Clips of the moment began circulating online over the weekend and have since racked up millions of views – catapulting Kaunda and the curious young elephant to viral fame. The brief interaction between the reporter and the subject charmed viewers and left many in awe of Kaunda’s ability to maintain his composure throughout. The Sheldrick Wildlife Trust, a non-profit that runs the orphanage, identified the elephant like Kindani, a 4-year-old female who was rescued in April 2018.
“Baby elephant bothering a TV reporter is the best part of today,” he tweeted a Twitter user, who shared a video of the exchange that has been viewed more than 11.8 million times as of Wednesday.
For Kaunda, it all started as another day at work.
The Kenya Broadcasting Corp reporter. he was on a mission to the Sheldrick Wildlife Trust elephant orphanage, according to Kenyans.co.ke. Kenya is battling its worst drought in four decades, and local officials say extreme weather is killing 20 times more elephants than poaching. A recent report released by the country’s Ministry of Tourism and Wildlife revealed that more than a thousand animals have died due to the drought, including wildebeest, zebras, elephants and buffaloes.
Relentless drought kills hundreds of zebras, elephants, wildebeest in Kenya
Kaunda told a local Kenyan radio station that he knew he wanted to hit the orphanage where he was speaking in front of the elephants. But he was struggling to pass his report and had already tried 10 takes – which did not succeed.
“I kept my distance, but I was so focused and I didn’t even realize they were approaching,” he said.
At the start of what would become a viral moment, Kaunda, dressed in a red and navy T-shirt and jacket, can be seen standing among several red-brown elephants holding a microphone bearing the KBC logo. In the background, Kindani has his trunk draped over the back of one of the other elephants.
“Here we go,” says a faint voice off camera.
With a quick breath, Kaunda focused his gaze on the camera and began.
“They say charity begins at home,” says Kaunda, his expression serious, “and for these young orphaned elephants, this charitable foundation is what they call home.”
He briefly looks away from the camera when one of the elephants seems to push the side of his body with his head, but it does not fail. Instead, he puts a gentle hand on the elephant’s head and braces himself, apparently determined to get a usable hold.
Kindani, however, now directly behind him, seems to have other plans.
“And with increasing cases of drought, it’s up to us to be guardians of our natural world,” says Kaunda, ignoring the elephant’s trunk as he carefully examines his ear. It moves over the top of his head before moving down towards the center of his face, forcing Kaunda to close his eyes as he bravely continues to speak.
But when Kindani’s trunk starts to feel around his nose and mouth, the reporter gives up. Letting out a high-pitched chuckle, he ducks, letting out a laugh off camera as the elephant quickly pulls his trunk.
On social media, the interaction, which lasted less than a minute, is quickly captivating people around the world.
“Most of us would have lost our professionalism long ago!” the Sheldrick Wildlife Trust he tweeted. “An important piece related to the drought, but our orphans have seen a visitor to investigate!”
Kindani “knows exactly what he’s trying to do,” the organization said added in another tweet, responding to a Twitter user who pointed out the elephant’s eyes moments before she approached Kaunda. “The side eye is often a precursor to cheeky behavior.”
Pitted against the volunteer elephant, many viewers were impressed by Kaunda’s determination.
“I’m amazed at how long this reporter was able to keep his composure,” one person said he tweeted. “I would have started laughing at the first touch.”
Another Twitter user applaud the journalist for his “amazing professional control”.
“The reporter stopped the course until it was no longer possible to do so,” the person wrote. “I’m glad he laughed at the end, it did my heart good.”
In the interview with the Kenyan radio station, Kaunda described the trunk as “ticlish”, saying: “[I] just trying to keep my cool.”
“It actually had no smell,” he said. “I’m sure if I had a bad smell, it would have really distracted me. It wasn’t normal, but I enjoyed the experience.”
Kaunda, who calls himself a “wildlife enthusiast”, said he hopes to experience more of these encounters, adding that he aims to “get closer” to many species of animals. “So far only two remain; the lion and the leopard.”
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