A Mother's Love

This is my story of Africa – deep in the heart of South Africa lies the Okavango Delta – the Okavango is the world's largest delta – it begins its journey in the highlands Angola – traveling through the entire country of Bostwana to the Kalahari Desert – flooding thousands of square hectares of grasslands.  This was Cathy and my second trip to Africa – "our favorite place in the world" – the first safari was to East Africa - Kenya/Tanzania/Congo – where our focus was on wildlife, birds and the Gorillas – our second safari was to South Africa – there we decided to focus on the "Elephants" (we found that if we extensively studied one animal each trip it enhanced our experience.)  Because of this decision - we started our journey at Abu Camp - the Camp is a one of a kind opportunity to bond with Elephants first hand. Situated in a vast private reserve of 180,000 hectares - we learned to interact with the resident Elephants - while riding and walking with them through the bush.  We were introduced to the mahouts - trainers that work with the Elephants every day – they also rode the elephants as our guide while on game rides – "Billy" the elder mahout - had worked with "Cathy" - the matriarch – her entire life at Abu - (my life is full of Cathy/Kathy's – my wife, mother, sister, business manager, everywhere – and now the main babe – the matriarch of the herd – Cathy!!!  She had just had a baby son named "Little Abu" – they both lived with the other Elephants of the camp in the Boma – a large sheltered area where they would spend the night - protected from wild elephants and other animals.  Each morning we would wake – have some coffee – take a mokoro (dugout canoe) from camp to the Boma - meet the Elephants – saddle up – head out into the bush – the greatest safari experience I've ever had!


So back to my story – in the world of science there are two schools of thought regarding animals - there are those in science that are certain - animals are driven by basic instincts and needs only – they also believe that people ascribe there human emotions to animals and other non-human – (called "Anthropomorphism") – the other school believes that animals do have thoughts and feelings - that they are capable of – consciousness – communication - emotions – passion – even love


You know where I stand!

(This is a true story – the names and places have changed – but the framework is from the book:       "When Elephants Weep" by Jeffery Masson and Susan McCarthy.)

Also please watch: PBS Nature Program (available on DVD) "Echo of the Elephants" With Cynthia Moss.



On a hot afternoon deep in the heart of the Okavango Delta – Cathy - a working Elephant – and her new six-month-old baby calf - Little Abu – were out grazing on the green grasses of the Delta – where he was learning to become an Elephant.  Cathy - the matriarch of the herd – had been given a few months off work – to spend time with her son – to give him a mother's love – as only a mother can – teaching him all that she knew about the world.  As the day stretched on - the afternoon sun filled the sky – it got hot – they found a place to rest in the shade a Sycamore fig tree.  As they slept – it slowly began to rain – at first as a fine mist – then a drizzle – then it began to pour (if you’ve been to Africa – you know how it can rain – oh yes – rain like the devil) – it rained harder & harder – the wind started to blow – suddenly a crack of lightning – an explosion of rolling thunder – now the rain was blowing sideways - it was a massive storm!

Cathy knew she should take Little Abu back to the safety of their home - the Boma – this is where their trainers the Mahouts live – along with the other elephants of the herd. On their trek back they had to forge the Xudum River – it is a large wide river – as they started their crossing of the river channel - there was a low slow current. As Cathy and Little Abu worked their way to the far side – the water started to rise – higher & higher – the current becoming stronger & stronger – when they reached the bank on the other side – they could not climb out – slipping and sliding in the mud – there was no way out – the steep banks were three to four metres high – the river continued to rise - the current grew stronger. Billy and the Mahouts at the Boma – began to hear Little Abu scream – they rushed to the river – saw the situation – tried everything possible to help Cathy and Little Abu – using ropes - branches – rocks – anything they could find - but nothing worked in their efforts to help save their friends. Cathy's feet were still on the river bottom – but Little Abu was now floating - Cathy held the baby against her body as the river current grew stronger – whenever Little Abu would begin to drift away – Cathy used her trunk to pull him back against her body. Suddenly - the fast flowing water washed Little Abu away – Cathy turned – jumped in - plunged downstream - over a hundred metres to retrieve Little Abu. Swirling in the tempest of the river – she pinned her calf against the bank with her head – she reared up on her hind legs – then with her trunk lifted Little Abu – placing him on a rocky ledge just a metre above the roaring water. In an instant - Cathy fell backwards – tumbling – rolling – swept away – into the torrents of the Xudum – disappearing downstream – never to be seen again.

The Mahouts were in shock – their hearts were sickened by the sight of Cathy being taken away – then they heard Little Abu screaming for his mother – they all turned their attention to the calf – which could barely fit on the narrow ledge – alone – cold - shivering. An hour passed – the river continued to rise – higher & higher – closer to baby Abu – his potential death. Billy and the Mahouts again tried everything they could to save him – a baby Elephant weighs over a hundred kilograms – there was nothing they could do - as Billy peered down – wondering what he might do to rescue Little Abu – he heard the grandest sound - he’s ever heard in his life – Phunnnnn Phunnnnn Phunnnnn – the trumpeting of a mother’s love. Cathy was alive – she had survived – somehow – someplace – she had climbed out of the river – got up the bank – and was making her way back – running as fast as she could – calling out the whole time to Little Abu – in her loudest defiant roar – Phunnnnn Phunnnnn Phunnnnn – this was music to Little Abu and the Mahouts - Little Abu's two small ears – shaped like little maps of Africa – were cocked forward listening to the only sounds that mattered – the call of his mother. When Cathy reached Little Abu she saw that he was safe on the ledge – her call changed to the rumble that Elephants typically make when pleased – everyone was so happy - so tired! The two Elephants were left alone that night – to let nature take its course. By morning Little Abu was off the ledge – Cathy had somehow retrieved him – the Xudum no longer in flood – Cathy and Little Abu headed back home to Billy – the Mahouts – their home the Boma.

This is "A Mothers' Love"