Visiting Dereck and Beverly Joubert in their native habitat, the Selinda Game Reserve in northern Botswana.
For a moment, at least, his trunk is in the room, dabbing the edge of the open door with his quivering nose, as if feeling his way with fingers. The young elephant listens and trudges into the darkness.  I return to blogging by lantern light in my Botswana office—a small, wood-paneled shed at the edge of the great Okavango Delta.
A large male elephant approaches our jeep while out on safari at the Selinda Game Reserve in Botswana. Ever the consummate hosts, National Geographic Explorers-in-Residence Dereck & Beverly Joubert welcomed us to Selinda Camp with open arms, iced cocktails and a campsite that would make David Livingstone jealous. Red and gold Persian carpets cover up grey dust beneath our feet, a peaked white tent offers cool shade, where in the hottest part of the afternoon, we lounge about on Moroccan cushions and sip ginger lemonade and gently wilt until dusk. This is when the animals come alive—when the elephants parade past in family groups of fifteen or thirty or more it seems, all of them of varying size, flapping their slate-colored ears like raggedy sails. There are 9,000 elephants at Selinda, just a fraction of the 200,000 elephants that roam Botswana—and yet in spite of that astounding number, “We are losing 5 elephants per hour,” says Dereck Joubert. Indeed, nature is a luxury, which is why the patch of land at Selinda (half the size of Rhode Island) is priceless. It’s been a rewarding day of safari—one in which I forced the entire jeep to sit still for 20 minutes while I cooed like a momma dove over the tiniest baby elephant. Because we want to protect them—it is in our human nature to reach out and help anything that seems fragile and vulnerable, and out here in the bush, when you see some baby creature, be it a lion cub or a zebra foal or a itty bitty warthog jogging behind its mom, all you want is for that animal to succeed.
And then all of this goes away—take away one piece of the exquisite puzzle that is nature, and the whole thing turns beige and blank and useless, like a bike without wheels. I am awake before dawn, picking up the hippos song where I left off last night, then watching the sky go grey, then lilac and catching fire with flames of orange and pink on the horizon.
Nothing beats camping in Africa, and nothing beats waking up to the promise of elephants outside your door.
Like the zebras who roam these fields—the situation is black and white, and unless more of us cause an uproar, the African night will become eerily silent. Males can also tell when a female is in heat or soon will be and males will follow those females. Theoretically, elephants could perform the same tasks as sniffing and tracking dogs, but so far they haven’t been employed for such uses. We got three questions from readers about encounters with jumping spiders. Jo-Anne Nina Sewlal, a spider expert at the University of the West Indies in Trinidad, weighed in on these agile arachnids.

Jumping spiders have eight eyes, not six, and they’re a big plus for the visual predators, said Sewlal. Jumping spiders will climb to a high spot, release a line of silk, and when there’s a wind, the dragline will blow and carry the spider with it—an expedient way to cover long distances. Barbara Sherman, a veterinary behaviorist at North Carolina State University, suggests putting your cat in a safe, comfortable room with food, toys, and a litter box so she can relax until what it perceives as stranger danger has passed.
Next time, try having a visitor come into the room and do the same thing, ignoring the cat even if it starts to approach the visitor. It can also help to provide a perch for the cat to sit on to observe the goings-on from a safe distance, she added. Got a question about the weird and wild animal world? Tweet me or leave me a note or photo in the comments below. We’re Moving!As of October 22, 2014, Weird & Wild will be hosted on National Geographic's main news site. Watching a mahout lovingly bathe his elephant, I tried capturing the moment from the riverside but wasn't satisfied with what I saw through the viewfinder.
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When our jeep gets close, I can look into their eyes, shaded by brushy eyelashes that turn even the mightiest beast into a bit of a cute cartoon character.
It takes two years to make an elephant, but in Africa, we are losing 25,000 a year to unnatural causes. The situation with rhinos has become so dire that Dereck and Beverly are raising $3 million in order to fly 100 rhinos into the heavily protected areas of their own country of Botswana. All of us are here because we love wildlife and love watching it roam about in the beautiful natural habitat of the Botswana bush. There may not be Jacuzzi tubs or flat screen TV’s but there are leopards in the tree and lion cubs sipping water from the riverbank.
The saggy animal stumbled about like an awkward puppy, as if the little guy was still getting used to his body, returning constantly to the safety of his mother’s tree trunk legs and peeking at my camera just to check that I was still staring. Now the day is ended and when night falls, the lightning begins—orange and purple flashes that leave a silhouette of palms burned on my retina like a film negative. Echoing grunts pass back and forth, followed by rippling water and silent interludes before another gruff male belts out his part of nature’s all-night song. In the darkness, I lie quietly, wrapped up in a queen-sized bed in a tent the size of a Manhattan apartment, waiting and waiting for it—the growl of an unquiet lion, which comes to me on the wind and sends me to sleep.

For all the joy of exploring the bush with the Jouberts, the bare facts are clear—if current rates continue, we could erase lions and rhinos from the planet in my lifetime. But liking animals is not enough—two days with the Jouberts and I realize that conservation is a war—it is the daily choice between good and evil, survival and death, a world with or without lions, rhinos, sharks, frogs, or songbirds. I’ve been fortunate enough to see the Big Five in Tanzania, and for the life of me cannot comprehend how anyone could hunt those magnificent creatures to near extinction. They track each other,” said John Lenhardt of the National Elephant Center, a refuge in Florida. Next thing I know it was a foot away… I felt a web started from my hand to the spider looking at me.
Then bring a person the cat knows into the room, but have that person stand far away from the animal.
See photo galleries, play jigsaw puzzles, and download wallpaper of images from more than 105,000 submissions. But if I have learned anything in my time traveling and writing for National Geographic, it’s that Nature is a luxury—despite the dreamy world of open jungle and savanna we encounter on screen, the reality of today’s world is one in which every part and parcel of “wild” space has a price on it.
This is when I hope with all my heart that 40 years from now, I somehow I might make it back to Selinda Camp and run into this same elephant, who will be monstrous by then and who will try to enter my room in the dark, touching his way with his feeling trunk.
Vague thunder follows and then the chorale of clicks from a million unseen reed frogs, riding out their night on their individual blades of hollow reeds that rustle in the breeze. These are not just wild animals in a faraway place – they are part of our common heritage and should be protected as if our souls depended on it. That trains the cat to see that an extra person is no big deal—even pleasant—because of the treats and petting.
I then climbed a tree with a branch extending out over the water and got my shot, which may have been my last as I almost fell off after taking it.
In my own lifetime, our world has become demarcated to such a degree it seems that nearly every wild animal has a fixed address on the planet.
I'm sure the beautiful elephant would not have been very happy about me falling out of a tree straight onto her stomach! The laws of simple economics means that accessing Earth’s rapidly-diminished wildlife translates to higher and higher prices paid in order to ensure their survival.

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