Tuesday, 15 January 2013

Saving a herd

She looked at the body of the old matriarch. She was certainly dead. The younger female knew there was something wrong with the food here and hungry as she and the others were, they shouldn’t eat it. It had killed their leader.
The matriarch’s calf nudged its mother, urging her to her feet. He wanted to feed. The younger female knew she had enough milk for him as well as her own little calf, who was a couple of months younger. How could she convince him to take her milk, though?
She rubbed her trunk along the corps and then waved it along her body. That might not be enough, though. She scrambled on to the body of her former leader and rubbed her full udder along it.  Some milk spilled form he swollen teats and both her own calf and the one whose mother had died galloped towards her. It seemed to be working then.
But another female and a young male mistook her intent and charged towards her, bellowing furiously. She trotted away, the two calves following her swiftly. As soon as she was out of the way the other two left her alone and she was able to feed the two calves in peace. She noticed, though, that the two who had threatened her drifted over towards the food that the matriarch had been eating. The others began to follow. She knew they mustn’t do that. There was something wrong with that food.
She pulled herself away from the two calves and galloped over to where the others were beginning to feed. It was her turn to bellow now. The young male charged her, followed by the female who was nearly as big as her. Something snapped inside her. They must not eat that food. They just must not. She lashed out with her trunk. She clapped the female around the head, sending her swirling in a drunken dance. She bashed the male’s left foreleg just below the knee. He toppled to the ground.
She bellowed once more and then moved towards where she thought the food would safe. The calves, although disappointed at having their feed interrupted, were actually full. They followed meekly. One by one the rest of the herd joined them.
The next priority was to get the calves covered in mud. Both of them were a little strange.  They had pink eyes and white skin. The white skin burned easily and made them a good target for the hunters. Yet once they were covered in mud they looked like any other elephant. She led them down to the river and started squirting the cool sticky mud over them and encouraging them to do the same. Gradually the rest of the herd followed. Soon they were all in the water and many of them were helping to rub the mud into the little white calves’ skin.
The babies were safe now. Hidden from the hunters and protected from the sun. They now must find a bigger supply of safe food. They must move away from here. Hopefully they would find something before it got too dark.
She led them out of the water. Her own calf hooked his trunk round her tail and the older one hooked himself to his. Two calf less females flanked the outside. Other family groups walked behind, all linked together. Younger males brought up the rear. It dawned on her slowly that she was the new matriarch and was leading them to their new life.                                        

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