Astrid struggles to bring back the life of a baby elephant who’s mother was poached in the bush (Piece taken from “The Games End”)
Darkness had fallen by the time they arrived at the lodge. There were cries from the animals as they passed by in the lorry. Something was bothering the animals, thought Astrid. Up ahead the headlights of the lorry shone on a baby elephant in the care of George, an animal attendant, who was trying to make it drink from a bottle of milk.
“It looks like I have a new orphan,” said Astrid as she stopped the lorry and jumped out of the cab. Mark and Molo followed.
“Where did the little packy come from, George?”
“We found her in the bush, Mama. Her mama, she dead.
Poachers.” said George, as he tried to put the bottle in the small elephant’s mouth, but the little one wouldn’t take the warm milk.
“She weak no wanta eat, Mama,” said George.
The baby elephant was about three feet tall. Astrid knew it would be hard for it to survive. She had experience with this size baby elephant before. It seemed too young and needed the potency of mother’s milk. Astrid took the bottle from George and drew some milk from it and put it down the soft little trunk for the elephant to smell, but the little elephant didn’t move. “It won’t live. It needs its mother’s milk. I’ll give it Molo’s formula. It has worked before on these babies.” She looked at Mark. “I feel helpless and sad, Mark, when I can’t save one of these little ones. Those bloody poachers have got to be stopped.”
Mark knelt next to her and put his arm around her shoulders. Astrid said to George. “Stay with her tonight. Keep trying to feed her.” She and Mark started back to the lorry.
“Bwana, some men here today ask for you.” said George.
“What did you tell them?” he asked.
“I no see Bwana,” said George.
“Were they Tanzanian?”
“No. One big one, he have tribal scar on face. He no from here,” said George. Mark and Astrid left for the hotel.
“General Service Unit is onto me.” I shouldn’t stay here tonight.”
“Where will you go? They won’t be back in the dark. Not out here. It’s too remote. Besides you’re inTanzania. They’d have to kidnap you. They can’t arrest you in this country. They have no authority.” Astrid stopped the lorry next to the main lodge.
“Stay in the cab,” she said. “I’m going to check and see if one of the tents is vacant. You can stay there tonight. If they do come back they’ll never look for you there. Not with all the hotel guests here”
Astrid went into the lodge while Mark remained in the lorry. She was back in a few minutes. They drove in front of the long row of tents, looking at the numbers. “There it is. Number sixteen,” said Astrid. She stopped and Mark picked up his knapsack as Astrid lifted up the front cover of the tent to enter. She struck a match and lit the oil lamp by the cot.
Mark took the pictures out of his knapsack and gave them to her.
“These are for P.D. Mnazi inNairobi. Tell him that the General Service Unit are after me. Tell him where I am.” He drew Astrid to him. “Will you stay with me?” he asked, looking into her wide blue eyes.
“I can’t Mark. I’m leaving forNairobiearly in the morning. I still have much to do tonight to be prepared for tomorrow. I’d be bad company. There’s too much on my mind.” She moved away from him.
“Thanks for today. I love you,” he said. Astrid smiled at him.
“You’re sweet Mark and I love you too.” She lifted up the corner of the tent flap and left.
Mark could hear the sound of the lorry as it drove away. She actually said she loved me. I can’t believe it, but she did. What a day this has been, he thought. He blew out the oil lamp by his bed and collapsed on the cot with his clothes on. All he could see in his thoughts was Astrid’s beautiful face as he drifted off into a deep sleep.
Astrid drove back to the orphanage. She stopped the lorry in front of where George attended the baby elephant. She picked up a kerosene lamp, lit it and joined George, who still tried to get the baby to drink from the bottle. She sat down next to the small animal who was having a problem breathing. It lay listless making no attempt to move. Thick mucus flowed from its mouth and trunk. She touch its rough hide and the tip of its truck to feel its body temperature. The baby seemed cold to her.
“The baby’s sick. How old do you think it is?”
“Maybe two days, Mama. She stand around dead mama when we find. I think no eat from mama. She sees poachers cut tusks from Mama. I know she feel sad, to see mama be killed so bad.”
“Yes, George, I agree. I miss my Suzy so. She was my pet. She also wouldn’t eat when I found her. I had a terrible time getting her to do so. I remember now. George, go to the kitchen and have Molo give you some corn syrup and bring it back.”
George got up and left. Astrid kept stroking the baby’s trunk.
“You poor hungry little girl. Mama wants you to eat. You must be very hungry. Mama has something wonderful for you to taste. I bet you’re going to like what Mama gives you.” she said stroking the elephant hide around its ears. The elephant didn’t move and its breathing remained the same. Astrid started to sneeze. Her eyes watered. She can felt them puffing and swelling. Damn those allergies, she said to herself. She took a large red cloth from her pocket and blew her nose. She looked up and saw Ingrid in her cage close by. Ingrid jumped up and down and screamed, wanting Astrid to come to her. Astrid got up from the elephant and went to Ingrid’s cage. She opened the door and Ingrid came to her and gave her a sloppy kiss as she hugged her.
“You poor girl. I haven’t forgotten you, Ingrid. Mama has been busy trying to stay out of trouble. Oh, what is going to happen to you, Ingrid, if I go to jail? What is going to happen to all my babies? I’m going to miss all of you,” she said as she looked around at the animals staring at her. I think they know, noting how sad they looked, she thought.
George came back with the corn syrup. She handed him Ingrid and she took the corn syrup and sat down next to the baby elephant’s head. She opened the bottle and poured the thick liquid on her middle finger and inserted it into the elephant’s half-opened mouth as if it were its mother tit. She observed the baby elephant, looking for any movement it might give. Nothing. She pulled out her finger and poured more syrup on it and inserted it again. Nothing happened for a moment or two and then she felt it. Its mouth moved. A slight movement, but it moved. Then she felt its tongue slowing moving, back and forth. It swallowed. She looked up at George. “George, It swallowed.” Astrid petted its head. George smiled at her. “George, give me the bottle. Is it warm?” George nodded. She put the bottle in the little elephant’s mouth and the baby started to suck.
“She is nursing, George. She is going to make it,” she yelled.”