Taking a Lesson from the Lives of Elephants
I think that people are subtly trying to let me know that they’ve had enough of my elephant talk. A few weeks ago my cousin, not so subtly, told me that he was getting tired of seeing so much elephant stuff coming from my Facebook. Just a few days ago I was trying to get my brother to watch the saddest but very educational video about elephant training in circuses, to which he refused and asked why. Well, to raise his awareness, of course. “Look who I live with. I think I have enough elephant awareness,” was his reply. Nevertheless, I don’t think there’s such a thing as too much elephant, any which way you mean it.
Nestled in the Mae Taeng Valley lives a community working towards the freedom of all working elephants in Thailand. Elephant Nature Park is home to elephants that have been rescued from logging, trekking, street begging, etc. After spending time there as a volunteer two summers ago and visiting again last summer, I learned a lot of things and developed a new passion in life. I fell in love with these gentle giants and experienced a week of my life that I would like to repeat over and over again. During my time there I realized that humans really can learn a few things from elephants.
Be Healthy – Elephants are naturally healthy animals. They drink about 210 litres of water each day! I’m pretty sure we can get in our 8 glasses if they can get in 210 litres. Volunteering at ENP also involved preparing baskets of fruit and veggies for each of the elephants on a daily basis, multiple times a day! As herbivores, elephants eat a huge amount of fruit and vegetables each day. Having a good diet of proper nutrition and lots of water can help to increase your energy, help you stay focused, hydrate your skin, and keep your face from looking dull and dry.
Sun Safety! – I spent a week of my life eating breakfast beside elephants and splashing about in the river as they bathed. They would gracefully walk out of the river, their elephant bodies gleaming and clean from the water. That nice, clean look would last only a moment. It wasn’t long before they would walk over to the big mud pit and roll about, spraying mud up and being sure to really get their backs covered. Elephants use mud and dirt as a protection against the harsh heat of the sun, protecting their skin and keeping them cool. The sun can cause a lot of damage to our skin, increasing wrinkles, sun spots, damaging the elasticity as we age, and can lead to cancer. So don’t forget your SPF and sunhat! I could probably take a few tips here, actually.
Stay in Touch with your Family – Elephants have a strong connection to their family, particularly female elephants. Female elephants live with the herd that they are born into for their entire lives, a family made up entirely of females that are all related. Males stay until they are about twelve years old. Baby elephants and their mothers are in constant touch. Elephants understand that family is important. Family is pretty important to most people. However you define your family, don’t forget about them. It can be easy to push them aside because you think they will tolerate you and be there forever. Whether you live at home, far away, or travel constantly, give your folks a call or spend some actual time with them. They probably miss you.
Compassion – Elephants are compassionate creatures. They sincerely care about the ones they love and have been known to go to great lengths to console a loved one. They also show this compassion to those not in their herd. Recently, two captive elephants near ENP escaped and ran over to the family herd living at the park. This herd of elephants immediately began to console the new, distressed elephants and circled around them when their mahouts arrived to take them back. Elephants have also shown compassion to other animals and humans. There have been stories of elephants finding dead humans and covering them up with twigs, leaves, etc. just as they do their own. With the amount of bullying going on in today’s society, it is important to remember to be kind to people. Compassion can go a long way and turn someone’s bad day into a good one. Also, when you do something nice for someone, it kind of makes you feel good
Forgiveness – The majority of the elephants at ENP, apart from those who were lucky enough to be raised at the park, have lived a life of cruelty and the utmost torture at the hands of humans. They have been forced to mate, leaving legs broken. They have been blinded. They have been hit by trucks when begging on busy streets. They have been poked and prodded until blood appeared. They have been ripped apart from their babies and forced to trek through the jungle with tourists on their backs for hours a day. The amount of cruelty that they have endured is limitless.
Some of these elephants have even killed their past mahouts, but who could blame them? Elephants have roughly the same life span as the average human. And, like humans, they never forget the hurt they have experienced. However, it is clear that they forgive and do not hold it against the entire human population. Despite ENP welcoming hundreds of tourists a day to feed, watch, bathe and get up close and personal with these elephants, they don’t seem to mind. When they’ve had enough, they simply walk away thanks to the lack of chains. A lot of people find it difficult to forgive. Forgiveness doesn’t mean forgetting or thinking that another person’s actions were okay. It means moving on, making an effort to keep a relationship that has meant so much to you.