As my time in South Africa comes to an end, I wanted to see how my fellow volunteers felt about the topics I’ve discussed throughout my trip. I wanted to get the opinions of people from opposite sides of the world. For this, I spoke with my roommate from the U.K. and a student from the U.S.
When I spoke with Alex, my roommate, I asked her how she thought elephants were viewed here in South Africa before coming here. She explained to me that she believed that humans and elephants rarely came into contact with one another, except for captive elephants. “I thought locals looked at them in a positive way.” When asked how that view has changed with this trip, she expressed that, while she was right they rarely come into contact anymore, the reasons differ from what she thought. She learned that there are no definite wild elephants left in Knysna (history in an earlier post, “What happened to all the elephants?”), making it impossible for them to come into contact.
“I found it surprising that so many were killed. I knew poaching was a problem, but not this bad,” she said.
Finally, I asked if she thought we were capable of helping the ellies, either from this trip or in ways back home.
“Yes! Here, we are able to help improve the elephants on the park. But we can bring what we learned into what we do in the future.”
Next, I asked one of the students here about what she’s noticed in the eight weeks she’s been here. First, I asked her what the most shocking thing she notices tourists do. She found it surprising that so many guests just do not listen.
“They’re surrounded by the largest [landanimals on earth, and they choose to do whatever they want.”
She explained to me that she has watched guests at the park completely ignore the guides and attempt to touch or follow behind the animals. I also wanted to know what she thought was the most important thing she learned about elephants while here. She explained to me that she learned how in tune with emotions these animals are. The herd is able to tell when something is going on, either within the herd or just in the park.
“Especially when Harry’s herd was being relocated. They all knew something was happening, looking in the direction and acting crazy throughout the week.”
Through my conversations with these ladies, I learned that they had very similar views as I did. This goes to show that while we may all be from different parts of the world, we all came together with a similar idea and a common goal. We all want to help the efforts of saving the elephants.