Today is National Elephant Appreciation Day. The day was started in 1996 mainly because Wayne Hepburn—owner of Mission Media—was really, really, really fascinated by elephants. Makes sense to me! I have always loved elephants. One great day years ago, I was even able to take a walk with Nellie—a movie and television performer—out in the hills near Lancaster.
I’ve written about elephants several times in the past. They truly are magnificent. Large, of course, but also intelligent, curious, and creative. They live in a matriarchal society and are very communicative, demonstrating actions that show caring, supportive, nurturing behavior towards one another.
These two relatively short videos (about 20 and almost 10 minutes) share some fascinating details about elephants, showing them in action in the wild.
As a society, we would do well to take much better care of them than we do. I am in total agreement with Peter Matthiessen: “Of all the African animals, the elephant is the most difficult for man to live with, yet its passing—if this must come—seems the most tragic of all. I can watch elephants (and elephants alone) for hours at a time, for sooner or later the elephant will do something very strange 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, an ancient life force, delicate and mighty, awesome and enchanted, commanding the silence ordinarily reserved for mountain peaks, great fires, and the sea.”
Today, of course, is a day to celebrate their greatness. You could always visit the zoo nearest you, or you could spend a little time watching the elephants at San Diego Zoo Safari Park via an Elephant Cam.
You can also read about them—as there are lots of books out there about elephants in all their glory. I always suggest reading some books about elephants to kids. Two great options are Rudyard Kipling’s The Elephants Child or Graeme Base’s Little Elephants.
A good recommendation for adults is Vicki Constantine Croke’s Elephant Company. It tells the story of how elephants helped save lives during World War II. As Sara Gruen, in the New York Times Book Review, explains: “I have to confess—my love of elephants made me apprehensive to review a book about their role in World War II. But as soon as I began to read Elephant Company, I realized that not only was my heart safe, but that this book is about far more than just the war, or even elephants. This is a story of friendship, loyalty and breathtaking bravery that transcends species.”
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A FEW QUOTES ABOUT ELEPHANTS
“Mkhava’s herd is a good-sized group—sixteen in all, counting the calves—and even though they are the largest land mammals on earth, they are not always easy to find. Elephants, it turns out, are surprisingly stealthy.” Thomas French, Zoo Story: Life in the Garden of Captives
“Elephants are quite enough.” Agatha Christie, Elephants Can Remember
“For the herds of wild elephants show no resentment when domesticated animals join them. They have none of the herd instinct directed against the stranger that one finds in cattle, in small boys and among many grown-up men. This tolerance is just one of the things about elephants which makes one realise they are big in more ways than one.” Lt. Col J. H. Williams, Elephant Bill
“Nature’s great masterpiece, an elephant; the only harmless great thing.” John Donne
“The question is, are we happy to suppose that our grandchildren may never be able to see an elephant except on a picture book?” David Attenborough
“Words are cheap. The biggest thing you can say is ‘elephant.’” Charlie Chaplin
“People are so difficult. Give me an elephant any day.” Mark Shand
“When you have got an elephant by the hind legs and he is trying to run away, it’s best to let him run.” Abraham Lincoln
“No one in the world needs an elephant tusk but an elephant.” Thomas Schmidt
“If anyone wants to know what elephants are like, they are like people only more so.” Peter Corneille
“We admire elephants in part because they demonstrate what we consider the finest human traits: empathy, self-awareness, and social intelligence. But the way we treat them puts on display the very worst of human behavior.” Graydon Carter
NOTE: I know zoos are not the ideal place for animals since they still hold animals in captivity even if the animals are (hopefully) treated humanely. But zoos exist and allow us to see these great animals in action and to help keep the world animal populations growing.