In celebration of elephants

In celebration of elephants

by Leon van Wyk
Somebody (a private guide who shares my love of elephants) once said to me “Every day is better once you have seen elephants,” and I really embrace these words, and try to instill similar feelings in as many guests as I possibly can. One can never be certain that one will see elephants on any given day on safari, but in areas where they are plentiful, the chances are pretty good.
While all of the so-called Big Five mammal species are wonderful and special animals in their own right, my personal favourite happens to be the elephant. Whether it is a breeding herd of elephants, made up of females and youngsters of varying ages, or a couple of large old bulls, elephants always captivate my thoughts and emotions whenever I am in their presence.


As one spends more and more time with a breeding herd of elephants, it becomes increasingly enjoyable and interesting to watch, interpret and predict their behaviour, their relationships and their status within the group. One can pick out personalities that are not too dissimilar to what could be apparent in an extended family of humans. Usually it is not too difficult to work out which large elephant cow is the matriarch of the herd. Her demeanor and her attitude towards any inappropriate behaviour among the youngsters will make it clear that she is in charge. She is usually wise and gentle, but of course no two elephants are exactly alike in character. Most people find the baby elephants particularly entertaining, and they certainly are an absolute joy to watch! While most young animals in good health tend to be playful, this joyous trait amongst baby elephants is taken to a whole new level. If one’s day is not instantly brightened when watching the antics of a herd of elephants, then what could ever brighten it?


I derive huge pleasure from watching a really relaxed old elephant bull at close quarters, whether he is thoughtfully chewing on the outer layers of a piece of wood, having a leisurely drink from a hole he has dug in a sandy river bed, or rubbing his hide against the trunk of a tree after a mud or dust bath. I can really relate to the obvious attitude of the mature elephant bulls that life need not be rushed! The experience, the wisdom and the sheer aura of invincibility that emanate from a large male elephant all contribute to making such an animal worthy of the utmost respect and admiration.


Yes…I really like the idea that any day is better once you have seen elephants. Having said that, however, I would not go so far as saying that the day would not be complete without elephants. This would smack too much of taking elephants for granted, which I shall never do. It is an absolute privilege to be able to spend time with elephants, and it is imperative that we as humans do everything in our power to make sure that the planet that we share with these beautiful, intelligent, gentle creatures remains in a state fit for their use.


Elephant appriciationSafaris


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