When I was eight years old my parents took our family to The San Diego Zoo.
I was fascinated by the elephants; in particular a young calf who wasn’t much larger than me.
My parents bought me a bag of peanuts to feed him. I tentatively walked up to the fence, reached out my hand with the nut when, to my surprise, the elephant didn’t take it. Instead, he bopped me on my head with a trunkful of water and doused me.
I stood stunned, soaked in my little culottes with a peanut still grasped in my hand.
As I looked up into the elephants face he raised his trunk and squealed in delight.
His eyes shone with mischief.
Rather than upsetting me, I laughed. Then, the elephant joined me and we both “laughed” at the great joke he’d played on me.
I think that baby elephant had Buddha nature.
He gave me my first spiritual wake-up call to something greater than my own little eight year old agenda.
From then on I was head over heels in love with elephants.
I read everything I could about them and learned, for example, that the veins in their ears are as distinct as a human fingerprint and that they grieve the loss of a family member much in the same way we humans do. They cradle and arrange the bones of their loved ones similarly to how we humans bury our dead.
As I’ve grown, so has my knowledge of elephant behavior.
I collect elephant figurines; including the Hindu elephant God Ganesha.
Ganesha is the deity representing beginnings, wisdom, knowledge and the arts.
He is considered the remover of obstacles.
When I’d chosen a tattoo to remind me of my strength after a skiing accident, I chose the symbol of the elephant. When I married, my husband and I spent time camping among wild elephants in Africa and in Northern Thailand.
My world has been a parade of elephants symbolically and in my life.
What I couldn’t know as a child, was that ultimately this beloved creature would be brutalized by circuses, held captive, tortured and sickened by being made to live in small pens and unable to walk the distances they need to thrive.
They would be poached for their tusks at such a rate that, unless we humans stop this slaughter, in a few years there will be no more elephants left In the wild.
I remember on my first trip to Africa seeing over a hundred female elephants and their calves come down from the Zambian hills one morning to drink from the Chobe River. The sight of that is etched in my memory and the thought that they all could be gone because of human greed, motivates me into action.
So, now I’m on a mission to raise awareness and to help in any way I can to come to the aid of this gentle beautiful creature.
Think about it—elephants began roaming the earth 15 million years ago and today 36,000 elephants are killed each year for their tusks. We lose one elephant every 15 min and at this rate by 2025 there will be none left in their natural habitat.
Not only does my eight year old self weep for the plight of the elephant but my grown-up self knows I have a responsibility to heed that early wake-up call and do something about it.
Because if I don’t, then that trunk dousing and every lesson I’ve learned since is meaningless unless I actually take action and help. So now, I not only talk to the elephants, I talk about them and I take a stand for them. I hope you will too.
Love elephant and want to go steady?
Editor: Ashleigh Hitchcock