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Dances with Elephants - R.I.P. Mardos. 12/27/2006

I received word this morning that Mardos, the young elephant we were trying to help, was put down yesterday morning at 9 a.m.

I guess we tried, but we were hoping against hope.  The little guy is now at rest, and won’t have to suffer any more.  I really wish we had managed to get him upright, and walking, and living.  But it wasn’t to be.

I still remember going to see him, and he would wrap his trunk around my hand, and pull me down to sit next to him.  I remember his big eyes, full of trust, and intelligence, looking at me, as if he was asking for help.

Goodbye Mardos.  I promise to continue helping your other elephant brothers and sisters.

Dances with Elephants - A rescue - Intrusion. 10/13/2006

The following is a series of SMS messages I received from the Elephant Man, who is currently out on an elephant rescue trip. I have reproduced the messages verbatim.

12 October 2006, 0846 hours.

The greedy merchants of logging aren’t helping at all, berating us not getting rid of the elephants permanently, instead of driving them away!  Maybe we should turn our rifles against them?  Last night we came across fresh intrusion of the elephants again. Unless we have G3 night vision goggles, there is no way we could persue them.  Off we go again this morning.  Sour faced plantation owners waiting for us but ever smiling workers wishing us and hoping that these majestic animals and us are free from harm’s way.

12 October 2006, 1118 hours.

The elephants come in through another way, more fast food for them from the greedy owner’s plantation.  Not only is he sacrficing the elephants natural habitat but also the welfare of the Indonesian labourers.  He’s not human.

12th October 2006, 2233 hours.

Four shots fired in the air.  The elephants are raiding the plantation now.

12th October 2006, 2250 hours.

Two more shots fired in the air.  The elephants are in the bush, about 15 metres away in the dark.  Only a 3 meter wide by 3 meter deep ditch seperates us.  And things are at a standstill.  But you can hear them rumbling and squeaking.

Dances with Elephants - A rescue - Update. 10/11/2006

The following is a series of SMS messages I received from the Elephant Man, who is currently out on an elephant rescue trip. I have reproduced the messages verbatim.

11 October 2006, 1703 hours.

We are getting additional .458 rifles strictly for protection. Estimated about 15 adults and 6 small elephants. Plantation owner greedy, raped huge tracts of surrounding jungle, little left for the elephants. The sound of about 20 plus elephants running away from the shots fired in the air akin to 100 horses in a stampede.

Plantation owner screwed us for not getting rid of the poor wild elephants. Not nice to be stepped on during Puasa in the heat of the haze and humid, steamy leftover jungle.

Thank God Kay is supporting us with buka puasa makan and fags. Snark fans, please support us with essential tools, like multi function knives to clean the rifles, and chain shackles plus jungle boots.

Dances with Elephants - A rescue.

The following is a series of SMS messages I received from the Elephant Man, who is currently out on an elephant rescue trip. I have reproduced the messages verbatim.

10th October 2006, 2210 hours.

Am heading into the wild elephant infested jungles for night patrol with .458 high powered rifles. Now at Sungai Lembing near Kuantan.

11 October 2006, 1133 hours.

Shots fired to drive away about 20 plus elephants. No chance to dart them. No big trees to protect us!

11 October 2006, 1307 hours.

We are by a nice waterfall washing our clothes, then head back to base camp for a siesta.

Dances with Elephants, Part VI - Made to measure. 10/8/2006

Elephant Man got hold of the template for Mados’ harness yesterday, and brought it down to the sanctuary for a fitting. Eatly this afternoon, I got a call from the Elephant Man, and he introduced Maria to me. Maria had a few suggestions to make about the harness, and I agreed that it would be an easier to produce design.

I rocked in to the canvas maker, with a few thoughts forming inside my head, and after a few minutes explaining the harness and how I wanted it, they set to work.

We took the material K. supplied us, and began cutting out the 2 main pieces that the harness would consist of. A belly sling, and a collar. The collar would be attached to the sides of the belly sling, and the sling would have 4 lifting rings at the top. Easy to make, and easy to modify.

While the young lad was doing the cutting and measuring, Bikebike II waited patiently in the sun for me.

I had taken the basic design that I. had given us, simplified it according to Maria’s suggestions, and based on the measurements taken today by the Elephant Man and Maria, and incorporated a few things of my own. Like padding, as requested by both K. and Maria. I had a sniff around the canvas maker’s place, and dug out some stuff they had lying around. After some discussion, where I changed their mindset from designing things on a human scale, and then considering how to apply to something the size of an elephant, we decided to incorporate the pads directly into the sling itself.

We did this by cutting out 2 sleeves.

Then stuffing them with foam, and we ended up with 2 nice pillows.

We then sewed the pillows into the material

This now gave us the basis of the belly sling and the collar. Things were shaping up nicely, and according to the diagram I had in my mind.

The next step was to position and adjust the straps and buckles for the connection of the collar to the belly sling. This is where I started having a couple of doubts. I wanted to make the collar adjustable, in case this harness didn’t quite fit Mados. The young lad doing the work assured me that I could bring the sling back anytime, and we could make adjustments to suit.

I went back to basics, and decided on setting everything halfway, so that we had the maximum range of allowable adjustment. In case that wasn’t enough, then we would bring the sling back for modifications. But based on discussions with K. and my phone call with Maria, this would fit the little guy, and bring him upright.

The completed item was I had imagined it. It now remains to be seen if it works tomorrow, when I get down to the Sanctuary.

After loading the harness onto Bikebike II, I asked the shop owner about the cost, and he said it all cost exactly US$100. Not too bad, I suppose, for me walking in at 2:30 in the afternoon, and loading the harness onto my bike 4 hours later.

