South Africa Day 2 Medium.avi

Today we decided to commune with nature once again. Wed done the safari thing in Namibia where we could look at the animals but not touch. Today would offer us the chance to pet, stroke, grope, slap, rub and even ride African Elephants to our content. If there was any sense of natural justice in this world, these huge animals would stomp us into the ground as we attempted to share an experience with them. As it is, the lawyers have gotten involved and the elephants know that theyd be on the losing side should they decide to administer jungle justice on us. So it was off to an elephant center for us. Yes, they have centers for elephants in this part of the world. It seems that a full-grown bull elephant requires some 10,000 hectares (25 acres) of land to support itself. Because of development, land is getting more and more scarce in South Africa, which is crowding the elephants together. This causes mass pachyderm starvation as they compete for the same food. The solution to this problem isnt particularly pretty or tourist-friendlythey cull the elephants. Cull is a euphemism for mass elephant murder. They kill them any way they canby setting huge traps that are similar to mouse traps except they use peanuts for bait. They sneak up on them with Predator Drones borrowed from the U.S. Air Force and launch missiles into the heard as theyre having wedding parties. The elephants at this center are waiting to be relocated. Some of them may wind up in zoos, while others will wind up on private reserves. They cant be released back into the wild because they have been trained to not trample people (which means that theyve unlearned an essential survival skill). Living in the center, though, beats the alternativewhich is being dead. Three elephants (two teenage males and one middle-age female) were paraded in front of us and did some tricks for our amusement. They knelt down on the knees, jumped up and down in place (yes, you read that correctly; see the video), trumpeted on command, and gave kisses with their trunks. This whole kiss thing was disgusting (again, refer to the video). Everybody wanted me to get a kiss, but I told them that they were out of their friggin minds. Kirsty, to her credit, is fearless when it comes to elephant snot. She stood next to an elephant, a handler took the trunk, placed it on the side of Kirstys head and gave it the command to kiss. The elephant blew through its trunk and left a brown goo on the side of Kirstys head. Disgusting! The only cool thing was that it was a female elephantand you know we guys always like two see to girls making out Afterwards, everybody was allowed to walk with the elephants. Basically, you held on to the end of their trunk with your hands and led them around an exercise area. Again, I was asked to participate, but I declined. I was told that this might be the only chance Id have in my lifetime to lead an elephant around by its nose. Somehow, though, many years from now when Im on my deathbed reviewing the regrets of my lifeI dont think this event is going to be on the radar. Plus, as I reminded everybody, we had to sign legal waivers that clearly stated that these 11,000 lb animals are still wild beasts that can (and doand likely will again) kill at any second. Whats next for these peoplesnorkeling with Great Whites? No thanks. Ill just stand off at a distance and film the carnage should it happen. Perhaps I can make a video When Elephants Go Crazzzy! Now with extra blood and broken bones! After our elephant encounter, it was time to head to a fascinating museum in the middle of nowhere. Its a new attraction, and was built to honor the dead people that they found in nearby caves. These arent ordinary dead people, these are the original dead people. Original as in Adam and Eve. Ever heard of the fossil skeleton of Lucy that was found in the 1970s? Well, this is where they found her! I must admit that I never would have associated Lucy and other proto-humans as having lived in what is now South Africa. I always thought theyd have lived further north on the continentrather than its southernmost extremity. This is why I never became a paleontologist. The museum was entertaining and informative. Theres a boat ride at the beginning that seems rather pointless. Otherwise, its a well-conceived tribute to our earliest-known ancestors.