Tales from the Field

No Zoom Needed
By Lynn Von Hagen of the Elephants and Sustainable Agriculture Project in Kenya

My ranger companion and I were coming back from visiting the mitigation experiments we had in a farming community in the Tsavo ecosystem of Kenya. As we often do, we encountered a group of elephants grazing; a family group accompanied by a large bull. Since we catalog all the elephants we encounter, we stopped and tuned off the engine so as not to panic the elephants. From a safe distance, we took data and many photographs. The elephants started moving towards our position. So as not to disturb them, we intended to start the car and slowly pull away. I turned the engine on. click. again. click. The engine was totally dead. We looked at each other wide-eyed and simultaneously uttered an expletive. We surmised that the battery was dead or disconnected, but now our problem was the elephants were too close to safely exit the vehicle to pop the hood to check. Since we were in a vehicle we knew the danger was minimal and chuckled at our predicament, but we were going to have to eat crow and call for help. We used our radio to call for other rangers nearby to come and intervene and moved to the center of the vehicle in case we were charged.

They showed up quickly and promptly laughed at us as they put their vehicle between us to make the elephants change direction. Once out with the hood popped, in about 5 seconds we found that the cable to the battery had become disconnected. We fixed it and the vehicle started right up.

IEF - Photo Credit: Lynn Von Hagen

Photo Credit: Lynn Von Hagen – One of the bulls who came over to take a look at us in our vehicle. No zoom needed.

We appreciated the quick rescue with a round of typical Kenyan handshakes and some good ribbing. Needless to say, every time we go out now we check to make sure the battery cables are secure!

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Tales from the Field