04 July, 2007

The Elephant: The Emperor Of The Wild

"The elephant is a friend to man More than the dog, it's constant. And now indeed our turn has come to be the Friend of the elephant." From the song, Friends of the Elephant, composed by Paul Hippeau, for the Society of the Friends of the Elephant at their 1906 banquet.

"The elephant's a gentleman." Rudyard Kipling in Oonts

"The elephant, not only the largest but the most intelligent of animals, provides us with an excellent example. It is faithful and tenderly loving to the female of its choice, mating only every third year and then for no more than five days, and so secretly as never to be seen, until, on the sixth day, it appears and goes at once to wash its whole body in the river, unwilling to return to the herd until thus purified. Such good and modest habits are an example to husband and wife." St. Francis De Sales, 1567–1622, French churchman, devotional writer. Introduction to the Devout Life, pt. 3, ch. 39, 1609

"There is nothing quite like an elephant. Nothing with which it can be compared, though the proverbial Six Blind Men of Indostan did their best, likening each part encountered separately to a snake, a spear, a fan, a wall, a tree and a rope. Taken altogether, these ingredients add up to a most singular animal whose trunk alone is enough to justify removing the elephant from the rest of the animal kingdom and setting it aside, along with ourselves perhaps, in categories of our own.

And yet, when you see an elephant embedded in its own earth, comfortable in its own skin, carrying its great weight effortlessly along on cushioned feet, the only possible response is: ˜Of course. How could it be otherwise?

Elephants exist, even if represented now by only two or three of their 353 known species. They would seem to be on their way out, but it is still possible to argue that they represent the most highly evolved form of life on the planet. Compared to them, we are primitive, hanging on to a stubborn, unspecialised, five-fingered state, clever but destructive. They are models of refinement, nature's archangels, the oldest and largest land mammals, touchstones to our imagination.

Elephants are symbols of might and memory, harmony and patience, power and compassion. We are equivocal about them, as we are about anything which evokes strong feelings in us. We love and fear them, kill and revere them, see them as beasts of the moon with crescent tusks or as buffoons in baggy pants.

In captivity, their enormousness is muted, cloaked in indignity and shame, a source of acute dismay. But in the wild, they invoke awe, exercising uncanny skills, taking obvious delight in one another as they shuffle through our lives, keeping grave appointments at the other end of the world." There is much about them that remains mysterious. Lyall Watson, Elephantoms, 2003, p 25-26

More On Elephants: AWF, Elehost, National Geographic, Out To Africa, WWF, Facts, Save Elephants

Image: AWF

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