I can still remember when the bad humans killed my mother. I was only 6, and my tusks were only a few centimetres long, not fit for selling, but Mother’s were already one point five meters, and they were what the humans were after. We were running from the lion pride of Gomondwane, an all-male lion coalition.
Mother didn’t see the humans in the dark, as she usually would, as she was distracted by one of the lions clawing at her flank. The lion came away with his claws drenched Mother’s blood, but she kept running slower, to protect me. I was much slower than her as I was very young, and she could have easily turned and fought them off on her own, or dashed ahead to save herself. But to save me, she made herself my meat shield, letting the lions scratch and bite her while keeping me from getting attacked.
We were almost at the watering hole, where the other lion prides, the crocodiles, wildebeest, antelope and leopards would keep the pursuing lions at bay, when a shot rang out from to my right. A potbellied black rhinoceros slumped onto the ground, a feathered dart embedded in his side. Some of the humans ran over with a knife and began cutting away at the rhinoceros’s horns. At that age, I thought the humans were bigger chimpanzees that stood on two legs with no hair and wore clothes instead of fur. “How funny.” I thought. “Why aren’t they growing any fur like the chimpanzees and gorillas? Won’t they be cold in the rainy season?”
Then, I saw a terrifying sight. The rhinoceros lay still, and the humans slashed his horns off, leaving white stumps behind. One of them yelled in a human language, ‘English’, I think it was. “Hey fellas! We got elephants! A healthy female plus a calf! It’s our lucky day today!”
Suddenly, the lions stopped and backtracked to their territory. “Oh dear. If these humans scare even lions away, what do they have? Venom like the cobras, tusks like us, fangs like the lions or claws like the cheetahs?” I thought frantically. Mother had not said a word and kept on running. “Sooner or later we’re gonna cross into another lion pride’s hunting grounds!” I panicked.
“FIRE!” a shot cracked out from behind us. Mother stumbled, but kept keeping pace, despite groaning in pain. Another shot hit Mother, this one hitting her right flank. She shouted to me in a desperate tone. “Run! Run to the next watering hole! Find another elephant herd to take you in!”
I heeded her advice and sprinted, and soon, the trees and animals of another watering hole came into view. But I heard two, then three more shots, and finally, a heavy thud. I took a look back and saw Mother lying on her side, breathing heavily. Then, her chest stopped heaving and the humans started their ‘work’.
First, they brutally hacked away at her face with an axe, mutilating and disfiguring. Then, they grabbed her tusks and pulled, the rest of the tusk embedded in her skull came away, soaked in blood. I will never forget that scene, where the bad humans took Mother away from me like that. The horrors of the ‘ivory trade’, as the good humans call it, right in front of my eyes.
Imagine now, human reader, if suddenly, at the tender age of 6, you were forcibly separated from your mother and left to fend for yourself.
Luckily, I made it to the next watering hole, safe, and lay down to sleep against a tree, exhausted. In the morning, some other humans came, these ones wearing tan-coloured uniforms and saying that they were ‘here to help me’.
One of them from their ‘truck’ fired a dart at me. I suddenly felt very sleepy and crashed into a tree, dazed, then fell into a deep, deep sleep.
I woke up where I live now. In ‘Pretoria Zoo’, and they named me ‘Elpis’, after one of their gods of hope. The other elephants tell me I am an icon for campaigning against ‘poaching’ and ‘the ivory trade.’
I am now the same age Mother was when she was killed, 40, and am a brawny, healthy, fully-grown male elephant. I hope she can see, from wherever she is now, that I am safe and sound, living comfortably and happily with a mate in a place where I am well-cared for and protected.
Human reader, let me tell you this: The ivory trade is a terrible, terrible thing, so, the next time you see a necklace or bangle made from ‘100% Authentic Elephant Tusk’, think twice and about what happened to me and Mother.