slumber party

Saturday night, 7:22pm and I have returned with Angel’s belongings. I am here alone for five days, taking care of our Elle, and Angel, Mary and Andrew’s cocker spaniel.  Lisa and Carla are in Libreville, in preparation for Carla’s return to the US.  Mary and Andrew have left for Australia.

Earlier this afternoon, I retrieved my stealth camera from the bicycle trail, and re-installed it overlooking the drive here at home. Lisa would like to start gathering identity photos of the elephants in the herds that frequent Yenzi during mango season.With four mango trees in our yard, we have nightly elephant action.

Having not seen any elephants all day, I decided to bicycle back over to Andrew and Mary’s to gather a few of Angel’s things for her sleepover.  Still twilight, I felt I would be able to spot any elephants well in advance of an encounter.  So as I return onto our property, I am suddenly on a collision course with three elephants entering the drive from the back yard.  We take each other by surprise, both myself and elephants relatively silent in our transport.  The elephants are taken aback and stumble momentarily as they focus in on my presence.  With less than forty feet between us, I spin around and pedal quickly back down the road, hoping to be out of range of anything with a mind to charge.  Peering through the trees into the deepening shadows, I can see that the three elephants have stopped to feed beneath the mangoes.  Not much else to do but wait for them to move on.  While I am watching, I suddenly hear the swish and shuffle of elephants close by in the grass. Looking over my shoulder, I am confronted with a family of four elephants, again heading straight my way.  As I turn my bicycle around, the large female starts flapping ears and quickening her pace in my direction. I speedily pedal to the nearest carport and put the car between myself and the gang of four.  Two of them stop for mangoes and the other two cross the road behind me, where they are lost in the darkness.  Not being sure of where they went, I consider how quickly I can crawl under the car, if necessary.  Eventually the other two join their comrades in the dark and I seize the opportunity to beeline home, arriving without further incident.  Ten minutes later, the yard is full of elephants. I lose count at nine.

two juvenile elephants share a moment's embrace during a night in camp

Two groups have been communicating with low, guttural growls as they approach each other, and a large bull braces himself against the tree trunks, trunk raised with 30-plus-inch tusks to either side of the tree, then shakes the tree vigorously, causing a rainfall of mangoes.  Scuffling ensues as the bull defends his yield.  After 10 minutes, the groups disperse.  A lone juvenile, limping in to scavenge, has difficulty keeping up with the herd.  We have noticed her over the past two weeks.  Evidently caught in a snare in the recent past, her left front foot is badly swollen and appears to be worsening.  Her future is uncertain.  The elephants continue their rounds throughout the night, several families reappear at intervals in the 80-plus pictures I sort through the following morning.

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