By Conrad Brain
Keeping track of one elephant herd is a mammoth task – even with high tech tracking devices, an aircraft and many years of experience with the particular herd. Yet, on occasion they vanish, out of tracking range and out of your realm of expertise. It as at those times you have to reach out and take advice from superior knowledge. Luckily, like the elephants themselves, a small group of local people in Namibia also never forgets.
They have lived with elephants for centuries and have a deep understanding of them and their habits and when I run out of ideas, and the elephants run from me, I turn to them. The Hei//om (pronounced Hi – cum) people of Etosha National Park in their own humble way are usually able to help me out. The Hei//om, and in particular ou Jan Tsumeb, have shown me secret elephant swimming pools, hidden feeding areas and places I thought elephants would never visit. These findings have elevated my appreciation for both elephant and man and have been a starting point for an intense involvement with elephants in Namibia.
Working with elephants never gets tiresome or boring and neither does the response of people to elephants, especially those people who have never before seen an elephant. Reactions of people vary from delight to outright fear, from disbelief to fascination. The sounds, size, the silence and the majesty of the elephants intrigue everyone.
When the US television program, the Today Show contacted me with respect to a visit to the desert elephants I thought we might get the same response. I was wrong.
Upon arrival at De Riet in the Huab River, Savanna Guthrie, a Today Show anchor, and her film crew approached De Riet from the east and simultaneously our herd of elephants approached from the west. With little time to greet or even brief her on the previous three days we had been tracking the elephants, they were upon us.
Within minutes elephants, their scent, their elegance and their offspring – two tiny babies, surrounded us one only day old. Savanna was transfixed, an experienced television anchor left speechless at the spectacle. Hours later, the elephants simply and effortlessly merged into the desert. So with the elephants went a fleeting touch of newborn fantasy, for the elephants and for us – most significantly those who had not been in contact with elephants before. It was a brief time that influenced those present but hopefully through the massive reach of the television show touched the souls of millions that share our planet with the magnificent elephants.
If you are interested in getting up close and working with these amazing animals, then contact Elephant Human Relations Aid.