Mutware, loosely translated as “Chief” – the 48-year old elephant was in all sense the chief of Rwanda’s only savannah park, Akagera. He had conquered the hearts of those that had visited the Eastern Province park.
Mutware was pronounced dead last week by the park managers, African Parks. It is believed it died from natural causes.
Mutware was one of the original 26 young elephants, who were all under the age of eight years that were relocated to Akagera from Bugesera in 1975. He was easily recognisable to those who knew him as he had broken his tusks years ago.
“Most of the other elephants went away but he was one of three who became habituated by humans and since then has had no fear of humans and often lived around them. Due to his lack of fear of humans and the fact he had a name made him iconic,” said Jes Grunner, Akagera Park Manager.
Though he was well known and adored by Rwandans who visited the park, Mutware used to escape the park before it was fenced and destroy property of those who lived next to the game park.
It is said that he miraculously survived the loss of his tusks at the hands of poachers in 1994 as the battle raged to liberate the country from the genocidal government.
“Akagera has a thriving population of over 100 elephants. Mutware by nature was a lone bull who seldom interacted with wild elephants, thus he did not breed with other elephants with exception of a few months a year when he came into the tourism areas of the park.He liked to remain in a quiet area where there was no tourism most of the time. Nonetheless he was an ambassador for Akagera,” noted Grunner.
On the fate of Mutware’s remains, Gruner told Sunday Times that; “Mutware came from nature and will return to the nature where his body can rest in peace with the exception of his skull which will be stored in the park.
At the time of passing, Mutware did not have his ivory, and he is said to have lost them before the new park managers resumed management in 2010,
“He potentially lost them from fighting, infection or poor diet.” Gruner suggested.
Tourists react to Mutware’s passing
The devastating news left tourism enthusiasts shocked and several took on to their social media accounts to express the attachment they had to Mutware.
Among the mourners include Senate President and former Prime Minister Bernard Makuza who reminisced his first meeting with Mutware.
#MUTWARE I will never forget the first time I met you @Akagera Park in 1989 you were U20 I was 28 years https://t.co/kgcvsGstxB was and still is a memorable day for me to see-meet a so kind giant God gift to Rwanda #Akagera.A legendary never dies.Forever in our memory.— Makuza Bernard (@_MakuzaBernard) September 28, 2018
In response to the announcement of the demise of Mutware, Belise Kariza, Chief Tourism Officer at Rwanda Development Board, said that the elephant would be missed.
A one Exode Rukundo noted that: “Those who visited #Akagera since 1975 know how he made us love this park. Goodbye Mr Mutware”.
Jordan Ndayishimiye described Mutware as the real definition of animal-human friendship.
“A real definition of animal-human friend passed away, one of the best known elephant “MUTWARE”. Ndayishimiye said.
Télesphore NGOGA, Community Tourism Development Analyst at Rwanda Development Board said that Mutware was flag-bearer of Akagera Park.
It is very sad #Mutware has been the flag-bearer of@AkageraPark for the most of his life. Well known, loved and respected by #Ndego villagers in @KayonzaDistrict He will be highly missed by tourists and remain remembered in #Rwanda I believe #Elephants also live after life #RIP— Télesphore NGOGA (@TNgoga) September 27, 2018
Francine Umutesi said: “So very sad... his story was linked to Rwanda’s story, he was lonely during the hard times of Genocide and had PTSD over it, I learned... Not sure where animals go upon their death, but may he rest peacefully; he deserved it!
We shall miss you gentle #Mutware.
Archie Henry, remember this elephant “very well” when it almost ambushed them in the middle of the park.