Moses has grown about 6cm in height since arriving in Lilongwe, doesn’t sound very much over 46 days but when you consider that it takes about 20 years to reach his full size it is about right. He appears to have got a bit thinner over the past couple of weeks but this is fairly normal when increasing in height – rather like children do and he is still not considered thin for an elephant of this age.
He started to develop a slight problem with his skin flaking in a few places in spite of the daily oil applications which he hates. He is still terrified of mud baths or water being put onto him in any quantity at all and any attempt to bath him or coat him with mud results in him running off as fast as he possibly can and as it is of paramount importance to minimize stress we have been working on the best compromise between perfect skin and zero stress and have been trying various things to come up with the best solution which seems to be which is exfoliation with mud once a fortnight and aqueous cream put all over him every day – we started with baobab oil but this tends to sit on the skin and attract dust and his skin is looking much better again.
Moses is becoming a lot more aware and interested in his surroundings. He is gaining more control of his trunk and has started to pick up sticks and splash his feet with water using his trunk ( as long as the water in the paddling pool is not more than a couple of inches deep). He carries his little basket along for a few meters and spends a lot of time twisting his trunk into all sorts of positions – quite often with the end in his mouth to hold it still which results in the end being flattened at which stage he has to blow air out through it to open it up again and he also quite often puts his foot on the end of his trunk and pulls his head up stretching it until it snaps back into place like an elastic band – rather reminds you of a baby exploring its hands and feet. He and Matimat have started playing football – ok rather a big word at this stage in that they spend about 5mins a day with Matimat rolling a ball to him and Moses either pushing it with his trunk or kicking it with his front foot until he get bored and wanders off but it is a start and for an 8 week old baby this mother is very proud.
He is now beginning to act a lot more like an elephant in that he has daily bouts with me to test who is “the stronger elephant” which involves charging at me – or if I dodge out of the way the furniture and seeing how far he can push the “other elephant” along before he is pushed back. Unfortunately these bouts often take place in the early hours of the morning particularly if he feels that I am taking a bit long with the milk at which stage the charge turns into a temper tantrum and so I have been thinking about elephant social behavior and how to put him back in his place as a junior member of the herd without destroying the trust and affection that he has built up with me. Initially I push back as another young elephant would do but if he starts to lose his temper I walk away, climb a couple of steps up the stair case so that he can still see me but cannot continue charging at me or trampling me and totally ignore him for a few mins which he hates and he soon calms down and once I go back to him he rubs his trunk over me to say sorry and we make friends again. All part of the normal behavior for a youngster as far as I can see ( again very similar to young foals who become rather unruly and sometimes quite nasty until one of the older horses puts them in their place.) I do just wish that he would choose a more appropriate time as during the night I am counting the number of hours sleep that I have left!
He is also becoming a lot more sensitive and responsive to emotions and I have to be careful of controlling any feelings of frustration or tension when I am with him as this does result in him becoming more restless and confrontational. Conversely he responds to any feelings of affection with calmness and a rubbing of his trunk all over me and rubbing his tongue on my hands and to sadness with wrapping his trunk around me and gently swaying. It really does bring home how very emotional these animals are and how the person looking after them does have to genuinely care for them and not just go through the motions of providing food and a presence.
He is a lot more needy at night time and has to be physically touching you when it is dark, on Saturday night I got up to try and stop a cat fight outside the dining room door as a stray cat had come into the yard and left him asleep. I had hardly got though the door when he started screaming in panic – had obviously woken up with the noise of the cat fight and found himself alone and in the dark, I rushed back to him, put on the light and it took a good 20 mins before he calmed down enough to go back to sleep. I guess this is a natural instinct as a little elephant alone at night would very quickly become prey.