What are the Odds?
Circa 1984, Kenya
Diana Steel and her family were our Discovery Beach House guests in 2013. After her son Simon studied our web site, he called.
“I think you may have something in common with my mother,” Simon said. “She used to work with elephants in Kenya.”
I was skeptical. “We only knew one elephant in Kenya and that was 30 years ago. She was an orphan at the Mt. Kenya Safari Club animal orphanage. Her name was Mary.”
Simon was quiet for a moment then said, “I think my mother knew Mary.”
Volunteering on the Orangutan Project
Camp Leakey, Borneo – 1984
A baby orangutan lay curled in the fetal position on the grass by the banks of the Sekonyer Kanin River. She’d lived in a cage in someone’s back yard for two years. Her mother had been killed by poachers and eaten so she could be sold for as little as $20. It was likely the orphan had witnessed the traumatic event. Now she was sick and her human owners no longer wanted her. She’d lost two families in three short years. She had a fever and wasn’t responding when touched.
A few days ago my friend Mary Ann Mollenkamp sent me a link to a blog post written by Innocent Uwizeye from the Art of Conservation. He described a hike to Karisoke Research Center, the former site of gorilla expert Dian Fossey’s 18-year research study of the mountain gorillas of Rwanda. Although our friendship with Dian spanned 2 short years before her death, it was a relationship that redefined our purpose and eventually led us to establish our own private nature reserves in Manuel Antonio, Costa Rica and a life among its primates. What follows is our blog posts.
When you got to the Karisoke site was there an engraved marker on Dian’s grave? It reads in part, “No one loved gorillas more. Rest in peace dear friend…” I wrote the inscription on the marker and sent it to Rwanda through the US Embassy to be installed in 1986. We later learned it had been removed during the war for safekeeping but we don’t know if it was ever reinstalled. Can you let us know?
Today was an amazing day beginning with unloading two tons of watermelons from one of the many produce trucks that come in every day. Each watermelon needs to be washed by hand. We also mashed bananas, cornmeal and other grains into elephant balls for the older elephants who can’t chew fresh fruit. Each elephant needs about 100 kilos per day. Their are 40 elephants here – that’s 4000 kilos of food prepped everyday!
We were then rewarded with Lek taking us on an elephant walk. Her nickname means “little” but her passion for saving badly abused elephants is enormous. Nine elephants are blind in at least one eye having been punished for disobeying. I naively believed their mahout trainers had a loving relationship with their elephants but the opposite is true. Some elephants have severely swayed or even broken backs from decades of carrying tourists.
Find out what you can do here: www.elephantnaturepark.org/.
Picture a dead end job with the glass ceiling weighing heavy on my pride. I know I’m good at writing letters because I consistently get results from them for my firm. I wonder how I can turn this skill into a bullet train ride out of here. The book I’ve just read, Gorillas in the Mist, pops into my brain. I touch pen to paper and out flows, Dear Dian Fossey. She had a reputation for liking gorillas more than people and this is the longest shot I’ve ever taken. I don’t know it at the time but this letter is my bullet train. Even though this took place more than 25 years ago, the lessons learned are still relevant today.
Originally published in the Costa Rica Star by Wendy Anders, Dec. 21, 2016
Yesterday, transportation authorities inaugurated a new bridge at the entrance to the Central Pacific port town of Quepos, the gateway to Manuel Antonio National Park.
The cement structure replaces a bailey bridge that spanned the Boca Vieja estuary, said the National Highway Council (Conavi, in Spanish) in a press statement.
Carlos Villalta, Minister of Public Works and Transport (MOPT), said at the inauguration the infrastructure cost ¢1.560 million (about US$286,000).
The two-lane bridge provides safer access to and from Quepos for motorized vehicles and also pedestrians, with sidewalks in both directions, said Vice President of the Republic Ana Helena Chacón Echeverría.
Karisoke Research Center – Rwanda, Africa
Journal Entry August 5, 1985
Dian invited us to her cabin for dinner tonight to welcome us to Karisoke. A hundred burnt umber eyes stared down at us from a black and white photo gallery of gorillas past and present. She told us about a few of them over dinner. The ones she lost to poachers haunted her. She could hardly talk about her beloved Digit.
She also invited a student from the University of Oklahoma who had just arrived a few days before to work on his Ph.D. His topic is about the parenting role of a male gorilla and the effects on his offspring. He didn’t talk much beyond our introductions.
…a massage with Nang at Numngeru Thai Massage in Khao Suk. I walk in at noon expecting to make an appointment for later but Nang, the massage therapist, insists on doing it now. I’m not a fan of deep tissue massages because frankly, they frikkin’ hurt! I decide to surrender because everything hurts after 23 1/2 hours in the air.
It was June 1976 and my husband David and I had spent 6 months trekking through South America. We were longhaired, backpacking, bell-bottom wearing hippies back then.
We were in Goiania, Brazil staying with friends we’d made along the way when we found ourselves deeply regretting we’d skipped seeing the Galapagos Islands off the coast of Ecuador. We were on a tight budget and our hosts advised us that heading up the Amazon River was the least expensive way to get there and so it became our logical choice.
My daughter Dawn had joined us a month earlier after spending just enough time with her grandparents in Los Angeles to enroll in kindergarten and not be left behind a grade in school. I didn’t subscribe to people’s warnings that you couldn’t travel with kids. It was a state of mind. Dawn turned out to be a great little traveler.