If any of the readers of Hunting the Snark would like to help in sharing in the cost of the harness, please leave a comment, and I’ll get in touch with you and let you know the arrangements. In any case, any contributions are gratefully accepted by the Sanctuary, but in this case, your kind donation will be channeled directly to Mados, instead of going into a common fund.

At this point, I would like to extend a very heart felt thanks to a certain fan of Hunting the Snark, who very kindly informed me in person Friday night that she had made arrangements for help to be extended to Mados. I would like to sincerely thank her very much, and I’m sure Mados will be equally as grateful for her kind help.

Oh, and she managed to impress the hell out of me this morning as well.

Correction :  In reference to the sentence above where I mentioned loading the harness onto my bike.  As of 10:00 p.m. Friday night, Bikebike II no longer belongs to me.  Her current owner was kind enough to let me use her for a few more days until I sort out her replacement.

Dances with Elephants, Part V - Sling shots. 10/5/2006

A couple of days ago, I got a call from the Elephant Man, asking if I was available for a meeting later that night with some friends of his.  I replied in the affirmative, and we met in the Club Lounge for coffee and a chat.  There I was introduced to K. and I.  A lovely couple from Kiwiland, who are involved in … I’ll put it this way, they do things for aquatic animals.  I. is a very senior engineer.  So senior that he probably designed things when they were still using drafting paper and slide rules.  And this incredible store of engineering methods and knowledge in his head.

Because we both sat down, and started discussing Mados’ sling.  I. had worked out a design, using trampoline netting as used in sailing catamarans, and his design was that epitome of engineering, elegant and simple.  With a little input from me, and based on our discussion, a new design was drawn up by I. and is sitting on my desk now as I write this.

Elephant Man and I went to see K. today, and picked up the netting, and brought it down to a canvas maker.  We showed him the design, and I explained to the canvas maker what we wanted.  He nodded his head, and said O.K.  And then told us everything could be ready by Saturday.  I then asked for a sample pattern to be made up today, to be brought in and fitted to Mados tomorrow.  And he will do so.

K., Elephant Man and I intend to get to the sanctuary on Sunday, and we will install the rig, and lift Mados.  K. has arranged for a stethoscope, so that I can have a good listen to Mados’ lungs.  He’s been lying down on his side for so long, that I am concerned about edema.  However, the Elephant Man said that Mados is in good health, and is actually moving his legs around, although he obviously cannot put any weight on them yet.

So things are proceeding very quickly, at gunshot pace.  K. wants to see Mados upright before she heads back to Kiwiland.  Elephant Man wants Mados to get better before the Department HQ makes the decision to have Mados put to sleep.  And I want to look at Mados in the eye, and tell him he’s going to be all right now.

So, a trip to Elephant Sanctuary this Sunday, and the installation of Mados’ rig.  Anyone want to come along?

Dances with Elephants - Corporate cordiality. 8/20/2006

Last Friday, we made a run down to the Sanctuary, to meet some possible corporate sponsors. Through Hmx’s contacts, he has managed to interest a local corporate giant in providing expertise, resources and sponsorship for Mados’ rig. Fair enough when they asked about the public relations mileage they could get out of it. As long as it helps Mados, and any other elephants that may need the rig.

When we got there, Mados was having his feed. The little guy was pleased to see me again, I think.

Picture removed at Elephant Man’s request.

Everyone made a big fuss over him, and he lapped up the attention. I will have to, sometime next week, get in touch with Mados’ vet, and have a chat with him about the little guys legs. I need to lay my hands on the x-rays, and then after speaking to the doctor, decide how we can get his legs straight, and strong enough for him to put his weight on them. Which will probably involve re-breaking the fractures, and re-setting the bones. I’m not looking forward to that, and probably neither is Mados, but it will have to be done, if the little guy is going to have a chance to survive.

The Elephant Man was impressed with Mados. “He’s a fighter” was the comment.

Picture removed at Elephant Man’s request.
Mados meets a Girl Friday.

The Elephant Man took the corporate guys on a short tour of the premises, showing them the pen where the elephants are kept. He explained the purpose and intentions of the sanctuary, and pointed out that the sanctuary was also geared to hold corporate family days and such. The corporate guys perked their ears up at this, and hopefully this will generate more external sponsorship and support for the Sanctuary, especially in the very expensive area of elephant rescues.

I had a discussion with the professor brought along by the corporate guys, and one of his lecturers. The engineering shorthand we were speaking I think left everyone a little perplexed, but they got the idea of what my rig design entails, and they are going to further refine the design, and that leaves me free to work on the portable rig that will be brought into the jungle for rescues.

Have you washed behind the ears?

The Elephant Man also brought along a volleyball for the young elephants to play with. If anyone would like to donate a large medicine ball used for exercise, please get in touch with me. Small footballs and the such are simply not designed to stand up under the punishment a baby elephant can subject it to. Baby elephants need play and love, just like human children.

It was good seeing the elephants in the Sanctuary again, after a 2 week break. The Elephant Man repeated his invitation for Hmx and myself to join him on an elephant rescue up north. I won’t be able to make it this month, because work is going to get in the way, but perhaps next month. The Sanctuary staff are currently tracking a herd of wild elephants, and the plan is to try and relocate the herd to the National Park over the course of the enxt few months.

In and amongst other random conversation in the car, the Elephant Man also mentioned that he was running jungle warfare as part of his corporate training and team building, which he does for a living. He spoke about his small squad tactics used in paintball jungle warfare. Yes, paintball, in a real jungle environment. None of these oil drums and other man made constructions. Where the participants find out, in the most direct way, that the jungle is indeed very neutral.

Elephant Man said I could join his team of assistants. We had a short discussion on small squad tactics, and lots of memories came flooding back. Everytime I talk to this guy, it’s always bittersweet. Some things should remain buried in memory.

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