I remember my early life, right from when I was struggling to stand on my feet as the baby of the herd. Even though I weighed 200 pounds, and was nearly three feet tall, I had to be careful not to be trampled by the adults who were nearly four times my size.
I made sure I stuck close to Mum, but if I did wander off a bit, one of my aunts was sure to keep a protective eye on me. It was fun just playing, eating, and spending my days roaming with the others, even if some of the older males did get a bit grumpy sometimes.
Then came the horrible day.
All of a sudden there was panic, and noise, and shouting and men with guns, and I had to run really fast to keep up with Mum. Stopping to wait for me we got cut off from the rest of the herd, and then she suddenly dropped down and fell asleep. I couldn’t understand it; why didn’t she get up? I kept nudging her with my trunk but she wouldn’t move, and then I fell asleep too.
When I woke up she was standing a little way away from me, but I called out to her as I was frightened. She tried to come over to comfort me but she was stopped by the big chain around her leg. I tried to stand up but my legs felt all funny and wouldn’t hold me properly.
Eventually I managed to wobble over and cuddle up close to her, and she calmed down a bit. We stayed like that for weeks and weeks, and although they gave us food and water she was never allowed freedom to roam.
Every day a man used to come and talk to her, and he always carried a big stick.
Sometimes he hit her with it, but most of the time he was nice, and although at first I was afraid of him, gradually I got used to him and liked it when he played with me.
Eventually they even let her walk around, although the man with the stick always stayed next to her. I found out later that they really only wanted my Mum, but I wouldn’t leave her side so they had to take me too. She was very clever, and soon learnt how to do the work they wanted, so they let her have more freedom.
I used to amble along beside her when she was working, and one day they all laughed when I picked up a little tree and carried it in my trunk to copy her. After that I used to work as well, although I wasn’t as strong as she was.
Gradually I got bigger and more powerful, but as I was growing up, Mum was getting older and weaker. Our friend stopped coming to look after us, and we had a new man.
He was really cruel, and kept hitting Mum with a big spike. Sometimes he even used a sort of gun that gave her a shock. She started to get cuts and open wounds, and became really ill when they got infected. After that, we didn’t see him anymore, and had another new man to look after us. He took care of Mum and gradually she got better, although I never forgot the cruel one.
A few weeks later my keeper came to see me, and he seemed really upset.
‘I’m going to miss you Jumbo’ he said, ‘but you’ll be happy where you are going. Enjoy your new home my little friend.’ Some other men came, and I felt something pierce my thick skin. My legs felt all wobbly again, and when I woke up I was far away from where we used to haul the logs.
It was a lot colder, but we had a big wooden house to live in, and space to roam around outside with the other elephants. I was scared at first, but after a while I went off to explore our new surroundings. When I butted against the metal fence it hurt, so I learned to stay away from it.
Mum no longer had to work; we just spent out days grazing, but sometimes I lifted trees and carried them just for the fun of it. Now I was too big to play games but there were other things to keep me interested. Nearly every day people would come and stand on the other side of the deep ditch, and sometimes they would throw fruit or vegetables as a treat. I got very clever at catching them in my trunk, and soon I was putting on a show every day, and even learnt to take a bow to make the people laugh and applaud.
It was years before I saw the cruel man again. Mum recognised him too, and went back into our house when she saw him standing by the fence with the other people. He appeared regularly but the deep ditch stopped him getting near us. Late one night, when everyone had left, I watched as he climbed the fence and started clambering down the ditch. Somehow he made it up the other side and I saw he was swaying and laughing as he threw spikes at her. He thought he was safe because she was in her stall and couldn’t reach him.
He had forgotten about me.
It was only when he heard me bellow, and saw me rushing towards him that he turned with fear in his eyes and tried to run.
The next day everyone was talking about it, and the safari park was filled with reporters and others trying to find out what had happened.
In the end they decided his injuries had been caused when he fell into the ditch whilst drunk. Although it was an unfortunate accident a tall wire fence was put up to stop it happening again, so I couldn’t play my catch the fruit game with the visitors anymore.
He might not have recognised me but an elephant never forgets.
© Voinks April 2017