Sunday, May 27, 2007

Finding Albert

Finding Albert was a quest I wanted to undertake, though I knew it may not be probable to locate him in the one day my travel plans allowed. With the radio collar on another female in his family, it was at least possible. We planned for a full day of trying to locate him, including a visit to the elephant research center to download the collar data. Halfway to the research station we came upon an elephant family, and it was the Royal Family. They were resting and eating in some shade by the river, and so we waited for Albert to come out in the open instead of being behind the bushes with his mom, Cleopatra.

We probably waited 30 minutes, during which I watched other elephants near Albert in age playing with each other, wrestling with their trunks, even sitting on each other. Some elephants went to the river for a drink. We had elephants on all four sides of the vehicle and it was great to be near them.

Albert finally came out. He is pictured in the large photo above, and you can see his gimpy left rear leg if you look. I had a hard time watching him limp on it, and a hard time believing he will be okay. I do trust the researchers know far more about it than I do, and it's probably good I wasn't aware of the break earlier. I couldn't watch a baby in pain like that and not want to give him pain killers or at least splint the leg to heal properly. Albert didn't want to put much weight on it, even though it's been eight months, and he stands with it off the ground some of the time.

He is also pictured with his mother, Cleopatra, and some of the rest of the family above. Seeing him again was oddly moving. I can't explain it, but it was powerful. We stayed with them until we had to go to rendezvous with the researchers. It was very interesting to learn about the research they are doing to try and map and preserve elephant research corridors, and the challenges they face. One radio collar is $5,000 and lasts only 2 years.

Later in the day we ran into Albert again. This time he and his mom enjoyed a mud bath, and then moved on while we watched the rest of the family have one too. I was struck by the fact Albert clings to his mother and seems not to interact much with the rest of the family, including elephants his own age. He is not the happy little kid I hoped to find. He has clearly been through trauma, and it shows. I hope I can follow the path of his life, that it will be as long as mine, and that he will not be in pain. If he got the worst of life over int he firs 18 months that would be great. But, it remains to be seen - nature is tough and life in Africa is hard for all creatures.

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