|Kittibon and Lunar|
Photo courtesy www.bigfivevolunteer.com
My first animal encounter at the South African game reserve was with an elephant named Kittibon. Kittibon is Xhosa for 'I have seen' and she has seen more than anyone should ever have to.
Kittibon came to the reserve after poachers slaughtered her herd; miraculously she was left behind. Her mate is Selati, another orphaned elephant from a different herd. They are the quintessential couple; never more than a few feet apart, their bond is inseparable. They take mud baths together and afterwards Selati lies on the bank of the pit with Kittibon standing over top of him, although he is much larger and stronger than her, she is the protective one.
Kittibon sees into the soul of every human being she comes into contact with and she saw right through me on day one.
She saw my weakness, my fears and my grief and each and every day she tried to slap it out of me with her long and powerful trunk. If you've read my book you remember our ongoing battles and no doubt that elephant holds a place in your heart as well.
|Kittibon and Selati (left) after we made peace|
Over time on that tiny Game Reserve in Africa I was forced to overcome fears and take chances and that gave me the courage to slay the abominable demons of guilt and grief over my mother's death.
When that finally happened, no armor was needed when I was with Kittibon for she could see there were no more weak emotions that needed 'slapping out'. She was a changing force for me of such great magnitude - far greater in fact than the collective mass of a thousand elephants.
In July of this year under the brightness of a full African moon Kittibon and Selati welcomed their first baby - a female named Lunar. How thrilling that Kittibon, after all her struggles would now be a mother. But staff soon realized something was wrong. Kittibon, natural protector and nurturer wouldn't allow Lunar to nurse; she even began to gently push the baby away. A few hours later Kittibon died.
An autopsy showed the cause of death to be uterine prolapse during birth and complications resulting from that. The dedicated staff at the game reserve took excellent care of Lunar but sadly a few weeks later she also died. She was buried beside her mother.
Kittibon was alongside me every step of my journey of the loss of my mother, it is brutally ironic that she should lose her life just hours after becoming a mother herself.
Animals can have just as much impact on us than people. And that was one of the main messages of Learning to play with a Lion's Testicles and now, three years later, she is still teaching me.
This is my 100th post on this blog and it is for you Kittibon. Farewell dear friend I give you the piece of my heart that you once gave back to me.
Roger of the Expedition Project in South Africa recently wrote,
"Elephants mourn the loss of a herd member so I can't imagine how confusing this must be for Selati. Seeing Selati all alone in the field is heartbreaking."
The Second printing Dedication page for Learning to Play with a Lion's Testicles will read:
For you, Mum
And for you, Kittibon. They say elephants never forget but it is me who will never forget you. Farewell dear friend.