It’s two years ago since Voortrekker was shot. I was in our base camp when the news reached us. We watched the stars and stared into the fire, probably to find an answer or maybe to connect with his spirit. It was bizarre, as we were so close to where it happened and yet the devastating feeling of loss came much later.
Voortrekker was an unbelievably magnificent elephant. He touched many lives over the years and enriched many hearts. There was a reason that he was famous.
I am just one of many who was instantly in awe of this beautiful animal. The ultimate king of the desert. I remember the first time I saw him. It was in 2012 and he hasn’t been seen for months. EHRA was slightly worried and decided to look for him. I was a volunteer then and I was curious.. And I was lucky. We just watched Mama Africa’s herd play for hours in the mud in one of the Ugab River springs. It was a beautiful scene and we were ready to head off, as something moved behind us. Through the thick tamarisk trees a huge shape materialized, pushing the branches away.
Voortrekker’s massive head appeared, carrying these beautifully curved thick tusks in front of him. Gently swinging, without any sound, he moved past us with absolute grace, leaving no one in doubt that he is the boss. Voortrekker’s sheer presence demanded respect, and yet he was always gentle, never aggressive, almost forgiving in the way he moved around or past us. It was as if, for one split second, you tapped into a pool of ultimate wisdom, as he moved past.
Being in the presence of such an individual totally grounds you and you suddenly know where you belong and all is ok. I believe its a similar feeling that people experience when being in the presence of great spiritual leaders. We look to them for guidance, a word of wisdom or just a smile that says all will be ok. To me, elephants have that effect. I feel healed when I connect with them.
And as I worked with many local communities during PEACE Projects, I realized that I am not the only one that experiences this. It seems like an ancient connection within us that comes alive when we allow an elephant to touch our souls.
With just one simple gentle appearance, Voortrekker changed 20 children’s lives to the better during a PEACE Project in EHRA’s base camp. He approached camp, stopped where we sat and looked at us with his soft eyes and enormous head. 20 children were holding their breath, starred with big eyes as this huge animal moved past. These children were from Otjogorongo Primary and were very scarred of elephants. All of them instantly fell in love with Voortrekker and in their hearts learned that elephants can be very kind and mean no harm. Their lives were touched by an elephant and something changed forever.
The value of an elephant, I believe, lies not in its financial benefit to our world, but in the beauty it brings to our lives. Voortrekker’s value could not have been measured by financial means but by the many many lives that have been touched and in some cases changed forever to the better.
I treasure him in my heart, as I know many of us do, remembering him as a wise and gentle leader in this crazy world.