Tuesday, April 16, 2013



One day a few years ago… We arrived at Simon’s house inside Tsavo East about 5PM. Onto the verandah and lo and behold, an elephant was walking quite close to the house. As always, when I see my first elephant after leaving Nairobi I felt that sense of… AH, there you are.

Thank goodness… Usually they are about 30 meters away at a waterhole, where they come to drink and move on - but this time, this elephant was calmly walking right towards me - he reached out his trunk straight to my face! The tip of his trunk was about a foot away and he was clearly reaching out to me.

I was SO TEMPTED to touch his trunk, to blow into it as one does with the orphaned elephants at the Sheldrick Trust elephant orphanage in Nairobi – we all think they like this, and it’s how they get to know who we are…

The Voi stockades are less than a kilometre away from Simon’s house, this elephant showing such interest in a human meant it just HAD To be one of the orphans, now a wild ele, with no fear or concern whatsoever.

But I held back… I couldn’t know for sure. And I was well aware of the time that Daphne Sheldrick had mistaken a wild elephant for one of the ones they had raised only to find that the elephant was NOT a former orphan and decidedly unhappy at her approach so it tossed her into the bushes and she broke her leg quite badly!

 I waited, I hung back on the little verandah. The elephant reached over and knocked over one of the canvas-backed chairs. I pulled the chair inside. He laid his trunk to rest on the table right at me as if to say… “Aw, come ON – Play with ME!!”

Thank you Brian for taking these photos with no setup! After a while he went to the waterhole, staying nearby for another 1/2 hour. The next day we went up to the stockades and showed the photos to the keepers at the Sheldricks and it turned out that NO, this was NOT one of the elephants raised by them!

So how did this elephant become so calm around people? Did he learn it from those elephants who had left the orphanage? What WOULD have happened had I reached out and touched him? I will never know.

I only know that I had a very rare and funny encounter with a very wild and not small elephant. It filled me with such joy and gratitude. I wanted to think that he (or she, it's hard to tell at that age but for a female to be alone for nearly an hour would be unusual) just knew that I am on his side –

I would never do anything to hurt an elephant and all of my work in Africa is based upon my love and appreciation for elephants. A lovely day I will always remember.

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