Brushstrokes of summer streak across the sky as I walk barefoot on the beach, my toes enjoying the soft sand. The scudding clouds pit against the wind in a never ending battle and the rhythmic pounding of the waves is hypnotic and relaxing. I can leave the noisy Durban traffic behind. I love the constant movement of the ocean and the taste of salt that lingers in my mouth. I feel as carefree as one of the sea gulls, floating in the empty air pockets high above the world and Gary and I quicken our pace, laughing as we try not to disturb the sand where the ocean kisses the shore leaving the beach clean until the next wave. Leaving the beach, we wander up towards a large car park as I have spotted a blue and white marquee and presume it is for a wedding. As we draw nearer we realize it is a ‘big top’ and we decide to investigate further.
I feel my stomach churning. A thin green canvas pergola keeps the scorching noon sun off the hunched back of the swaying elephant. Her coat of wrinkles hangs off her shoulders and her muscular and versatile trunk swings back and forth: a pendulum of time passing slowly. A blue plastic bucket is half filled with water and standing within reach of her sad trunk. The tarmac is hot beneath her spongy feet and she lifts a leg, stretching it backwards easing the pain that shoots up to her hip. Her noble head hangs and her large Africa shaped ears fan the stifling heat and there is a look of desolation about her: hope dying slowly. Hour after hour is spent chained to a stake as she waits for the next performance in this man made jungle of hooting traffic and redolent fumes. I am heart broken and find it difficult to tear my eyes away. The thin green pergola, a poor substitute for shade when I think of the African bush and its towering trees. My mind screams at me. Where had this elephant come from? I think of her family and that thought transports me back into the valley where we would see the same small herd of elephants fishing trip after fishing trip.
Bathing the bush in a soft coppery light, the shadows, warm and mellowed by the afternoon sun lengthen as the silence shredding cicadas fill the air. Thick canopies adorn the sun scorched trees and the small herd of elephants rumble gently as they feed on the soft fibrous stems and bark of a mighty baobab tree. The matriarch naps gently, her large versatile trunk thrown casually over her creamy tusk and her rather tattered ears circulating the warm breeze. Her long tail swishes, swatting away squadrons of whining flies. Small calves caked with mud mock fight, their small trunks locking as they tumble onto the dry earth…over a 1000 lbs of combined weight puffing dust up into the air where it hangs motionless like a gauzy curtain before freckling gently over the bushes.
We sit drifting in the stream of the world, silent witnesses and sucked in by the magic that surrounds these magnificent giants. Earlier in the day, this same small herd had been bathing downstream and we had tied up the boat and spent an hour entranced by their unblemished optimism for life. They had done a fair amount of mileage since the early morning and now once again we were being offered a brief glimpse into their world of compassion and love that they feel for each other.
As the last rays of sun weave their golden threads into twilight, crickets with acoustical wings like gossamer lace welcome the gentle evening breeze. The silent footfalls of the giants merge across the twilight and as they disappear from sight, they steal another gigantic chunk of my pounding heart.
My heart is still pounding..but for different reasons as I drag my mind back from my reverie. I keep turning to look at the sad and lonely elephant..ashamed of what these humans have done to her. A couple of hours later I am drawn back to the big top and we can hear the discordant tinny circus music long before we catch sight of the twinkling lights. I stand on the perimeter watching people flocking towards the open flap of the big top, my mind searching through the murk for something positive to say about this elephant’s predicament. I could only shake my head and wonder how we as humans can justify an act that turns a majestic animal into a ‘performing monkey’. Elephants do not sit on stools. As a gust of wind flings a handful of stars into the night, I turn away feeling helpless..but I make another silent promise to an elephant. I will never support a circus and I will always fight to ensure that these magnificent giants are kept out of the ‘big top’ and out of zoos. That was fifteen years ago and I am fulfilling my promises to these elephants. (petition)
This brings me to Nosey the Zimbabwean elephant. My heart aches for Nosey. I have witnessed what her life should have been like. I will continue to put my name on all petitions concerning this animal whose loneliness ebbs and flows. While afternoon shadows stroke the horizon gently, Nosey’s solitary lifestyle in enclosed quarters reeks of neglect. She should be drinking in the beauty of the Zimbabwean bush, reaching her muscular trunk up to the sky and embracing the wide open blue freedom above her. Instead she is found limping and faltering in her gait: noisy humans on her back.
I read he r story and a storm of memory has my mind lost in a trance of golden sunsets , sultry breezes and a small elephant herd ambling along the banks of the fast and formidable Zambezi River. This could be where Nosey’s (petition)family had once enjoyed the solace of un-trampled lands before human induced tragedy had ripped her family apart. I will keep writing and fighting for these animals who deserve our respect. A new dawn must surely show its face..but..until it does, please help Nosey by signing this petition. Let us ensure that this beautiful creature can retire to an elephant sanctuary where she will form bonds with her own kind.