As I sit here composing my blog update the electricity has gone off, resulting in the steady hum of backup generators adding to the pulse of the city. A thin stream of smoke gracefully dances skyward from the mosquito coil in the middle of my room. After hesitating at the door frame, a small furry rodent scurried across the open doorway as two geckos cling to the ceiling directly overhead. They are as still as silence, imitating a wall painting…they are so cute!
Today’s activities included meetings at the National Trust for Nature Conservation (NTNC) and the Central Zoo. Dr. Susan Mikota has developed quite a reputation here in Nepal; she is held in high esteem. While at the zoo we were given a tour, met some of the zoo staff and, from a respectable distance, met Pawan (paw-wan) Kali, the pride of the zoo.
Pawan Kali is believed to be in her 60s. She is stately and beautiful, an impressive Kali (female) elephant who stands close to 11 feet tall. I was told that Tuesdays are recognized by the zoo as the day to honor Ganesh. On this day, Pawan Kali and local residents are treated to a well received tradition: the zoo provides special food that the public can hand feed to Pawan Kali. We were not witness to this weekly ritual but there is no doubt that both Pawan Kali and the local residents enjoy the special activity.
During my conversation with Dr. Jeewan (g-wan) Thapa, the zoo’s veterinarian, I learned that plans are being considered to retire Pawan Kali to the National Trust Nature Conservancy stable at Chitwan National Park. Not having visited the facility yet I can’t say what this change would mean for Pawan Kali, who has lived at the zoo for nearly 35 years. I questioned Jeewan about how Pawan Kali might respond to the move and he responded confidently that she would have no problem. Interestingly enough, Pawan Kali lived at the NTNC prior to moving to the zoo. It is unclear if she would be reunited with any of her former herd members but wouldn’t that be exciting if her return meant a reunion. Just the fact that Pawan Kali will once again live with elephants after being alone for so long is a very exciting prospect.