Wednesday, 3 March 2010

The Elephant

The lovely Maternal Tales has posted an amazing video showing an elephant giving birth and the dramatic moments that follow.

It reminded me that I have an affinity with elephants. I love them for their huge, quiet, majesty and the way they communicate with each other and travel together in extended matriarchal families. I rode on an elephant in Goa, back when I was a student and I have photos of that fabulous experience to keep the memory alive. But the most precious incident was over seventeen years ago and one I’ll never forget.

Soon after Sasha was born, Ewan was asked by his best friend Tom, to be best man at his wedding…… Indonesia !!! We all went even though our baby was only four months old.

To be honest, it was a stressful trip for me. I don’t remember much about it except that I was anxious about everything. Sasha clearly loved it and didn’t seem at all affected by the heat and the attention and she wasn’t ill once, even though I seemed to be in the constant grip of sickness or diarrhoea, or both. The wedding took place over three days and was an amazing experience but it was difficult for me to appreciate it all. I should have relaxed more but I was an anxious young mother back then.

The day after the final wedding celebrations, the bride’s family arranged for the British visitors to go to a wildlife park. It was a great day. I was finally feeling well and was much more calm in the knowledge that we were going back home in a day or so and I had got to know everyone and was feeling happy in their company. We travelled to the park in a fleet of open 4x4s and Sasha spent the journey giggling away at the bumpy road and the breeze on her face. I knew we were going to see elephants at the park and I was most content.

When we got there we wandered around this most beautiful of places. The family had hired a couple of guides and we spent a few hours walking and driving through the stunning park, watching various animals roaming free and looking at the fabulous plants and trees. At one stage we went into a wooded area for a walk and I was truly at the happiest I had been through the whole trip as I carried my gorgeous baby through this breathtaking forest. Suddenly we could hear horns and drums in the distance and our guides started to get agitated and there was much nervous chatter on walkie-talkies and eventually we found out that one of the elephants had lost her calf and was on the rampage. They said we needed to go back until they were both found as the mother could now be a real danger. I didn’t really comprehend what was going on but just followed the group in a bit of a daze as we were ushered in panic back out of the woods.

We were in a small clearing when suddenly there was a rustle in the bushes and out ran the baby elephant into our group. The guides went a little crazy then, jumping around all over the place and shouting into their radios and I could see this poor little creature was frightened by all the hullabaloo and so I held out my hand to him and he came over to me. The guides were shouting “no, no madam! Please leave him!” But I was completely enchanted. He was only waist height and he pushed against my legs and unfurled his trunk to reach out to Sasha who was in my arms and squealing with delight. I was kind of aware of the panic around us but I was lost in a world of wonder with this oh so sweet baby elephant who I couldn’t stop patting even though the guides were practically apoplectic by now.

And then, without warning this huge elephant just appeared through the trees and was suddenly among us, looking at each of us and then resting her stare on me …..with my hand on her precious baby. Everyone was quiet and still then – in fact, the guards were slowly moving back and trying to get the others to follow them. But it was if, just for a moment everything was frozen. I wasn’t at all scared although I found out later that everyone else was terrified.

But there was no need. The baby elephant ran to his mother who gathered him to her using her trunk to check him over with such tenderness that I wanted to cry. And then, in the most magic moment that I’ll never, ever forget, she looked right at me holding Sasha and then turned her baby around with her trunk and pushed him back to me as if to say “it’s all right son, she’s a mother too – she won’t do you any harm”. And in that moment, I smiled at her and I’m sure her eyes were smiling too. I’m welling up now just thinking about it. It was all over far too quickly as the guides shooed us away but she stood there with her baby and watched us as we were led off. I kept looking back and she kept watching until we were out of sight.

It’s something I’ll never forget and I’ll often ask Ewan if it was as I remember and he assures me that it was.

Gosh, I have shivers down my spine just remembering that – it was truly magical.


  1. Truly magical. I'm envious. Proof, if any were needed, that animals feel as much as we do both physically and emotionally.

  2. What a magnificent adventure. I envy you in having had that experience, diarrhoea notwithstanding. I am fascinated by elephants as well. I love the huge Afican one at the London Zoological Gardens that will let people ride it, entirely out of keeping for the species.

  3. Oh I got shivers reading that too, how wonderful for you!!

  4. What a beautiful experience. Have you read the book Modoc? It's a true story and absolutely unbelievable. about elephants - obviously. Anyway...

    An elephant at the Melbourne zoo just gave birth and it's baby is on the news possibly every night. adorable!

  5. Truly memorable... what a moment!

  6. Elephants are such mysterious creatures - what an extraordinary moment.

  7. Well, you TOTALLY gave me goosebumps just reading it! What an amazing, incredible story!

    I'm so glad you've share it with will stay with me for a long, long time. You did an awesome job of describing the whole experience!

  8. What a wonderful story. Very moving.

  9. I'm so envious of you to be able to see any animal in its natural habitat. Nicely told.

  10. Wow! I loved this story!! One doesn't get very many chances to live such moments!