1986, Mkele Mbembe was on holiday in Kenya after graduating from
Northwestern University. On a hike through the bush, he came across
bull elephant standing with
one leg raised in the air. The elephant seemed distressed, so Mbembe
approached it very carefully.
He got down on one knee and inspected the elephant's foot and found
a large piece of wood deeply embedded in it. As carefully and as
gently as he could, Mbembe worked the wood out with his hunting
knife, after which the elephant gingerly put down its foot.
The elephant turned to face the man, and with a rather curious look
on its face, stared at him for several tense moments. Mbembe stood
frozen, thinking of nothing else but being trampled. Eventually the
loudly, turned, and walked away.
Mbembe never forgot that elephant or the events of that day.
Twenty years later, Mbembe was walking through the Chicago Zoo with
his teenage son. As they approached the elephant enclosure, one of
the creatures turned and walked over to near where Mbembe and his
son Tapu were standing. The large bull elephant stared at Mbembe,
lifted its front foot off the ground, then put it down. The elephant
did that several times then trumpeted loudly, all the while staring
at the man.
Remembering the encounter in 1986, Mbembe couldn't help wondering if
this was the same elephant. Mbembe summoned up his courage, climbed
over the railing and made his way into the enclosure. He walked
right up to the
elephant and stared back in wonder. The elephant trumpeted again,
wrapped its trunk around one of Mbembe's legs and slammed him
against the railing, killing him instantly.
Probably wasn't the same elephant.