The elephants left the shade, crossed an open piece of grass between bushes, and came towards the mud-pool where my truck was parked. One by one, they arrived on the shore, but, just as they seemed to be about to bathe in the inviting muddy liquid, they became aware of the silent truck with its tell-tale smell of man. The leading elephant merely spread her ears and cautiously backed away taking the young elephants with her.
A smaller mother elephant continued to stand next to the pool, however, swinging her long trunk and swaying her head from side to side always keeping an eye on the truck. The baby elephant behind her held up his head, waving his trunk to sample the suspicious smell in the wind. The mother elephant seemed to be uncertain about whether to come on and investigate the truck or to back away with the others. Finally she made up her mind and slowly advanced on the truck. Her ears were half out, and her trunk moved inquiringly towards the vehicle and then back under her stomach in a rhythmic swing.
I was fascinated by this close approach. Never before had I been able to see the hairiness around the jaw, nor smell the warm scent of elephant which now reach me in concentrated waves. The mother elephant’s steps were slow but determined, and brought her to within a couple of metres of me.
She gave the impression of being intensely curious about this metal object which had appeared in her world and behaved as if it were itself an animal. I wondered how far she would accept the situation and, if after all the centuries of men killing elephants, she would ever allow me to approach her on foot. To be able to move freely among the elephants without their minding was an exciting thought, but I certainly did not expect it would ever be possible.