Andrew Smith from Memphis Zoo visits the research

Andrew Smith of Memphis Zoo recently joined us in the field. He had won a grant from the Zoo and the Conservation Action Network to support our work and part of the grant covered his travel to our camp.

In spite of his jet lag he soon settled into camp life and our simply way of living. H even took to vegetarianism quite well, although I am sure he soon made up for that when he returned back home!

We had a wonderful time meeting new elephants and he was quite taken by one in particular, so much so that I let him name him (not a common event). After much contemplation and I trying to guess what it would be, he came up with Boda Fett (the bounty hunter in Star Wars).

Apart from the all the lovely animal sightings, starry nights and beautiful scenery there had been none of he usual sagas of getting stuck, flat tyres etc.  BUT……. I speak too soon. Andrew had a flight out on Sunday and so we headed to town on the Saturday. We left early as we had a meeting at Moreomaoto Library about the un-coming workshop.  This involved a short trip to the National Park Gate and then a wait for OT the ferryman to bring the ferry across. Since the Boteti River flooded in 2009, this cut off access to the Park through this gate so some entrepreneur transported a pontoon ferry down and charging £12 per trip. I tell you I wish I had thought of that, it would certainly help with funding.

I had made Mphoeng drive as he was used to driving a manual and Ellie is an automatic. He had been doing really well on the roads in the park and so it was time for him to tactical the tricky ferry. The trick is to drive very slowly (a little difficult in Ellie as she really likes to go) and to follow OT’s instructions. He got on perfectly, getting off was another story…….. I was distracted, as OT had given me the receipt book to fill in. OT had parked in a funny place which involved the car having to go into water not on to the sand; Mphoeng was keen to get onto the sand and instead of following OT instructions aimed for the sand and Ellie came off the ramps. The first I knew of it was a very loud bang and bump. After a few seconds of shocked silence I jumped out into the fetid cow poo filled water and saw that he wheels were not on the ramp. Further inspection revealed that she was resting on her diff!!!!!!!!

I stomped around in the water for a while and, I have to admit, swearing a little, thinking of a solution. OT was shouting at me, Andrew was hiding in the car and Mphoeng was just shaking his head from side to side saying ‘Oh No’ repetitively.

Our first attempt to get her off was to jack her on the side and get her back onto the ramp, unfortunately due to the wind and water current this failed miserably and we only ended up giving Ellie her first bush scar. Next we tried to jack from behind, this combined with taking the ramp off and an hour’s blood sweat and tears we got her off.  We then had to reassemble the ferry and wash our poo-covered legs and we were finally off on our way.


So Andrew had experienced Africa, the wildlife, the landscape and the saying ‘Make a Plan’.

Boda Fett the elephant Andrew Smith named
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