The overpowering vegetation submerges us all. She invites you to slither, dodge, crawl, step over in order to keep progressing. You have to pass through it in the way she allows you to, otherwise, Heaven help you! She does not refrain to tear, prick or congest your skin and to put your muscles to the test. She enforces harmony or pain, such as a Grand Master, whether satisfied or not she is. This hostile environment becomes mesmerizing as soon as you try to penetrate and understand it. The pygmies know how to see what is unseen, listen to the inaudible, interpret the signs which are irrational to most people. They are overadapted to their biotope. I watch them to better understand. However, we give up in the late afternoon, precluded by a herd of atrabilary females and the night which will soon come upon our world.
The next days, we did not find any fresh track of a solitary elephant. We decided to swap over for buffaloes who had brightened our trips, fostered our memories, without ever being able to come to fruition. Then, came the final day…
Thunder had been rumbling all night long, clouds releasing downpours on the forest’s roof. Around 5 o’clock in the morning, I can hear the sound of water drops falling on the broad leaves of the banana tree rubbing my bungalow. At the first streak of dawn, only 80 yards from camp, a footprint, miraculously dropped by Mother Nature. My heartbeat promptly increases: definitely a promising elephant considering the diameter of the foot. He had passed behind my hut, crossed and fed on the pygmies’ yam field. It is him who made the water drops fall when shaking the trees. We vigorously chase him, convinced it is our day. We come across an aghast chimpanzee, paralyzed at mid height of a trunk to which he fiercely grips, with a sad and powerless look.
The elephant stays the same course, without feeding no more. I turn several times to Alain for regulating our forward speed. After an hour and a half later, the pygmies whose eyes were riveted to the ground, suddenly scatter like flies and vanish into the dense vegetation. Their unexpected reaction trebles our heart rates. I can immediately see a dark shape erupting from the plants. The sleeping elephant had awakened when we approached… Now, he rises at only 5 yards of us but Alain is still rattled by our trackers’ fright and does not discern him. In the meantime, I spot his tusks: magnificent!
I try to give Alain simple guidance, in vain. He ends up perceiving a movement but could not distinguish the full body of the animal. The latter is staring at us, frightened by the noise made by the running pygmies, his ears all perked up. Hidden by a thick vegetation shield, he listens and looks. Two long minutes pass. He decides to walk away, branches breaking under his massive body, regularly stopping to ensure the cracking is all his. We pursue him swiftly. One of the pygmies, André, probably reassured by our courageous attitude, gets back to us to assist in resuming our tracking. Only 10 minutes passed when he fled once more: a second contact occurs. We can guess the silhouette of the elephant who is now facing us. Alain knows he cannot miss this new opportunity. He spots one of the tusks, looks up for the eye, aims the center of a fictitious line and presses the trigger. Death comes without the pachyderm’s knowledge. He bends his knees and collapses in slow motion. Brain shot. Perfect. For a short moment, time stops. Everything freezes as if we were outside of the setting. Then, we progressively realise. The pygmies resurface, tapping us on our backs and joyfully chanting.