2nd April 2015
Today began as something disgusting, horrendous and just generally upsetting but later grew into something unforgettably special.
This morning we were taken as volunteers to help feed the lions living on the game reserve. The meat is loaded onto a truck, then driven round to where the lions are kept and thrown in. It was good fun! They do love it, and you finally get to see their natural instincts come out!
We were then taken back to where the old meat was piled under the hot sun. Some were in sealed plastic bags but had been rotting for so long the bags were swollen to bursting. And then smell is like something I can’t begin to know how to describe… sick, rotten death. We were instructed to pick up the meat and load it onto the truck. We were instructed to do so with no gloves, aprons, shovels or protective equipment of any kind… Only our bare hands. It was truly horrible and I wish I could emphasise that more! I was choking back vomit as I co-ordinated my way through the heads of tiny calves, trying to move the biggest pieces of carcass first while looking desperately for a bag that may not break from its own great weight and fermentation. Finally in our work, we began to uncover what was beneath the top of this sickening pile; foetuses. Those of cows. It was enough, and I was suddenly furious with myself for caving so easily under the pressure of proving myself and taking part in an activity which, as a volunteer, I have no obligation to take part in and, as a worker, I was not properly equipped for. I informed the Volunteer Guide I was returning to camp to wash, and would not be taking part in this particular activity again. It didn’t come as a surprise to him, which I hadn’t expect it to as he didn’t even go near the stench ridden pile, much less lay a hand on it. But I great thing I will say about Kwantu is that it’s made clear from day one, if there’s any activity you don’t wish to take part in you absolutely don’t have to, and I felt in no way uncomfortable about walking away from this one.
It’s not as though I’m unwilling to get stuck in to an activity here, particularly one that’s going to directly serve one of the animals here, such as feeding. If, for example, an entire carcass of prey was brought forward to be diving evening before being thrown to the animals… Granted, I would be squeamish, but I would see the necessity of the task and get stuck in, learning a thing or two on the way. This was hugely unnecessary, would have been possible through many other means using machinery or at least protective equipment and was frankly humiliating.
I skipped breakfast.
The afternoon, however, was a delight and returned some much needed smiles!
We went to visit Kwantu’s Elephant Sanctuary, about 10 minutes down the road. Here, four elephant live who were originally raised in an Elephant Park not affiliated with Kwantu. Sadly, as these elephants were raised in this other park constantly around humans they will never be able to exist in the wild. This anonymous Elephant Part eventually became too full, and so a selection of elephants were to be culled if sufficient homes couldn’t be found. That’s how Kwantu came to have them, and as they are so used to human interaction, it has become one of the techniques to keep them happy!
It was such a special experience, and the team here seem to really value the care of the elephants! It’s a step up to say the least compared to the vile treatment of elephants I saw in India. However discomforting it is to see a wild animal raised to behave in a way that’s not fitting to its own nature, I do feel the four elephants living here have lived such a life that this is the best place for them now. Tourists do come by, but very few and far between, and all are taught to treat the animals respectfully should an interaction take place.
A beautiful creature, and a very special experience indeed!
In other good news, my parent’s gifts finally arrived from India!
They seem to have been well received. 🙂