Awareness- Animals as Teachers: ‘Soul of the Elephant.’

"You know ... they say an elephant never forgets.
What they don't tell you is, you never forget an elephant." -Bill Murray

Recently I have been watching the television show, Nature, which airs weekly on PBS. The program essentially is one that highlights different animal species, their natural lives and the major issues surrounding them. My son and I often watch riveted not only by seeing these beautiful creatures up close but also how much knowledge has been acquired by conservationists, scientists and animal experts. Much of the knowledge obtained has taken years to uncover, but overall there seems to be one resounding commonality we share in our journey on this planet: we have more in common than not.

For a very long time, scientists were very leery about allowing human emotions and concepts about animals cloud their scientific inquiries and they are rightfully fearful in doing so. Humans often project incorrect human characteristics onto animals and have been doing so for as long as humans and animals have existed together. Being more objective about animals and their lives is vital in truly understanding them and in turn helping animals during this very difficult time here on earth. Because now, more than ever, animals need our help.  Unfortunately, we humans have not been fairing well when it comes to being co-inhabitants with the animal kingdom. Which brings me to this: animals are great teachers if we would just stop, listen and truly follow our hearts.

The most recent episode of Nature, titled ‘The Soul of the Elephant’, showed two award winning filmmakers/conservationists delve into the heart of elephants and the deeper aspects of their lives in Botswana, one of the few remaining places in Africa where wild elephants run free.  In particular, the behavior of elephants when discovering the skeletal remains of elephants who have passed on. The herd will stop and gently run their trunks over the skeletal remains as if in tribute to those elephants, as well as pay homage to those ancestors no longer with them whether they belonged to their own herd or not. It is a fascinating aspect of elephant behavior and we can only speculate why elephants do this.

Another part of the episode reminded me of Debbie’s last blog entry regarding the Divine Feminine. The reason for this is because elephants are a matriarchal society; that is, one that is led by a head female, who presides over her herd of females while the older males break off and live separate lives. Each herd is made up of mothers, daughters, sisters and aunts. They are guided by the oldest and largest female of the herd. This herd sticks closely together, rejoicing at the birth of a calf and mourning at the death of a member. Many of these elephants will maintain close bonds among themselves as well as interact well with other herds, families, and clans. Seemingly having social lives that closely resemble our own. Elephants are spectacular beings full of life, love and many other aspects we can only imagine.

With this knowledge we have acquired about them, what does it mean for us as a whole? For me, it points to a greater awareness the elephants have about their environment, themselves individually and as a herd.  We can only ponder the level of ancient wisdom these majestic creatures embody since they have roamed the earth for ages. I, for one, enjoy the mystery and amazement these animals bring to our earthly family.

However, with all of this knowledge about elephants, it has come down to the difficult understanding of what really is plaguing these majestic creatures. Unfortunately for the elephants of Africa, they are being hunted for their ivory tusks, thus putting the whole elephant population at risk of becoming extinct. It is a major problem for us all who love and want to see these beautiful creatures live the lives they rightfully deserve. To continue to roam the earth in teeming numbers so the elephants can live out their lives while our own offspring can continue to observe and learn more about these important animals. It is sad to think about but I will leave you with this...

Photograph by Mark Thiessen

Dereck Joubert, one of the filmmaker/conservationist from the episode put it best, “Since you started watching this film, 5 elephants were killed simply for their tusks. It’s not the ivory that will enrich us, we’ll find far greater enchantment in the journey of life they will lead us on. Whether they survive long enough for us to really get to know them, depends entirely on what we can learn about the very soul of the elephant.”

-Article by Michelle Kilic


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