Mary Quite Contrary

After our safari drive in Queen Elizabeth National Park (which we’ll blog about soon), we stopped at the park’s canteen for a cold coke before moving on. From the men’s bathroom, I heard Mark shout my name, which left me wondering if I should actually run in to see if everything was alright. Luckily he came out to meet me.

From the bathroom window, he saw Mary, the semi-wild elephant who lives near the park headquarters. She was orphaned at a young age and raised by humans, causing her to be quite habituated to us. Some of her favorite pastimes include gobbling up landscaping and turning on the water taps outside the canteen.

On this day, we found her outside being filmed by a BBC crew who was in the park shooting a documentary on mongooses. (Or is it mongeese? Either way, “Banded Brothers” will be aired on BBC this fall.) Mary had shown up a few times in the background of many of their shots, so they decided to get some extra footage of her since she clearly wanted to be in the spotlight. She quickly overcame any remaining wariness of people when she learned that treats were involved.

So we watched for a few minutes while Mary gobbled up some pasho and bananas. Realizing there weren’t any other handouts, she plodded off in search for her next snack. After talking for a bit with the BBC crew, we walked back toward the canteen when I noticed that Mary was suspiciously lurking next to our car. It turns out that she’d found Mark’s bag, which had some food in it, and had spilled its contents out on the driveway to investigate further.

I must say that Mary’s got good taste. She’d already eaten our fresh avocado and a toblerone bar by the time we’d found her. Clearly she lives by one of my favorite life rules: Life is short, eat dessert first. Remaining at her feet were a small plastic bag of peanuts, a nalgene bottle, a pack of chewing gum and a roll of mentos.

There wasn’t much we could do other than stare. When a pachyderm with a sweet tooth has got your candy stash at her feet, you pretty much have to accept the fact that it’s gone. So in spite of everyone’s protestations, Mary popped each treat into her mouth and gulped them down.

Once all food was gone from the bag, she started looking in the car for more. Since an elephant can’t bend down to peer in the window, that means she let her trunk do the investigating. I thought the whole scene was great, but I doubt our driver felt similarly, so I lured the big gal away from the car with a few bananas.

Sensing a mutual foodie in her midst, she decided to follow me. I sort of backed into the canteen, and she stood at the open door, too large to fit through, but clearly wanting someone to give her more food. Probably against my better judgment, I rubbed her head and trunk (but refrained from hugging her) and took a photo of the two of us. Sadly, the camera is acting up and I don’t have the photo now. But I’ll post it soon.

One response to “Mary Quite Contrary

  1. I think this my favorite story of late – I love the image of you snuggling an elephant.
    Love to you all – Betsy

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