Thursday, December 5, 2013

Guest Blogger: R. Ann Siracusa

By R. Ann Siracusa
When an author uses travel as fodder for writing novels, as I do, most of what you hear, learn, and observe doesn't end up the book, even though the knowledge garnered adds significantly to the author's "command" of the setting.
When I was in southern Africa in 2008, I was exposed to many publically and privately funded humanitarian and environmental programs. Numerous efforts are aimed at preserving the African wildlife habitat as well as protecting and rescuing animals. Only some mention of a couple of these made it into my new release All For A Blast Of Hot Air, but they are interesting and worth knowing about.

This is a trust founded in 1977 by Dr. Dame Daphne Sheldrick in memory or her husband and famous naturalist, David Leslie William Sheldrick (1919-1977).
He was born in Alexandria, Egypt and came to Kenya as an infant, where his father established a coffee farm. At the age of 28, after an education in England, he became the founding warden of Tsavo East National Park, the largest park in Kenya. In that position he took on the problem of armed poacher which he had to combat by using staff from the Kenya Game Department and National Parks. He spent years studying elephants and spent his life rescuing and hand rearing vulnerable elephants, rhinos, and antelopes.
The trust embraces any action that compliments the conservation, preservation, and protection of wildlife, such as community awareness, anti-poaching, preserving the natural environment, and a broad range of other issues.
Here's where the fostering process comes in. And No, you don't have to take the elephant home with you.
One of the most important programs of the Sheldrick Trust is The Orphan's Project. The effort has achieved worldwide acclaim by rescuing elephants (babies, sick elephants, and those otherwise abandoned by the herd) and hand-nursing them to health and maturity.

To date they have hand-raised at least 150 elephants which would have otherwise died. In addition, these orphans have been released by into the wild herds of the Tsavo and had produced healthy, wild-born calves.
The project gives hope to Kenya's threatened elephant population and the struggle against poaching for ivory, loss of habitat due to population pressure, deforestation, and drought.
There are a number of "stages" in fostering an elephant.
Nursery Stage  
According to the Trust website, the most important thing to a baby elephant is its mother and extended family. A female is more vulnerable to psychological despair if she loses her family. Males leave the herd (there are no mature bulls in a herd of elephants) but females are bonded to the family for life and the emotional attachments are lasting and strong.
Young bucks develop a "hero-worship" for the dominant males and learn from them how to limit conflict, but they never forget their female family.
When a baby elephant loses its family, it has to be replaced by a human equivalent i.e. enough Keepers to represent a family. Psychological care of the animal is as important as the physical. Keepers have to stay with the baby 24 hours a day, just like the lost family would, and even sleep alongside with them in their stable at night. They rotate the keepers so the elephants don't become attached to only one person.
Rehabilitation Stage  
Once the orphaned nursery elephants are stable, after about two years they are transferred to one of the two rehabilitation centers along with their Keepers. The men rotate so that the elephants know all the men and the men know all the elephants. This truly sounds like the long-term commitment of a real family.
At this stage they talk walks with their Keepers and get to know what the wild is like, but spend the night in a stockade. The keepers no longer sleep with them but are within earshot if needed. In this stage that they begin their gradual re-integration into the wild elephant community.
The elephant's development mirrors that of humans. For the first two years, the baby is classified as an "infant"; from two to ten, a "child"; from ten to twenty, a "teenagers." The elephant matures in its twenties and matures in the thirties and forties. They become "elderly" at about fifty. They could live into their seventies and eighties, as human do, but they seldom make it to social security age because of human greed for ivory.
Elephants communicated with body language and sounds that are audible to human ears. They also learn to communicate in low "infrasound" which transcends distance and cannot be heard by humans. The orphans do have to learn commands in English, which is spoken by all the keepers to avoid confusion of several languages. Elephants like to please those they love and are obedient.
Re-Integration Stage (Into The Wild)  
Elephants, unlike many other wild animals, re-integrate into a wild heard fairly easily. As long as the wild herd hasn't been traumatized by humans, the orphans are welcomed and allowed to play with age mates and are tolerated as long as they behave. If the herd has been abused, the scent of humans on the orphans will initially trigger fear and rejection. But, according to the Trust "elephants are highly intelligent beings, who reason and think and, like humans, have compassion for others less fortunate."
Who knew?
Bullying, however, isn't allowed, and an elephant will be driven away on a "time out" without any contact for bullying actions. This is severe punishment for a social animal.
Born with a genetic memory, the instinct to survival are built in, such as subservient behavior and knowing what is edible and what isn't, but these have to be honed by exposure to the wild. It is important to get them integrated into the wild herds as soon as possible.
All you need is a checkbook (or maybe PayPal account), and for a mere fifty dollars a year you can foster an elephant without changing a single elephant diaper, reading one bedtime story, or sleeping with the little tike in the barn. Here's the link.
The website has a list of the elephants available for fostering and their stories.
The newest arrival up for fostering is Lentili. She's a female born July 7, 2012, who was found by the 01 Lentille Conservancy. Her age upon arrival at the orphanage was fifteen months. She was found on her own with no other elephants in sight. They don't know why she was orphaned.
How could you resist?
Book 5 in the romantic suspense series, Tour Director Extraordinaire
By R. Ann Siracusa
A secret prenuptial honeymoon, a hot air balloon safari, and a plot to kill the US president all come together at a Vatican wedding.

