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I take a moment to look up from the muddy path I’m carefully navigating. All around us the jungle rises and falls on the backs of steep mountains. The blue tops emerge out of mist like Chinese watercolours.

I can see a patch on the oldest elephant’s back, where years of wearing a saddle has rubbed her coarse hair right off. After all the pineapple and banana is finished, we walk with the elephants to the river for a bath. Our guide, Omo, explains that in the wild, elephants naturally cover themselves in mud, which acts like a sunscreen. These rescue elephants, however, simply won’t reapply it unless their mahouts help wash the old mud off first.

Once our dip in the river is over, we climb out onto the slippery bank. There’s a leech on my ankle and I pull it off before it has time to take hold.

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