I’m away from Dzanga for a few days visiting the capital city of Bangui for a few errands. The trip is difficult, a long bumpy 500 kilometer stretch through bush with no ammenities. Most of the road is unpaved and with the rains and lack of maintenance the trip is an ordeal. This time I travelled to Bangui two days ago and will return tomorrow, a record trip since I usually spend at least five days in Bangui before the return to the bush.
Along the way there are a few stops to stretch and search for the basic food which some of the small towns offer. This time during one of the stops this child approached and was wearing this t-shirt which I explained to a group of children. On the t- shirt was a short poem extolling the virtues of the elephant in English. Its owner probably had bought it in the used clothing market. During this encounter I had a captive audience in a place where schools barely function and a foreigner speaking their language is somewhat of a novelty.
None of these local children had ever seen an elephant in the wild and when I asked about them they told me how elephants were dangerous. I explained that this wasn’t ususally true and how the Central African Republic once had thousands of elephants but because of poaching their numbers had been severely reduced. How sad I thought that these children would probably never see an elephant in the wild even though their country had both savannah and forest elephants within its borders. One question I always ask Central Africans who visit Dzanga Clearing is if they had ever seen elephants in the wild before visiting the clearing. For ninety nine percent of African visitors this was their first experience of seeing and observing the biggest land mammal.
Of all animals, elephants are the most prevalent in advertising where they appear not only on t shirts but detergent boxes, beer bottles and a variety of products. Sadly to say they will soon exist as flat images serving as an advertising logos rather than a fellow inhabitant of the planet.