Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Notebook: Garamba National Park

Garamba National Park
By Blake Tan

Twenty-two dead elephants,
including several very young ones,
clumped together
on the open savanna,
many killed by a single
bullet to the top of the head.

A field of massive bones –
ribcages, skulls, meter-long femurs –
a testament to the slaughter.

The tusks had been hacked away,
but none of the meat.

Greedy hyenas with human grins
stretched across their long faces,
loping with flat paws, coming closer
to scavenge the rotting, putrid flesh.

“They even shot the babies. Why?
It was like they came here to
destroy everything.”

African desolation, miles and miles
stretching forth from the cradle of man:
arid desert, scorched grass plain,
blood-soaked Congo.

In June, thirty-six tusks were seized
at the Entebbe airport in Uganda.
Eighteen of the twenty-two elephants
killed in Garamba in March
were adults that had their ivory
hacked out... The little stubs
of ivory on the dead calves
had been left untouched.

A ranger unclenches and clenches
his hand while he surveys the ruin
of the herd. His AKM sighs,
remembering every bullet fired
to drive the poachers away.

Yet, still too late to save
the gray giants, their hides
shredded blankets,
trunks fluttering like limp banners,
trumpets dying silent to the African wind.

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