You might remember that a while ago a rather inquisitive elephant took a liking to one of my shoes, which I had foolishly left outside my tent one night. The elephant took it into the bush and investigated it thoroughly before deciding that it was inedible and threw it away into a thorn tree, where I found it a couple of days later.
After that, there was another incident where I had to rush out to respond to an urgent Lion Guardian report, leaving my trousers hanging outside to dry in the sun. The report kept us in the field until very late and I returned to my tent after midnight. On arrival I found that my trousers were missing and I could see signs that the elephant had been back!
The next morning I went in search of my trousers, expecting to find them dropped in a bush close by. I searched everywhere but the trousers were nowhere to be found.
A number of nights later I was woken at 3.30 in the morning by a familiar noise. The heavy breathing and gurgling stomach of my elephant friend was louder than my alarm clock could ever be – the ‘thief’ was back! I quietly got out of bed and peeked out of the tent window. All I could see in the moonlight was a towering mass of bull elephant with ivory tusks almost touching the side of the tent. He was just standing motionless looking at me, perhaps wondering why there wasn’t another item of clothing lying around for him to steal.
I didn’t think that scaring him away would be a good idea as he might panic, but I certainly wouldn’t be able to go back to sleep without him leaving! What does one say when faced with a potentially dangerous animal at close quarters? The only thing that I could think to say was “SHOE!!”
He continued to stare at me for a number of long-seeming seconds before slowly turning and ambling away. I was relieved that he reacted calmly but I still wonder what he has done with my trousers. I don’t think I’ll ever see them again!