Whenever and wherever I travel, I am always affected by the people I meet along the way. Most recently, I was moved to tears, and inspired, by an elephant.
I’ve come to realize now, having recently visited two more areas of Southern Africa (Botswana’s Okavango Delta and Mozambique), that I am in love with both the people of this continent, and the animals. From a very photogenic lion and a playful hyena cub, to the spectacular people of a tiny village in coastal Mozambique (who will be the subject of another post), I was enamored at every turn. My trip last year to Zimbabwe led me to quite a bit of introspection, thanks to some of the sweetest and most grateful children I’ve ever encountered (see previous post: https://wanderwrite.wordpress.com/2011/10/03/multiple-lessons-learned-in-zimbabwe/). And this time, inspiration and humility came in the form of a three and a half year old elephant named Paseka.
I’ll try to make a long story short. The game rangers at Abu Camp (www.abucamp.com), a luxury safari lodge where guests interact with the elephants they’ve rescued and/or raised, were out on a morning game drive, when they witnessed (and caught on tape) an orphaned baby elephant being attacked by hyenas. Covered in injuries, the baby ran alongside their vehicle, hoping to find protection. As both lovers of elephants and advocates of letting nature do what it must, they were torn. They wanted to help but were hesitant to intervene, and eventually made the difficult decision to leave the scene, and hope that the young elephant would survive. The elephant disagreed with their decision.
The next morning, Easter Sunday, they went to their generator room, only to find her, scared and shaken but alive, hiding and waiting to be found. Apparently she had followed the truck back to camp and sought shelter inside the small room, fighting her fate and seemingly aware that Abu Camp offered a safe haven for elephants just like her. They named her Paseka, meaning Easter, and the elephant herders, and the elephants themselves, adopted her. There were some struggles along the way, but today she is happy, healthy, and quite loving–if a bit precocious.
I learned A LOT about elephants during my five days at Abu Camp. I learned about everything from their gestation period (22 months, in case you were curious) to their extraordinary memories, to the fact that female elephants who have never had babies can nurse other mothers’ babies when they are born into the herd (amazing, right?). I also learned a lot from elephants, particularly Paseka. Her will to survive, her unrelenting courage, her strength, when all alone in the world and literally being hunted by enemies who outnumbered her. I mean, if that isn’t an inspiring–and universal–story, what is?
*There is an award-winning, and tear jerking, documentary on Paseka. You can view the trailer here: http://www.nhuafrica.com/license-acquisition/one-off-specials/paseka/