Friday, January 21

Walking with Elephants – Moneyweb

Dear family and friends,

Under a stormy November sky, I headed northeast on the highway. It was a very hot day and the humidity was suffocating; the rains are very close. Coming up a steep and winding mountain road, a lone Jacaranda tree was still dropping the last of its violet flowers and at the next bend were five large baboons, head down, tail up, tail arched, completely engrossed in licking the powdered grain spilled on the road. . At the next corner there was a horrible accident, a huge 30 ton platform crushed a small car and the sides of the platform came off and were scattered all over the road. Driving was treacherous as dozens of people crowded the road to watch the accident and I couldn’t help but wonder how the heck man and nature can continue to live side by side like this.

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As the world rallied at COP 26 and talked about protecting our planet, reducing emissions, stopping deforestation and controlling pollution, we lowered our heads in Zimbabwe. In amazement we saw the swelling entourage of 100 Zimbabweans who came to Glasgow from our impoverished, hungry and ruined country. We read about the luxury private plane that the president chartered from Azerbaijan at a cost of almost one million US dollars and I simply lamented for the future of our natural heritage.

Almost forty years ago I had an unforgettable encounter with our natural heritage when I cared for two orphaned baby elephants who had been rescued from a sacrifice. We named the elephants Rundi and Muku and every day for two years we walked, the elephants and I, as they learned to survive without the nurturing, protection and teaching of their herds and I learned about healing and trust. Two years full of laughter and tears, adventures and misadventures and always the question on my mind, could they, would they have their sixty-year life in Zimbabwe? Would poachers eliminate them? Would the National Parks be protected? Could the environment sustain them?

Zimbabwe currently faces a deep moral dilemma. Zimparks, the government’s National Parks department, the custodians and protectors of all flora and fauna, have announced that they are considering euthanizing elephants again for the first time in 33 years. To shed light on this topic, I have just published a new edition of my book ‘Rundi, Walking with Elephants’. While the story is moving and the 47 photographs are enchanting, this subject is deeply complex, enormously controversial, and deeply emotional. More than ever we need measured and thoughtful leadership.

When I met Rundi 10 years after she left my care, she remembered me right away. Towering over me, he walked straight up to me, noisily greeted me, and put his trunk in my hair like he always did when I was a baby; she had not forgotten me and I had not forgotten her.

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