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Tanzania Diary: The Elephant Walk

I’m no hiking fool, but I can happily walk for hours through the plain and brush of 11,000-acre Ndarakwai Ranch in northern Tanzania with Nkarsis and Risiki, two elephants whom the owners saved as one-year-olds after the rest of their herd had been killed. The girls (they are sixteen and seven now; they won’t be full-grown until age 20) forage and stroll, pause to chat with each other, and occasionally come over to visit their human friends. They extend their trunks, and one is expected as a sign of greeting to blow into the outstretched nostrils.

A particular interaction is hard to properly describe — the language of spirituality has been so debased — but when one stands closeby to either Nkarsis or Risiki and inclines forward, and human forehead and the fleshy part of an elephant’s face just above the tusk come into mutually agreed contact, and stay there for thirty still and silent seconds, it is hard not to believe in the kinship of living things.

Nkarsis Hillside.jpg

Addendum: The slaughter of Africa’s elephants proceeds apace. A decade ago, herds as large as 200 elephants migrated down from Kenya to Ndarakwi. Today a large grouping would be thirty animals. Overall populations have dropped by as much as 90% in some African nations over the past decade as China’s demand for illegal ivory drives a massive, corrupting trade (China leads the way, followed now by the U.S. market). The Times notes that, “More than 100,000 elephants were killed for ivory since 2010, according to a 2014 Colorado State University report.”


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