Cherie’s Final Breath

Cherie’s Final Breath

This last month, a BBC film crew joined us to make an obs-doc series called This Wild Life, about life in the bush with our small family, working side by side with Samburu nomads at both Save the Elephants and Elephant Watch Camp.  A typical morning starts with the low chat of Verreaux eagle owls on their favourite perch by the Mess tent, or vervet monkeys alarming at the low-slung presence of a cat.  Dancing acacia leaves scatter the early morning light as we drink our tea, and the river sighs by in a soft rush. Then the children arrive, clamouring at the door “Maaaama! Fungua ‘lango [open the door]! Taka chai [want tea]”.  Just two and a half years old, the twins baby-talk Kiswahili better than English – it’s often much easier to keep on speaking Kiswahili if one wants to be properly understood.  Selkie (their older sister), fluent in both, leaps into bed for a cuddle. After breakfast I jump into the Land Rover to join the film crew.  A female elephant is sick – Cherie, from the First Ladies. She has a five-month-old calf.  She keeps stretching out her back legs or leaning uncomfortably forward, as if trying to ease pain in her stomach.  Apparently she’s been like this for weeks. Her calf tries to suckle but she brushes it off the nipple with her leg.  At this age he relies almost entirely on her milk.  I notice her deeply sunken temples, and the sharp pinch around her cheekbones. Signs of dehydration.  This is serious.  We wait and watch for days, finding her mostly alone with her calf, now unable to keep up with the herd.  She takes to resting on raised edges of roads or sloping riverbanks, which make it easier to get to her feet.  I sense...
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