By happy coincidence the library non-fiction book club chose The Elephant Whisperer as the selection for November, just before we left for Africa. In the Chobe reserve and the Okavango delta we saw hundreds of the magnificent beasts in family groups, close-up and spread out across the savannah. My favorite encounters were when we drove by a group near a road. One of the seniors would give us an irritated head toss, swing her body around away from us and grumpily hustle her group away. I couldn't help but remember my childhood when we saw the poor elephants in chains at the circus. Of course we had no idea how cruelly they were treated.
My grandfather's carvings also came to mind. He carved hundreds of little elephants...but the only ones he saw were those tortured souls in the circus. An animal lover, he treated his team of farm horses like members of the family. I wonder what he'd have thought if he had the opportunity to see elephants in all their natural glory.
Below I'm in the Little Vumbara camp at tea time when Angry Bob came to call. He's a frequent visitor to the camp and ambles in, tearing up the foliage as he goes. We had to remain in our tents and wait for an escort when Bob was visiting. Despite how this little scene looks, Bob is not at all tame and has earned his name. He's missing a tusk and that might be his problem One day, while getting ready for tea, he passed scarily close to our tent crashing his way through the brush. "Go Bob...you've got every right to be angry," we thought.
The cruelty to these creatures is unrelenting. The poachers poison them (they suffer a terrible death) in Zimbabwe for their tusks - see news clip below. In Botswana, the anti-poaching units shoot to kill poachers...so Angry Bob and all the others in Botswana should be safe from everything but tourists. I feel guilty about disturbing them even for photos and am only consoled by the fact that our dollars spent in Botswana are protecting them.