DAILY PHOTO: Elephants & Cattle Egrets

Taken in May of 2017 in Amboseli National Park, Kenya

POEM: Marsh Elephants

fragile herd,
living in the space between
Kilimanjaro’s broad shoulders
[too broad to see without a panning view]
on an oasis of glacial melt
runoff that grows a plume of vivid green
amid the red-brown savannah lands

where dust devils daily form

below the equatorial belt

and when the runoff runs out

there’ll be no time to run

POEM: Amboseli

belly-deep in glacial runoff

amid an emerald sea

a mud-caked troupe of elephants

the marsh free of acacia trees

Kilimanjaro looms in the distance

the source of all subsistence

if it should go

they’ll never know

it’s a death they can’t outdistance

DAILY PHOTO: Elephantine Threats: or, Warning Displays

Circling the wagons around the youngin’s

Ears out at dusk

Shaking head with ears out

Ears out and head aligned; Taken in April of 2017 in Botswana

DAILY PHOTO: Baby Elephants






Taken on June 26, 2017 at Amboseli National Park in Kenya

DAILY PHOTO: Baby Elephants of Lilayi Elephant Nursery

Taken in May of 2016 at Lilayi Elephant Nursery near Lusaka, Zambia

Taken in May of 2016 at Lilayi Elephant Nursery near Lusaka, Zambia

IMG_3444 IMG_3454

A Third Roti: A Story with an Elephantine Moral

IMG_0047I went to a talk at the Rangoli Metro Arts Center last night entitled, Foresters’ Elephants. The talk was hosted by a group called “Friends of Elephants,” and the panel of speakers were all Conservation Officers in South India who were responsible for public lands home to Elephants.

The discussion offered some intriguing insight into state and local politics in India. But the best explanation of the night came from the Chief Conservator of Forests for Kodagu in a story that could be titled “A Third Roti.”

The Conservator explained that, as a junior forest officer, he’d been assigned to a remote station. His housing took the form of an old decrepit colonial era building. This house had a vermin infestation, and the hungry rodents would get bold as he and his wife slept and would nibble at their fingers and toes. Of course, this made for sleepless nights. To solve this disconcerting problem, the Conservator took to getting a third roti with his meals. [For my India-inexperienced readers, a roti is a circular flat bread that’s a common element of meals in many parts of India.] Putting the third roti out for the rodents negated the rat’s need to engage in the mutually terrifying act of nibbling on the forest officer or his wife.

I don’t know if the story is true, and–if it is–whether it’s truly the Conservator’s story. It doesn’t matter. What’s important is that it’s a great use of story to make a point. The point in this case is that a solution often needs to take into account the fundamental needs of the “adversary.” In other words, regulation and punishment can’t always provide the solution–especially when basic needs are not being met. One could try to scare the rodents away or one could set traps (potentially at risk to oneself), but if the rats are driven  by hunger they might find the risk worth taking. The problem that he was addressing was the need for wood for fires, fence posts, and other needs. This caused people to enter public forests, putting themselves at risk of running into wild elephants.

The idea of trying to find a third roti for problems really resonated as an approach to creative solutions.