Just before lunch, Laly receives a call about an elephant – the same one that was wandering around “sick” on Sunday. We go rumble down to the village and out to the boma (picking up the oldest man in the village and dropping him off at his boma on the way) and find her eating in thick brush just 5 minutes drive outside the village, and barely a quarter mile away from a large boma. According to Laly and Buddy, she is an old elephant who probably couldn’t make it to the next watering hole and so was left by her herd. Her herd will either pick her up when they next come through, or she will realize that she’s been abandoned for good. We’re glad she’s not sick, but also are concerned about what might happen if she hangs around.
The best case scenario, if she doesn’t move out, is that TANAPA may just shoot her – this area is thick with children, cattle and bored young adults – if they don’t move her/remove her, someone will probably get hurt before long. And if someone gets hurt, who knows what will happen then to both general attitudes toward elephants, and to future elephants who might come wandering through village land?
And so we watch her from a distance for a while as she browses, and when she picks her head up to look at us and takes one step forward, we start in fear and begin to run. She stops, and goes a different direction. We stop, too, and turn again to watch her. Our hearts are pounding. She is so magnificent, my first close-up elephant, so utterly weird and strange, and palpable intellect. I put a human brain inside her and wonder what she must think of us.
As we drive away, my spirits are low. Granted, if she is old, she would die soon anyway. But to see her here is a completely different sensation than to see an elephant in a zoo. Here, the complexity of her wisdom is expressed in the way she regarded us, and we would take her down just like that. So, this is one of the harder truths of conservation - that we would sacrifice this one because of the threat of danger.