This is turning into an "elephant week."
For one thing, Walt got me this great book off of my Amazon wish list and I have been glued to it. For another, I watched a marvelous special called Elephant Queen and liked it so much I didn't delete it and want to watch it again.
I've written about elephants on this journal before, but perhaps not quite like this.
I don't know when I began my fascination with elephants, but I guess it's only been in the last 10-15 years that I've really started reading about them and watching TV specials about them.
What fascinates me is that we are so much alike. I'd say that they are so much like humans, but maybe it's that we are so much like elephants. Whatever, we share so many things in common.
The book follows one family of elephants for 13 years and the writer paints stories that read like novels, explaining things like the social structure, birth, death, mating, migration, etc.
The video tells a migration story from the view of the elephant matriarch as she guides her family out of the drought zone to the lush ancient elephant grazing ground, more than 100 miles away. The photography of this video is amazing. You would have thought a camera crew went along with the group, but of course it's a patchwork of what must be hours and hours of film. The most amazing shots, to me, were of lions, from the back, stalking elephants in the tall grass and how the elephants work together to find the one baby who is lost.
When the baby is found several days later, with serious injuries, but alive and able to run to his mother, the final scene of her touching him and rubbing against is body over and over again leaves little doubt about the bond between mother and child, her anxiety at his loss and her relief when he is found again.
Watching any elephant video shows how families work to support each other. When a baby is in danger of drowning, for example, the whole herd comes to his assistance and works to help the little one out onto dry land.
When an elephant dies, the whole herd goes into mourning, touching the body, making rumbling sounds and only after a long while do they finally leave.
One particular poignant moment in the video showed the death of a baby and the herd gathering around it saying good bye, then turning and slowly walking away. The mother is the last to leave. She makes one more approach to the body, touching it all over with her trunk. Then she walks away, turns, lifts her trunks and gives out a mournful trumpeting sound before turning back to rejoin the herd. It breaks your heart.
The book tells of an elephant who starts to collapse on the march to find water and food and two other elephants get on either side of her, holding her up so she can walk. She finally can't walk any farther and collapses and both of the helper elephants try to get her up, but she dies. One of the other elephants keeps trying to get her up and manages, with her tusks, to get the body to a standing position, but she is, of course, a dead weight and not only falls again, but breaks the helper's tusk off in the process.
The chapter on mating was actually kind of risque as one particularly appealing young female was apparently gang banged by a bunch of horny males.
Time and time again are examples of elephant intelligence, complex emotions, and skills that far outweigh ours (the migration, for example, follows a path that elephants have been following for hundred of years and the matriarch remembers).
I don't know that I will ever tire of learning new things about elephants, and the closeness of elephant families. Watch the heartwarming story of 2 elephants, who had not seen each other in 20 years, reunited again at an elephant sanctuary.
And there are no words for poachers.
This is from the worst recorded episode of ivory poaching in Kenya.
I am so glad that humans (some of them) are starting to realize the damage it does to an elephant to be separated from her family and placed in a circus or in a zoo. Ringling Bros recently ended its elephant performances and I know how that disappoints people, but the more you know about the suffering these wonderful animals go through the more you realize that they belong in the wild with their family, not performing for human beings.