Sunday, August 2, 2015

The Elephant the Land Cruiser and the Sausage Dog !

Burton ready to alight the vehicle 
The Ngare Ndare forest is a beautiful bit of natural forest nestled in-between Lewa, Borrana and under Mount Kenya offering a corridor for the Elephants, a way of moving from the plains to the higher mountain ground on Mount Kenya when things get a little dry on the lower plains. 
Moving through the bush to meet a team in the canyon requires driving over some pretty rough terrain, where any speed is not possible. Only four wheel drives, in the wet even they would not be enough. But imagine my surprise when passing a tight bend a giant Bull Elephant was astride the road. I instantly killed the engine as I saw him, he was about 30 metres away he reared startled by my arrival and then ran straight towards me flapping ears coming to a stop 10 metres short of the end of the bonnet flicking ears and trumpeting. This all happened as quick as a flash on the immediate stopping of the vehicle Burton the dog had sensed a vehicle stop. Which instantly suggests to him time to get out but as he moved upwards he found my hand leaving the handbrake to meet with him immediately flicking him into the footwell at high speed. Sadly should the only option be to drive anywhere fast it would have been hindered by flicking him the wrong way and that any peddle movement was now obstructed by a disgruntled sausage dog wedged between peddles and feet. The posing animal threat did not leave but was stood very upright at the front staring straight at me. Through the bush behind him I could see a baby and mother passing through and heading deeper into the trees which explained the Bulls tension. I have to admit I was pretty nervous as it kept trumpeting and making its presence more than known just off the end of the bonnet. I stayed silent and waited it out and seemed to ease after a while taking a few steps back. He would toss his head back in the way of the herd quite obviously monitoring their distance as they got further and further away from the potential threat of the large and very silent green object. After around thirty minutes he dropped back further and further occasionally trumpeting but always walking backwards keeping eyes on me. Then just vanished into the dense forest. One of the threats in this forest seems to be the density meaning that if you spot something like an Elephant or a Buffalo the chances are you are right up close to it. As it vanished I waited for a moment. Breathing a sigh of relief I fired up the engine pressed down on the clutch to which a high pitched yelp came back from Burton who was still stuck around the peddles. 
On arrival he was more than happy to alight and have a run, at least he was oblivious to the possibility of being a smashed to bits by angry elephant. My fear was that he was going to bark and cause a stampede, I gently held a packet of biscuits under the steering wheel occasionally scrunching them which kept him silent and transfixed while the threat through the windscreen remained. A sausage dog and an Elephant are really no match. 
That was one of two notable incidents I have had with Elephants in the forest. The other involved a very early start during a busy period where I wanted to get down early in the morning and pre rig the rock site in readiness for people coming. With the vehicles at a premium I hired a local motor bike. We tied the kit on and sped off into the forest but as we approached the bottom of a long hill there was a large Elephant crossing the road. As we neared the bike slowed and I braced anticipating a speedy u turn so we could head back to a safe distance. Instead we slowed and then stopped out popped the prop and he jumped off. He then in what I thought might be a brash move gathered stones and started throwing them at it. I was unsure about this and quickly alighted and headed back up the hill quickly. The Elephant at first seemed disgruntled but carried on crossing and quickly vanished into the forest. We carried on with no more issues. 

But I guess at the end of the day the Elephant has good reason to trumpet and charge as I am the very thing he needs to fear the most, humans. I may well be scared I get smashed to bits but his fear is far far greater and his need to protect the young is all the more important as its his whole species that are being smashed to bits.