I cried. I raged. I cried.
How can anyone have such disregard for these magnificent beasts that they massacre them on such a scale.
The first – actually, I think it was the only time – that I won a book prize at school, I received a gorgeous publication called The Elephant. I was new to South Africa and hadn’t had anything to do with these beautiful and spiritual animals. I loved that book.
A year later we went to Kruger Park and watched from our car as a magnificent herd ambled across the road in front of us.
And then! A few years ago Pierre and I went to Makweti Safari Lodge in the Welgevonden Game Reserve. And that’s where I had an experience that will live with me forever. There are bonuses to working on magazines and this was one of the best I’ve ever enjoyed – a weekend at a top lodge in the beautiful Welgevonden area of Limpopo province.
One evening Pierre and I went on a game drive with Wayne Nel – excellent game ranger and incredible human being – on our own, just the three of us, as the sun was setting. The bush takes on a different identity at sunset. And when there are only three of you on the landie, it’s even more amazing.
We had just experienced a herd of eland grazing in the bush – incredible animals; spiritual animals of the San. Clicking along as they moved and ate and contemplated.
Then we came upon the herd of elephants. We watched as a tiny baby tried to follow its big brothers and sisters, pulling grass and smashing it against the ground and then eating clumps. Protective elders; caring mom; watchful matriarch. And three humans – in awe.
And then everything stopped. Dead still. It was so sudden that the baby’s leg halted mid-step.
Wayne and Pierre and I had been whispering and watching and oohing and aahing. But we also stopped. Dead still. Mid-sentence. The silence was intense for about 30 seconds and then the elephants resumed their pulling and smashing and eating. And then they moved on.
They left the three of us amazed and enthralled. It was as though we had shared something very special. A silent sharing of a spiritual moment. Wayne’s explanation was that the ellies were listening to another herd that could be up to 10km or more away. Apparently they “talk” to each other via vibrations they feel through their feet and we had all – the ellies and us – stopped because of the vibrations. Although we didn’t hear or feel them, we were caught up in the moment.
It was incredibly special and beautiful. Our elephants and our rhinos are so magnificent. The planet would be a very sad place if they didn’t share it.