able. The livestock, for their part, provide milk and meat, companionship, and in return their human caretakers give protection, guidance towards grass and water, healing hands in times of stress. As a young man Samuel would have walked these ranges—perhaps the same route the elephant has chosen—leading the herd of his father’s cattle from water to water, grazing the range as they went, sleeping side by side with them in thorn brush enclosures under the stars, digging to find water for them in the dry riverbeds, and withering and suffering with them during times of drought. Now, as an elder, many of those experiences and many of his cows are memories, footprints on the faded trajectory of the past, and instead of the colorful cloth and beaded necklaces of a warrior he now wears the faded green uniform of a wildlife ranger. With the goal of someday setting up a conservation area on the fringes of his tribe’s territory, he is tasked with patrolling it, caring for the wildlife as he once would have done his livestock, looking at the land in their terms, through their elements of life: food, water, companionship.
Finding Common Ground vitality, of wildness in its various forms. Following the bull elephant is part of this process, an attempt at learning, understanding pattern and change so that decisions, informed ones, can be made about the future of this place. With the distance that he walks he might, in some small way, add to our interpretations of this landscape mosaic and finding him, seeing him, knowing the shape of his tusks and the form of his body—the way he holds his trunk— lends character to this process, a sense of individuality, an identity of purpose. The elephant’s footprints leave the riverbed towards the west, up over a sandy rise where a mixed grove of acacia and commiphora trees stand in a haze, the heat radiating off the ground. We measure his direction on the maps in our minds, searching for water somewhere out there to the west. “It must be Kisima Hamsini,” Samuel suggests, standing up in the shade, cradling his rifle. Kisima Hamsini is a Swahili name, meaning
With the distance that he walks he might, in some small way, add to our interpretations of this landscape mosaic [...] I have learned to see the land in a similar way. Having worked as a wildlife conservationist in these northern ranges, I have traversed them looking for pattern, signs of continuity and change, trying to discern the spatial and temporal features the animals require. There is an urgency to it, for the forces on this landscape are changing. Footpaths are being turned to roads, and roads are being paved. Land is being bought and sold where the concept of ownership once took different forms. Animals, both wild and domestic, are being herded, pushed, erased, and it feels as though I am watching a flood of water surge down a riverbed, washing animal memory from the substrate of time, and that, when the water clears, there will be little left to populate the sand, to dot the interior landscapes of our imaginations with the thrill, the raw
‘fifty wells.’ They have, according to pastoralists I have spoken with, always had water even during the driest of times, when droughts last through two, three years without a drop of rain. Stepping out of the shade we follow his tracks up out of the riverbed, to check if they continue going west. They do. The elephant, somewhere between forty and fifty years old, knows where the water is, the way across this landscape—he knows Kisima Hamsini. We know it too, and we decide to follow. Perhaps, if we can get there before him, we will catch a glimpse of this shadow. It takes Samuel and I about an hour to return to the Land Cruiser, a dusty, graying machine, the top piled with spare tires and jerry cans of diesel. There are few