I'm Harriet Ruby, tour director extraordinaire. Finally, I'm tying the knot with Will Talbot, my favorite spy and the love of my life, despite my nagging concerns about his dangerous profession.
He could get killed!
I don't want my children to grow up with an absentee father...or a dead one, but Will's work is his calling. I can't ask him to give it up. When he holds me in his arms, I have no doubt he'll find a way to make everything right.
To avoid the huge Italian wedding my mother is planning in California, I jump at an offer to get married in the Vatican, only to learn my whole tribe is making the trip to Rome for the ceremony. Darn. Now, I'm stuck planning a big wedding in two months without help. I freak out totally when my boss cancels my vacation time scheduled for the honeymoon.
At Will's suggestion, we get married at city hall, hire a wedding planner, and then take off on our honeymoon before the church ceremony. The first leg of our trip is a hot air balloon safari in Africa—well, it sounded like fun at the time—but afterward, we'll have two quiet, relaxing weeks totally alone.
When a member of our tour is kidnapped, I learn Will accepted an assignment from the US government to keep the kidnap victim under surveillance—after he'd promised me his full attention. All my doubts about the marriage raise their ugly heads.
Have I jumped the gun? Sure, we love each other, but is that enough to make this marriage work?
It won't matter if we don't get out alive.
Later, sated and limp with contentment, we dozed. I awoke to him nibbling at my ear.
"Hmm. Is it morning yet?" I eased away, stretched long and hard, then curled against him again. "Will..."
I hesitated so long he pulled back and turned me so he could peer into my eyes, holding me in place so I couldn't escape.
His voice conveyed concern. "What's the matter?"
"Mmm, nothing. I was wondering if... Is this going to change when we get married?"
Will stiffened and gazed into my eyes with an unreadable nuance of expression. "If you're asking if I'm going to whip out a roll of duct tape, run a line down the center of the bed, and put my Kevlar vest and a can of Mace between us, the answer is definitely not."
I grimaced. "Mace would be risky."
He laughed with amusement and some other undefined emotion that made me fidget in place. He wasn't done with me. "With your track record, we'd better forget the Mace. But if you mean this..."
Cupping my breast, he took the swollen nipple into his mouth, pinching lightly and pulling, sending bolts of sexual desire to my core, flushing my body with heat, then trailed hot kissed down my quivering abdomen and between my legs. My body arched, and, in a heartbeat, I flew from unprepared to orgasm to spinning in space among the stars.
He gave me time to come back to earth and relax, utterly contented, and then said, "If you mean that—yes, it's going to change."
My heart seized, then slammed against my rib cage. I pushed him away and sat up. "What do you mean, it's going to change?" Confused and alarmed, I grasped his shoulders and shook him.
Gently clamping his strong hands around my wrists, he pulled me back down onto his chest, our faces inches apart. Our gazes locked in the dim early morning dawn seeping through the slats of the veneziani shutters. "As I understood it, you were asking me if our sexual relationship would change when we get married. I answered you."
"But I don't want it to change!"
"Get a grip, Tiger. You know everything changes."
I sniffed and held back the tears burning behind my eyes. "M-maybe we... shouldn't g-get married."
Sucking in a deep breath of frustration, he rolled me under him, nudging my legs apart and settling his weight in the V of my thighs, his gaze boring into me.
"Jesus, Harriet. I didn't mean that. Think! Do you remember how our relationship was when we first met in Morocco, three years ago? Do you want us to go back to how we were then?"
"Yes, I remember. It was good—really good—but I...I like things the way they are now." His erection pressed against me. Oh, yeah. I definitely like things the way things are now.
"We've both changed, Tiger. Our relationship has changed...for the better, but it's not the same. We're at a different time and place in our lives. We'll never be back there, and we'll never be back here again, either."
My lower lip trembled with trepidation and disappointment. "You're scaring me, Will. Promise me everything will stay the way it is now." Even as I pouted and sniffed like a child, I regretted my foolish statement. Of course, there was no way to stop life from evolving, no going back. I clamped my teeth on my lower lip to stop the quivering.
His face softened into a tender expression, a faint smile tweaking the corners of his luscious lips. He shook his head. "Can't. But I can promise you this. As long as I live, I will never love you less than I love you now."
Music to my ears, a silken caress to my fluttering heart. "You are so..." The word sweet came to mind, but he didn't like being called that. "Loveable." I arched my body and brushed my lips across his with feather lightness, then relaxed beneath him.
With his weight on one elbow, he pushed strands of my undisciplined hair off my face and hooked one behind my ear.
"I mean it." His pause made my heart constrict, as though his next words would be momentous. "But there are a few things I'd like to see change in the near future."

R. Ann Siracusa is a California girl who earned her Bachelor of Architecture degree from UC Berkeley, then went immediately to Rome, Italy. On her first day there, she met an Italian policeman at the Fountain of Love, and the rest is history. Instead of a degree from the University of Rome, she got a husband, and they've been married going on fifty years. In Rome, she worked for as an architect and planner for a land development company for several years until she and her husband moved to the US.
Now retired, she combines her passions—world travel and writing—into novels which transport readers to exotic settings, immerse them in romance, intrigue, and foreign cultures, and make them laugh.
Her first novel, a post WWII mafia thriller, was published in 2008. She now writes for Breathless Press which has published five books in the romantic suspense series, Tour Director Extraordinaire, one sci-fi romance, and three short stories.
She loves to hear from her readers and can be contacted through her website, Facebook, Twitter, or Google Circles.

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