- Kate Wilson

Swimming with an elephant!

In this blog I will attempt to describe our life in the African bush and all the challenges, excitement, ups, downs and most importantly comedy moments that come with working in such a remote and special corner of the world. By doing this I hope to put into context the personality behind Mulberry Mongoose.

There are times when living in Zambia can test you; personally I always struggle with power cuts, one minute everything is dandy the next you are in darkness or unable to finish your days work as your computer has just died. Worse is when the power cut goes on for two days as this empties the water tank cutting off the fresh water supply to your house… this is when you start viewing the toilet cistern as a legitimate source of critical water!

However, in many ways living in Zambia gives us so much more. The incredible opportunity to live side by side with such an extraordinary wealth of wildlife is hard to describe. Often a large bull giraffe strolls past our bedroom window first thing in the morning, or elephant saunter past in a lovely long line and I never get sick of waking up to the sound of hippo.

Yet my greatest wildlife experience so far has to be when Dave and I swam with Tafika, a young orphaned elephant. Sadly Tafika got separated from his mother when he fell down a large whole near a local village. There is much conflict between elephants and villagers trying to protect their crops, and thus livelihood. Tafika was being stoned to death before being saved by Conservation South Luangwa and then moved to Chipembele Wildlife Education Trust where he lived for a month before being flown (by a DHL plane no less) to the Elephant Orphanage Project in Kafue National Park.

 

Whilst living at Chipembele Tafika would take regular bush walks and we joined him on one. He loved these walks and it was amazing interacting with him so intimately. He was not afraid of us and we all happily shared the simple joy of the bush as we walked side by side. But his absolute favourite was swimming in a large pool close to the riverbank. We were all allowed to jump in with him and the twinkle in his eye was incredible – you honestly felt he was laughing with you. He stood on my foot three times and unbelievably it didn’t hurt. Dave, my husband, even lifted him up and enjoyed a play fight.

Tafika is now part of a family group partly made up of two other rescued elephants from the Luangwa Valley. They are under a carefully managed rehabilitation scheme that aims to facilitate their natural rehabilitation to a wild herd in the Park one day.

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