Walk With the Elephants

Walk with the ElephantsOn one of my journeys to Botswana, there was an opportunity for me to Walk With The Elephants.  I didn’t know at the time, what, exactly that meant, but I was game to find out.  Anytime, I have an opportunity to be up close and personal, under guidance, of course, I’m ready to do it.  Where else would you have a chance to do something like that?

My girlfriend and I were taken to a clearing where a husband and wife, Doug and Sandy Groves, were waiting for us.  We introduced ourselves to them and to the other two people that had also joined us.  We weren’t sure what to expect.  We thought we would see the elephants, but there were none in sight.

Walk with the ElephantsWe spent some time getting to know everyone and listening to the Groves and hearing their stories of their time in the bush.  They began to talk about the elephants and how they came to know and ‘adopt’ them.  The story was fascinating. The elephants don’t do ‘tricks’ and they are not ‘trained’, but they do display a trust in their ‘owners’ that occasionally will result in a little mischievous behavior, such as taking the hat off my girlfriend, which was quite funny.

The Players

The elephants, Jabu, Thembi and Morula were about to be culled (euthanized), in South Africa. The elephants had become juvenile delinquents and dangerous to be around.  As it turns out, when they say that elephants have a keen sense of memory, that is 100% correct.  These elephants became extremely unruly as they watched their families being culled, along with a larger herd of elephants.

Culling

Culling has been happening since I had been coming to Africa.  I had heard continuously that South Africa had an over population of elephants and the only way to manage the herds was to cull them.  It outraged me and so many others.

It is not easy to transport elephants, but there were so many other parks located within the boundaries of South Africa, Botswana, Zamabia and Namibia that seemed to be begging to have them sent there.  Unfortunately, the herds were just too many to handle; and so many, many herds were culled to ease the population.  Over population means there just isn’t enough food for the significant herds of elephants, and elephants were often wandering outside of the boundaries, where there was elephant/human conflict.

Saved by the bell – I mean the Groves

 

So these three teenage elephants were about to be culled as well.  Enter Doug, initially, and later, Sandi to come to the rescue.  They were able to convince the government of South Africa that they could care for these three elephants.  What happened over the next decade is a fascinating love story of three delinquent elephants and their ‘foster’ parents.

The journey started in South Africa and ended in Botswana, a delightful game-rich country in the heart of the Okavango Delta.  The Okavango Delta itself is, a stunning and mesmerizing landscape. All the water reaching the Delta is ultimately evaporated and transpired, and does not flow into any sea or ocean. It is an amazing piece of terrain.

Three elephants led by Doug and Sandi traveling from one country to another was a feat no one believed could be pulled off. The elephants were ‘delinquents’ and they had no history with their new ‘owners’.  Although Doug remained in South Africa initially, he ultimately decided that Botswana would give them the security, the terrain, and the environment they wanted for these juvenile delinquents.

The trek took days, through rivers, lakes, streams and the ever dangerous bush, both for the elephants and for Doug and Sandi.  They weren’t sure they’d make it.  But, they did.  Their journey is depicted in the DVD A HERD OF THEIR OWN.  It’s a wonderful story of their journey, which is told like no one else can. It is a story worth seeing and sharing. The DVD can be ordered here:  http://www.wildlogic.net/programs.htm#

Walk with the ElephantsMy experience with these gentle giants was one of the most memorable I’ve ever had.  Touching that pad on the bottom of the elephant’s foot was simple, but amazing.  It’s like a big pin cushion.  They are very sure-footed, so being atop one you can feel the security in their every step.  Seeing their teeth, feeling their trunk, seeing how that trunk is a necessary limb, and then knowing that people are killing these beautiful creatures for those beautiful ivory tusks, is simply heartbreaking.  They are as important to an elephant as their trunks are.  Let’s celebrate the ones left and pray for long days ahead for the remaining herds.  I will never forget this experience.

If travel to Africa is on your list, look for my South Africa journey coming up in September 2016.  Maybe you’ll want to extend your trip to include this remarkable experience.  Be sure to keep checking Destined-to-Travel for updated information on safari journeys to come.

‘Safari’ Kay

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