Addressing The Elephant in the Room


The question is,

are we happy to suppose that our grandchildren

may never be able to see an elephant

except in a picture book?

~ David Attenborough


Do you remember the first time you saw an elephant?

Perhaps it was in a picture book like Babar, or Horton Hears a Who?

Or in Disney’s movie Dumbo?

I was three when I first encountered an elephant. My father knew a guy who knew a gal and magically we somehow found ourselves behind the curtain as the travelling circus came to town.

From the safety of my father’s arms, I was privy to the chaotic backstage at the big top: gals in glittering costumes , white ponies with elaborate headdresses and bare-chested men in tights.

The humid air,  scented with the mixture of human sweat and animal smells was punctuated by fierce whispering as the entertainers took their places for the opening parade.

In my mind’s eye I can still see them snaking their way into tent to calliope music as laughter and cheers came from the crowd.

When the painted faces of the clowns passed, I buried my face in my dad’s shoulder, afraid of their ghoulish expressions.

A snuffling sound caused me to look up again, in time to see a massive grey beast standing not five feet away from us, with a hose attached to its face! As it’s head turned toward me, I found myself looking into a face more wrinkled than my grandmother with soft, sad brown eyes, fringed by the longest of lashes.

I’ve been enamored ever since.

Over the years, whenever I am near to a zoo or wildlife park, I am drawn to spend most of my viewing time at their habitat. Watching them spray their backs with dirt as sunscreen. Seeing their babies corralled between moms’ legs. Stroking one another with the tips of their trunks.

I am inexplicably drawn to watch these incredibly intelligent creatures: their movements, their play, their interaction with one another. I feel an affinity for them at a soul level.


 Nature’s great masterpiece, an elephant;

the only harmless great thing.

 ~John Donne

Perhaps because their plight feels so tenuous, my consciousness is being bombarded by elephants.

You probably already know that elephant populations are on the decline: some 38,000 elephants are killed each year in Africa alone.

Poaching runs rampant, with prices for ivory fetching as much as $1,000 per pound in China where a new elite has increased the popularity for ornamental jewelry.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service just announced that it will continue to allow hunters to bring elephant body parts, including tusks. Trophy hunters continue to celebrate this bizarre form of human recreation. 

On vacation I happened upon Leaving Time by Jody Picoult,  a mother/daughter story set against the backdrop of an elephant sanctuary. Picoult, my favorite fiction writer, effortlessly interweaves fascinating information about the emotions and grieving process of pachyderms.

This spurred me to spend some time on google.

Here are some nonprofits that are doing great work in the effort to protect these majestic creatures from extinction:  Based at the Elephant Sanctuary in Hohenwald, Tennessee. Spend hours watching live elecams, adopt an elephant or make a donation to help feed these beauties. Exists to create safe spaces for captive elephants worldwide, where they are able to heal physically as well as emotionally. Through research, conservation and advocacy, their goals are to advance the study of elephant cognition, communication and social behavior, and to promote the scientifically sound and ethical management and care of elephants. Their vision is an Africa where people and wildlife co-exist and thrive. By empowering  local communities to connect with global partners they search TOGETHER for solutions to protect African wildlife.  works to secure a future for elephants and to sustain the places they live by fostering the relationship between man and elephant.

Elephants are rapidly disappearing from the wild.

Without urgent, international action they could be gone within this generation.

Just this past week we lost the last male white rhino to extinction.

Will you help protect land’s largest mammal from a similar fate?


With hope and healing for us all,