travel far to find food, water, and mates, and will pass route knowledge down through generations. Time will tell if Morgan’s unusual itinerary enters the pachyderm pantheon.

Every day, we track down a fleeting wonder—something amazing that’s only happening right now. Have a tip for us? Tell us about it! Send your temporary miracles to cara@atlasobscura.com.