Thursday, 23 August 2007

Elephant version of the Daniel story

In 1986, Mkele Mbembe was on holiday in his parent's homeland of Kenya after graduating from Liverpool University . On a hike through the bush, he came across a young bull elephant standing with one hind leg raised in the air. The elephant seemed distressed but allowed Mbembe to approach it, which he did, slowly and very carefully. He got down on one knee and inspected the elephant's foot and found a large piece of wood deeply embedded in it.

As carefully and as gently as he could, Mbembe worked the wood out with his knife, after which the elephant gingerly put down its foot. The elephant turned to face the man, and with what Mbembe described as 'a rather curious look on its face', stared at him for several tense moments. Eventually the elephant trumpeted loudly, turned, and walked away into the bush.

In July 2007, Mbembe was walking through Chester Zoo with his teenage son. As they approached the elephant enclosure, one of the creatures turned and walked over to near where Mbembe and his son John were standing. The large bull elephant stared at Mbembe, lifted its hind foot off the ground, then put it down. The elephant did that several times then trumpeted loudly, all the while staring at the man.

Remembering the encounter in 1986, Mbembe was convinced this was the same elephant. Despite the notices he climbed over the concrete barrier and jumped across the muddy ditch into the enclosure. He walked right up to the elephant and they stared at each other in wonder. The elephant trumpeted again, lifted its leg, wrapped its trunk around one of Mbembe' s legs and slammed him against the wall, killing him instantly.

Probably wasn't the same elephant.

P.S. Chester's elephants are Asian ones - fancy not noticing the ears!

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