There was a fleeting moment of awareness, when our jeep first entered the jungle in Manas National Park in the north-east state of Assam, India, that made me gasp with pure contentment. It had been a while since I’d felt it, that fine-tuning of the senses that happens when you’re in the bush. I felt goosebumps prickle my arms as I looked up at the canopy of dense, old trees, their thick foliage hugging both sides of the dirt track. It hit me – not for the first time in my life – that truly wild parts of nature can make your eyes sparkle and your heart soar in a way that few other things can. There’s something about being in the presence of trees that have been around for hundreds of years and feeling a part of something bigger than yourself that I’ve realised is essential to my existence. I didn’t need to see a tiger – although I wouldn’t have complained if we did – to appreciate the majesty of this place, a world heritage site at the foothills of the Himalayas. But we did see enough wildlife to really get the blood pumping, including a rather close encounter with a young Indian rhino, one of just 10 left in the park (see above).
Later in the trip, Nafisa and I met up with Assam’s famously first and only female mahout, and a true lover of elephants, Parbati Barua. She said to us, “Don’t interview me in the city. Next time we meet in the jungle. That is where I am alive.” And I thought to myself, how fortunate folks like us are to be able to work in the wild, when so little of it is left in places like this, to know what is out there, and to appreciate it when we’re back in the big smoke. I’m going to try and hold onto that feeling as we all plunge into the commercial madness and road rage of Christmas… I’m really glad that places like Manas National Park still exist.
My co-founder of Animal Works, artist Nafisa Naomi and I were in Assam to track down some of the orphaned elephants that Animal Works‘ supporters have helped rehabilitate at the CWRC and return to the wild in Manas National Park in February this year. Animal Works is a small organisation, and we’re staying small – one of the advantages of this is that we stay connected to what’s going on in the field, which was the point of this trip, to confirm that your donations were resulting in real conservation outcomes (and of course, a thinly veiled opportunity to get back to the wild, where both Nafisa and I draw the inspiration for our creative work).
Just for a change, I’m not going to TELL you what happened when we got there. I’m going to show you. Because for the first time I’ve managed to teach myself how to film and edit video content, and the result of this is a 6 minute youtube video of our adventure in Assam.
Check out the video here .
Thanks for all your support in 2011, and stay tuned in the new year for some new projects from Animal Works, including the opportunity to join us on safari in Zimbabwe. As always, we really appreciate all your donations, elephant sponsorships (click here to give one for Christmas!) and kind words – because we’re small and don’t pay salaries, you know that almost everything goes straight to the wildlife. Happy festive season everyone!
Coming soon – Nafisa’s blog from her visit to the CWRC!