The Elephant Whisperer by Lawrence Anthony

The Elephant Whisperer by Lawrence Anthony

Author:Lawrence Anthony
Language: eng
Format: epub
Publisher: St. Martin's Press
Published: 2011-04-18T16:00:00+00:00

chapter twenty-three

Most of my interactions with the herd had been from a Land Rover. This was deliberate as I wanted them to get used to vehicles.

It worked; our guests had great safaris and photo-opportunities as Nana and her family acted as wild elephants do, oblivious of the Land Rovers, provided of course the rangers kept a reasonable distance and respected their privacy.

But now I wanted to do it on foot, not only as I planned to introduce walking safaris, but I wanted the herd to get generally acclimatized to humans in the bush, or else labourers and rangers would always be at risk.

Taking Max with me I set out to find them for my first experiment. The herd was in an open area, grazing and browsing on the plentiful summer offerings. Nearby there were big trees for me to climb, a somewhat crucial consideration if something went wrong and I had to run for it.

Perfect! I pulled over next to a spreading marula and got out, leaving the Landy’s door open for hasty access if necessary. It’s vastly different communicating with elephants out in the open on foot compared with doing so from vehicles. If you step away from a vehicle with elephants close by, you wake up quickly.

Purposely going upwind so they could get my scent, I zigzagged toward the herd, ambling along as if on a Sunday stroll, Max by my side. Everything was going well until I was about thirty yards away and Frankie’s trunk swivelled near the ground as she got my scent. I immediately stopped as she peered myopically at Max and me, but after a short while she ignored us and continued feasting. So far so good, and I continued my erratic approach in their general direction.

Just five paces closer and Frankie suddenly lifted her head sharply and aggressively spread her ears.

Whoa! I stopped but this time she continued glaring at me until I backed off for five or six paces. That seemed to make her happy and she went back to grazing.

I repeated the process several times over the next hour, a few paces in and then out and always got the same reaction. Studiously ignored, then angrily confronted. That’s interesting, I thought, she has created a boundary: outside I am welcome, inside she gets tetchy.

After checking the distance and making sure I could reach the Land Rover at a run if things went awry, I pushed through the imaginary boundary and walked closer in.

That did it! She swung around, took three aggressive steps towards me with trunk held high and I backed off – pronto.

I then drove to the other side of the spread-out herd, got out and repeated the process with Nana. The same thing happened, except that Nana would let me get much closer than Frankie did, and her reactions were petulant rather than aggressive.

Over the next weeks, through trial and error I learned that the herd set a very real albeit invisible boundary inside of which nothing – well, no human anyway – could enter.


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