Monday, June 6, 2011

Indian Elephant

Several years ago while Judy and I were in Thailand, we visited an elephant camp outside of Chiang Mai that provided one of the most incredible animal experiences I've ever had: the opportunity to be up close to and mingle with Indian elephants. 
As we arrived, many of the elephants were gathered in an area and we could buy bananas and sugar cane to feed to them. 
I quickly became enamored with one young elephant that was more approachable and less intimidating than the real large elephants and fed most of what I bought to it. It was so fun to touch the wrinkly, bristly-haired skin, 
and the trunk was fascinating. 
The trunk is a fusion of the nose and upper lip and has a long piece, like a finger, at the tip. The trunk is used by the elephant for smelling, breathing, making sound, pinching, grasping, watering, feeding, dusting, touching and fighting. I was enthralled as the elephant used the trunk to take food from my hand and to search my body for additional food, particularly the food I was hiding behind my back with another hand. The personalities of the elephants was so evident, and so different among individuals, that it was a pleasure to watch and observe. I could have spent much more time (and much more money on the very expensive bananas and sugar cane) among the elephants, but this mingle time was interrupted by their handlers that took several of them and rode them into the nearby river, 
having them lie on their sides 
and wash them. 
Then after a show, with elephants that did tricks, which I quickly got bored of, we went on a mile long elephant ride, across the river, 
through the jungle, 
then back across the river. 
The ride was very herkey-jerkey and bouncy, Judy got car-sick. But we felt very high in the air and it was amazing to see others, like us, going through the jungle and through the water. I can only imagine what the Romans must have thought when Hannibal came against him with elephants. What shock, fear and amazement they must have caused the poor Roman foot soldiers. The Indian elephant is one of three living subspecies of the Asian elephant, the others being the Sri Lankan and Sumatran elephants. A Chinese and a Syrian subspecies are both now extinct. I was under the impression that there were no more wild Asian elephants, but Wikipedia indicates that there are approximately 50,000 as of 2003. The Indian elephant is not only found in Thailand, but also India, Nepal, Bangladesh, Myanmar, Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, China Bhutan and the Malay Peninsula. 
The females usually do not have tusks. Some have what are called "tushes," only seen when they open their mouths. 
The forehead has two bulges while the African elephant has a flat forehead. They are very large: large bulls can be ten feet high at the shoulder and 12,000 pounds and females can be 8.3 feet high and weigh 9,200 pounds, but they are smaller than African elephants. They also have smaller ears. 

1 comment:

  1. You were like a little boy in a candy store around these elephants. Good memory.