The bush can be completely overwhelming, the trees reaching out in every direction, and the thick tall bush green with life often surrounds you in such an accumulation it almost hugs you into itself. You become a part of it, and when you try to move through it, to follow a track, a path, a sound up ahead, it’s as though you’re moving through water, a wave that has collapsed over you. I don’t know what the elephants think about it, but I presume because they’re so much taller, and larger, it’s simply a puddle at their feet.
Have you seen an elephant walk? They have different struts, like their fast-paced bob, as they approach something of interest, perhaps their herd, or food, their steps are fast but almost don’t look that fast because of the long strides they take. I’m enamoured by the way elephants walk. I film it constantly. When I’m with the herd, I forget everything else. I am part of their walk. As their tails flicker from side to side and their hips seem to rise and fall, I am their dance. Maybe I start to swagger too, to move my hips in that profound confident way, that announces to the world, I am here, I am the world’s largest mammal and I’m proud of it.
When I cycle, by myself or with friends, I can’t help but shift into this same perspective. I am an elephant on a bicycle. Moving with my environment, as the road tumbles and stretches and falls. I’ve tackled some gnarly paths lately. Physically challenged myself on cycles of renowned grueling-ness. I haven’t always found it easy. On the contrary, I’ve been completely tackled by the reality of these races. Sometimes, reliant on help from others. But they’ve taught me an immense amount. I am not invincible. I might be able to walk through the African Big 5 wilderness unaccompanied, with my decades of bush knowledge serving me as a protector but as a mere mortal on a bicycle, traipsing up up up over the hills of weather-beaten mountains, I am the wings of a butterfly, fragile but hopeful. I love to pit myself against the elements. Never the elephants, but the elements, yes. To test my strength. My strength of muscle as much as will power.
I like to move, I don’t sit still easily, which is perhaps what makes my work with the elephants so desirable. Together, we are always challenging each other, physically or mentally. I am always on the move when I’m with them. Thinking, or walking, or chasing, in the case of Mambo and Lundi. Movement is very much a part of our every day, the days of the carers who walk 10 to 20 kilometres a day with the herd, to different parts of the reserve. The focus is wholly on the elephants. Where do they want to feed? What will be best for them? What will be best for the land that supports them? How much time do they need to rest, to browse and feed, to swim, to play?
The carers are there as guides. They offer protection too. We underestimate this sometimes, because the word “carer” can so easily equate something domestic like a nurse or doctor. But an elephant carer is much more like the job of a gorilla ranger. They follow these semi-wild animals through African Big 5 territory where buffalo, lions, leopard, hyena, hippo and rhino reside, never mind wild elephant herds. I commend them, and I know how difficult it is to find people to fill their boots. It takes immense bravery to walk with elephants in the wild each day. With the pure purpose being to protect and care for the herd. I’m grateful that people like this exist, people willing to give their time and lives to something higher, something so altruistic yet so practical, so necessary, so seemingly simple but so very complex.
On World Elephant Day this year, we ask you to join us in honouring this march, this walk with the elephants, to raise awareness for our herd and others around the continent who need their profile raised, their importance made visible, their needs met through assisted support.
I will be walking for the elephants this weekend of World Elephant Day. Our carers will be walking, as always, for the elephants this World Elephant Day. And we invite you, to join us, whichever way you prefer – walking, running, hiking, cycling, dancing, surfing, skiing, rowing, etc – this World Elephant Day. We ask that you tell us if you’re in, if you’ll walk for elephants, hike for elephants, cycle for elephants, and join us in our daily activities for the herd. Find out more about Trails for Trunks here >
Tell us if you’re in: firstname.lastname@example.org and think of the walk of the herd and carers, and the other wildlife we share this wilderness home with, on your next amble and escapade.
I send you my thanks and love