Authors: Beverley Harper
Beverley Harper died of cancer on 9 August 2002. She rests at peace in the Africa she so loved.
Her ashes lie by the Boteti River in Botswana, below a lodge called Leroo-la-Tau. It means
Footprints of Lion.
It is a special place.
This simple plaque marks her passing:
Also by Beverley Harper
Storms Over Africa
Edge of the Rain
Echo of an Angry God
People of Heaven
The Forgotten Sea
Shadows in the Grass
Footprints of Lion
First published 1996 in Pan by Pan Macmillan Australia Pty Limited 1 Market Street, Sydney
Reprinted 1997, 1998 (three times), 1999 (twice), 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2008
Copyright Â© Beverley Harper 1996
The moral right of the author has been asserted.
All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted by any person or entity (including Google, Amazon or similar organisations), in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, scanning or by any informational storage and retrieval system, without prior permission in writing from the publisher.
National Library of Australia
Storms over Africa.
Typeset in 11/12Â½pt Sabon by Post Typesetters Printed in Australia by McPherson's Printing Group
This novel is a work of fiction. Names and characters are the product of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.
Papers used by Pan Macmillan Australia Pty Ltd are natural, recyclable products made from wood grown in sustainable forests. The manufacturing processes conform to the environmental regulations of the country of origin.
These electronic editions published in 2010 by Pan Macmillan Australia Pty Ltd 1 Market Street, Sydney 2000
Copyright Â© Beverley Harper 1996
The moral right of the author has been asserted.
All rights reserved. This publication (or any part of it) may not be reproduced or transmitted, copied, stored, distributed or otherwise made available by any person or entity (including Google, Amazon or similar organisations), in any form (electronic, digital, optical, mechanical) or by any means (photocopying, recording, scanning or otherwise) without prior written permission from the publisher.
This ebook may not include illustrations and/or photographs that may have been in the print edition.
Storms over Africa
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This book is for Robert, Piers, Miles and Adam
She was a lovely baby. The family, when they were introduced two days after her birth, were generally pleased with her, laying their trunks lightly on her head by way of greeting. Weighing in at 130 kilograms, she was a little unsteady on her feet for a couple of days, so had a tendency to flop down at unexpected times. When this happened, either her mother, her older sister or her grandmother was quick to assist, prodding gently with their forefeet or nudging with their long and sensitive trunks until she was able to scramble up.
Her grandmother was the matriarch of the small group of elephants which consisted of five fully grown females, a bull, four teenagers, three younger offspring and three babies. As the latest addition to the family, they all watched her carefully. If she strayed too far from her mother's side there was always someone to herd her gently back. At first she rarely strayed. She remained in almost constant physical contact with her
mother and would spend long periods simply leaning on her. The feel of that familiar warm bulk was of great comfort and reassurance. If her mother was otherwise occupied, her older sister did just as well.
At around six months she began to develop her independence. In fact, she became quite annoyingly brash, although the adults tolerated her behaviour, not seeming to mind her clambering over their backs while they were trying to sleep, or shoving and pushing as she tested her strength against older members of the family. When she charged birds and leaves at a full, galloping run, or simply hurtled energetically around in circles, achieving nothing more than raising the dust, her family reacted with amused indulgence. Her boundless energy and restless inquisitiveness were normal phases of development and the adults let her get on with it. However, they were ever vigilant and if real danger threatened she was instantly pulled into the centre of the larger elephants with all the other calves.
While she was quite steady on her feet after the first couple of days of life, learning to manage her trunk was another matter. It took over a year for her to master all the uses of this flexible limb, which was a cross between an arm, a nose and lips. At first, when she drank she would kneel in the water, holding her trunk in the air and drinking with her mouth.
When she did start to use her trunk for drinking she got more sand than water in it, which caused her such irritation that she would blow it out furiously, spraying the others. They ignored this; her trunk was her own business and she would have to learn how to use it for herself.
She met many other elephants outside her own family. Some were related, others friends, and still others no more than passing acquaintances. Communication was via a series of rumblings and by touch, and she quickly learned to recognise her own family.
At two-and-a-half the hard tips of her permanent tusks appeared, and shortly after that, the weaning process beganâalthough she would still suckle for anything up to another five years.
Her life was contented, a constant round of eating, drinking, playing and sleeping. Having been born in a game reserve, she had no particular fear of humans and their strange noisy vehicles, simply the inbuilt distrust which was common in all things wild. However, some members of her family, particularly her grandmother, harboured an intense hatred of humans and never missed an opportunity to show it. Her grandmother had a reputation among the park rangers for her fierce mock charges and displays of temper.
The young calf had watched the matriarch
charge some of the park vehicles, and one day took it upon herself to stir up a pot of trouble on her own. An open Land Rover, carrying a driver, a ranger and two guests to the park, was stopped some distance away from where the family of elephants browsed in a thinly wooded forest. Having first checked to make certain her grandmother was not planning one of her own spectacular charges, the calf announced her intention with a shrill trumpeting scream and some slightly uncoordinated ear flapping. When she had everyone's complete attention, she tucked up her trunk, jutted out her 8 centimetres of tusk, and charged.
Instead of beating a prudent retreat as it did when her grandmother displayed some bad humour, the Land Rover sat still and let her come. Perplexed, she pulled up to a dusty stop some ten paces away, weaved back and forth, swung her feet, screamed again, waved her trunk, flapped her ears andâquite suddenlyâlost her nerve and ran, squealing, her tail held high in the air, back to the safety of her family. From that day on she left the business of making threatening displays to others.
Once or twice a day the family made its way to the river to drink, bathe and frolic in the water, then emerge, dripping wet, and throw dust over themselves. It was her favourite time of day. There was always a chance of
meeting other young elephants from different family groups and, since there was no rivalry between families, she could play and wallow in the water and spray others to her heart's content. She was particularly fond of a young bull, several years her senior. He had snagged his right ear on a sharp thorn when he was a baby and, in his frenzy to escape the stinging intrusion of the 13 centimetre, hard-as-steel spike, he had shaken his head so violently that his wildly flapping left ear became similarly impaled. The only way out was backwards and, jerking angrily back, the soft baby tissue in both ears had torn as easily as paper. The injuries healed on either side of the lacerations and, as he grew older, the game wardens took to calling him âBloomer Ears' because both resembled old-fashioned ladies' bloomers hanging on a washing line. Bloomer Ears was distantly related to her own family and the two of them would play for hours until one of their mothers told them it was time to leave.
The first eleven years of this young lady's life passed uneventfully, happily, in the warmth and security of her family unit, protected in the game reserve. Unless there was a serious drought, floods or bushfires, her future looked assured. But no-one had reckoned on how cunning humans had become in order to supply the lucrative commodity of ivory to a
world not yet fully committed to the preservation of wildlife .Â .Â .
Just outside the game reserve was a village, and to this village the Indian trader came. He was the middleman, he said. He represented the white
who would pay well for ivory.
âAh, but,' the villagers replied, âthere are no elephants around here.'
âThe game reserve is full of elephants,' the Indian trader argued.
âEeeiii,' they laughed at him, âbut the rangers have guns to shoot the poachers. It is too dangerous.'
âThat is true,' the Indian agreed. âBut I happen to know that, exactly two weeks from this night, all the rangers but two will be attending a conference in Harare. They will be away two days and two nights. This is a big park. Two rangers cannot possibly look after it all.'