Djuma & Arathusa Game Reserves, Sabi Sands, South Africa – 1100PM.
I am not sure what it is about being in the presence of elephants, but there is something very special about the largest land mammal on the planet allowing you to be there with them, up close and personal.
Today, I had a pretty special encounter with two adult bulls who were spectacular in size, condition, and temperament.
I arrived at the dam as they were walking to water–always a great time to sit and observe these incredible creatures. They drank and bathed, and we sat in ore of them. They completed their daily routine and departed. I followed them and parked up about 30 feet/10m from them as we had gauged from their behavior they we comfortable with us being there.
Why is it we connect with creatures like this? Is it just anthropomorphism? Well, I think we all have a habit of giving human-like qualities to things around us that are non-human, and I think that has been instilled upon us over many moons through stories and ancient times.
For me, and most of you I am sure–we understand that elephants are complex, dedicated, social, and intelligent. We connect with many of the attributes they have because us humans share similar traits: we have a relatively long gestation period for a mammal, we nurture our young and support our offspring throughout their lives, and we stick in our family groups tighter than many other mammals on the planet. But, there is so much more that we cannot put into words. When you are in the presence of elephants, you become a trusting human–a humble human–a quiet and calm human. You are putting yourself into a world that is not yours, and that is unique in so many ways. A mammal that has immense power and strength, yet will allow us to be so close–SO close that he removed vegetation from right underneath my vehicle today!
One of the bulls moved towards me, feeding as he went, completely comfortable and at ease when the 30-foot distance suddenly became just three feet. He dictated the moves and proximity of us to him and felt secure, not finding us a threat at all, and allowed us to have this very special close encounter! (If anything, he was probably just wishing I would move the vehicle so he get the tender young shoots we were parking over!)
I suppose I am as guilty as anyone of giving human-like qualities to many creatures that I meet, and as I get older I don’t really have all the answers I may have thought I would with age–I am a mere human.
I think Charles Darwin said something in a book once along the lines of “our differences are in degree, not in kind”
Long live the Elephants..
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