A month after the birth of the twins, Mhoja, patrolling in the woods, heard loud elephant screams. Curie came crashing out with her family close behind. Mhoja saw that Hera had been speared in the side, blood pouring out. Yusta was helping her mother, allowing Hera to lean against her, putting earth in the wound, and pinching the wound together with the two tips of her trunk, as if they were fingers. She had blood all over her face.
Curie quickly moved the family on toward thickets in the south, and for a month they could not be found. Then one day they returned, Hera’s wound healed and all the family alive, though the twins were a lot thinner.
By this time the heat and drought were intense. Vegetation shriveled, and the hungry elephants ate even the shrubs down to raw wood. Parched, Valeria and her twins went to drink where the river was shallow. Like all baby elephants, the twins were still to learn the art of siphoning water with their trunks. Now they could drink only with their mouths, wading in till they were practically submerged. Straight Tail seemed the better organized; he kept the tip of his trunk out of water so that he could drink and breathe at the same time. Crooked Tail constantly got his trunk stuck in the riverbed and had to come up for air.
Surprisingly, because she was not in estrus, Valeria was joined for a week by a young bull. We scanned our photographs of the family and discovered that he was in fact Valeria’s older brother. He had left the family many years before when Jezebel was matriarch. This was only the second time we had witnessed such a long reunion of a bull with a member of his family after the mature females had forced him to leave.
By December the ground was barren, boiling hot, with nothing tender for young elephants to nibble on. The twins looked like skeletons, stumbling behind Valeria. Straight Tail, his little face pinched, was so weak he could hardly keep up. Crooked Tail became more aggressive toward his brother, pushing him away to nurse, fighting for his own survival.
On December 19, Straight Tail died, only two weeks before the rains broke. Crooked Tail, now with that extra portion of milk, lived on to welcome the cool rain and the new tender grass. He grew into a big fat round elephant.
Though the rain finally came with a vengeance, perhaps a hundred of Manyara’s elephants did not live to enjoy it; following hard on the drought, a lethal pneumonic disease cut them down. Curie may have been a victim; at any rate she disappeared, leaving little Pili to the care of Valeria and Yusta. The leadership passed to Hera, who once again displayed her sudden threat charges, which, however, were never as frightening as Boadicea’s.