Tuesday, 4 August 2009
Today was the second day of our holiday, and it was totally unforgettable. Yes, that is a real elephant... his name is Casper and he is 23 years old... not yet fully grown.
He was bought by a Namibian farmer who realised that he had taken on far more than he could handle when Casper and his brothers reached adolescence and, like any adolescents without adult supervision, began wreaking havoc. He was rescued from being shot by the Elephant Sanctuary, where he now lives.
It was a incredible privilege to get a chance to see elephants (Casper and a 10-year-old, Kitso)so close, and to touch them and really interact with them.
I kept feeling that I should ask permission as we were shown their amazing, wrinkly hide and were able to feel the delicate smooth skin of their ears. I even touched his tongue... it felt like a marshmallow!
The elephants are fairly... but not completely tame, so you always get the impression that they are allowing you to interact with them, rather than being forced to. The food treats probably help too!
They only do things that they would do naturally in the wild... like lifting their trunks or kneeling down ... and these behavours have been reinforced with the treats so that they respond to commands.
Their trainer made a comparison with many of the working elephants in Asia which he says have their spirits broken so that they will work for man.
"An African elephant will fight back if you try to do that," he claimed. "He'll kill you if you try to force him to do something or hurt him."
Tonight is our second night in the totally beautiful Blue Jay Lodge and we leave at 5.15am tomorrow, to be at the Kruger Park gates when they open at 6am.
Don't you just love mosquito nets? And luckily because it is winter, there is no real need for them!