“...I can watch elephants for hours at a time, for sooner or later the elephant will do something very strange such as mow grass with its toenails or draw the tusks from the rotted carcass of another elephant and carry them off into the bush. There is mystery behind that masked gray visage, and ancient life force, delicate and mighty, awesome and enchanted, commanding the silence ordinarily reserved for mountain peaks, great fires, and the sea.”
― Peter Matthiessen, The Tree Where Man Was Born
I read about elephants; watch shows about elephants. I go to the zoo, watch elephant cams online. I am an elephant watcher. Actually, it is more accurate to say I am an elephant dreamer. I want to do more than watch them. I dream of interacting with them, being friends with them, squirting them with the fire hose in the summer while they run around and play. I imagine a place where my friends would look for me every morning to say hello. If my family ever reads about a woman being arrested for sneaking into the elephant enclosure- they will know it is me.
Female elephants live together in a matriarchal society, with the oldest female elephant as Matriarch. They include females and calves. Although they are known to visit from time to time male elephants mostly live in isolation or small bachelor groups. The calves are cared for by all of the female elephants in their herd. Together they make memories and contribute to the world and our environment in many significant ways.
Five or six years ago two babies-six months apart-were born at the Fort Worth Zoo. I loved watching the interaction between the mothers, other female elephants and the two babies. I watched as the children would tease each other, steal the stick from each other’s trunks and when it got heated go run under their mother’s tummy for protection. I watched the mothers patiently teach them how to use their trunks, move logs and encourage them to do new things, like swim in the pool. They would use their trunk to hold them close, give them hugs.
One day Bowie- about age 3- was in time out. His mom moved him over behind a log and every time he tried to get out, she would walk over to him communicating for him to stay there. Once, he got quite a way out from behind the log–until another female noticed him and put him back in time out. I swear Bowie shook his head as if to say, “I almost made it.” I even saw his mother get so frustrated that she trumpeted her trunk, ran up to Bowie–as if she were yelling at him. I thought, even elephant moms have hard “mom days.”
“Elephants love reunions. They recognize one another after years and years of separation and greet each other with wild, boisterous joy. There’s bellowing and trumpeting, ear flapping and rubbing. Trunks entwine.”
― Jennifer Richard Jacobson, Small as an Elephant