African elephant heard

Matriarchal African elephant heard in Queen Elizabeth National Park, Uganda

And then the tiniest calf flopped on its side and drifted to sleep. I knew then we were having a once-in-a-lifetime encounter with a matriarchal elephant herd. After four years filming African elephants — the very work that launched GLOBIO — I could count on one hand the magical encounters like this.

Today was our “primate day off”. We were heading into Queen Elizabeth NP for a boat trip on the channel between Lakes George and Edwards, that’s where the excitement was. On the rutted-road inside the park we slowed to let a few huge female tuskers cross the road only to spot a mix of tiny babies in amongst the tree trunk-like legs as we neared. A few feet on the left the lead female elephants paused, turned to face us and

baby African elephant, Uganda

Smallest of the babies waking up from its nap in herd, Queen Elizabeth National Park, Uganda

that’s when things got amazing. They stood facing us, wing-like ears slow flapping to some ancient rhythm. “No cameras or movement for a minute”, I softly said to the group, “Let them chill.” Then others turned and others approached us, we were staring at a wall of grey pachyderms. Trunks started relaxingly spinning the dusty earth into fist sized piles and flipping it onto neck, behind ears and dusting their underbellies. Cameras could not be arrested any longer.

For forty minutes all that could be heard was the soft clicking of camera and iPhones, the flapping of elephant ears, and the soft swish of trunks swirling sand, punctuated by an occasional eruption of babies pushing and shoving like restless kids at naptime. The guide, and longtime elephant lover, in me could not have been happier — sharing moments like this with people who care is incredible. And everyone in our vehicle was clearly mesmerized by the moment. For the executive director of GLOBIO in me this is exactly what building a travel program means and can do, create experiential learning opportunities that change people, transform travel into something much more… inspire lifelong learning.

baby African elephant, Uganda

One of the baby African elephants in a forest of trunks and legs – the protection of its matriarchal herd, Queen Elizabeth National Park, Uganda

— Gerry Ellis

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