By Amy Kathleen Miller
My painting called “On Alert” was a joy to work on, because it made me think about how the African elephants have love and compassion for their calves. A mother elephant will carry her calf for two years before giving birth. That is a long time to be pregnant. The elephants in this painting look like a mother elephant on the lookout for her calf or even for her herd. Elephants look out for each other.
I want to share two stories about how compassionate elephants can be to each other in their herd. One of the elephants is a sweet and devoted member of the herd.
Cynthia Moss, an expert on these animals, has told a great story of a mother’s devotion that I’ll pass along here.
Echo, the “beautiful matriarch” of her elephant family, gave birth to a male calf, Ely, who could not stand up because his front legs were bent. He was born with rigid carpal joints. Echo continually tried to lift him up by reaching her trunk under him and lifting him up. She would not give up. Ely stood and was able to shuffle around before collapsing to the ground. Eventually, the other elephants gave up and left.
Even though Echo and her other daughter Enid were very hungry and thirsty, they wouldn’t leave an exhausted Ely to go to the watering hole. After a great deal of effort, all three elephants were able to reach the watering hole, where Echo and Enid splashed themselves as well as Ely. Echo and Enid then made low rumbling calls to the rest of their family. After three days, Ely’s joints loosened and he was finally able to stand.
But there is more to this story. When Ely was seven years old, he suffered a serious wound from a spear that had become embedded about one foot into his back. Echo had another calf at this time, but she remained bonded with Ely and would not allow veterinarians to come near him. When Ely fell down after being tranquilized, Echo and the other clan members tried to lift him. Echo, Enid, and another of Echo’s daughters, Eliot, remained near Ely despite attempts by the veterinarians to disperse the elephants so they could help Ely.
The elephants refused to leave despite the gunshots being fired over their heads. Finally, Ely was treated and survived the injury. Echo’s lifelong devotion to Ely was rewarded and Ely made it into adulthood.
Elephants have strong feelings for each other. They experience joy, grief, and depression, and they do mourn the loss of their friends and family.
Shirley and Jenny, two female elephants who were unintentionally reunited after living apart for 22 years, showed that they truly had missed each other when they were separated. At different times, each was brought to the Elephant Sanctuary in Hohenwald, Tennessee, founded and run by Carol Buckley, where elephants live out their lives in peace like an elephant should.
Upon these two elephants’ initial meeting, when Shirley was introduced to Jenny, there was an urgency in Jenny’s behavior. Jenny really wanted to get near Shirley and get into her stall. They roared loudly, emanating from deep in each elephant’s heart as if they were old friends. A search of their records did prove that they did have a relationship where they were in a circus together. Shirley was a 20-year-old elephant and Jenny was just a calf. Even after so much time apart, they remembered each other.
These two stories just prove that elephants have emotions similar to ours.
Editor’s Note: “Amy’s Angle” is a weekly Wednesday feature in this blog.
Copyright 2012, Daddysangbassdude Media
- Wild Elephants Hold Eery Vigil (green-trust.org)
- Wild Elephants Gather to Mourn Death of “Elephant Whisperer” (sott.net)
- Oakland Zoo Hosts Cynthia Moss for Celebrating Elephants Reception, Lecture & Silent Auction (prweb.com)
- The Elephant Whisperer – by Rob Kirby (jhaines6.wordpress.com)