Do you have a favorite animal – domestic or wild? If yes, what animal connects with you?
For me it’s elephants.
It started when I was kid. I had a book called “The Elephant’s Dilemma”, published in 1945. The little elephant in the book would watch as the other elephants played in the river, splashing themselves with the cool water. But he was afraid to get wet.
One day an explorer showed up and made an offer to the little elephant to put him in the circus and make him a stupendous success. He would have a luxurious life, be taught many tricks, and be pampered. It was very tempting to the little elephant.
But the little elephant decided he didn’t want that. He wanted to stay with the other elephants and just be happy playing at the river, where he eventually did learn to enjoy the water and splashed and played with all the other elephants.
As a kid reading that book I was so happy that the little elephant decided his dilemma the way he did. To have a fun life. Elephants have a very established family social network. When new babies are born female elephants all pitch in to take care of the infants.
They communicate with each other through low-frequency sounds. And they demonstrate the finest of human traits; empathy, self-awareness, and social intelligence. They also can feel depression and broken hearts.
Elephants like to do tasks. They enjoy being given chores and actually show pleasure when they’ve been praised because they accomplished something they were asked to do.
One of the reasons they sway when they move is because of their weight. Adult elephants can weigh up to 17,000 pounds for males; females are smaller at around 9.000 lbs. Swaying helps them shift that weight and keeps them more comfortable when they walk.
An elephant has more muscles in its trunk (about 100,000) than a human has in his entire body (about 639).
In 2021 my husband and I made a trip to Williston, Florida to spend a day at the Two Tails Elephant Ranch.
Two Tails is an amazing privately owned elephant facility that has been rescuing and nurturing elephants since 1984. It’s run by the Zerbini family, who are now in the 9th generation of working with elephants. During those years more than 250 elephants have called Two Tails home.
The climate there is nearly a perfect match for elephant habitats in Africa and Asia – the two geographical areas where elephants are native. Two Tails boards both kinds of elephants, Asian and African. Some of their elephants stay temporarily while their zoo habitats are being upgraded. Others have permanent homes where they’ve been retired for medical needs, emergencies, behavioral issues, or transplanted by hurricanes. Currently eight elephants are permanent residents.
In 2008 they started an educational program called All About Elephants, Inc. where they bring in other professionals in the elephant field to share knowledge about nurturing and preserving the species.
When you spend a day visiting the elephants at Two Tails you get a closeup education about what life for an elephant is like. Two Tails’ has a total of 67 acres of land, 3 main barns, 2 barns for male elephants, and a working clinic.
Taking care of elephants is a monumental task. Elephants are vegetarians but they eat a lot! One elephant can eat 220-400 lbs of grass, fruits, leaves, and roots each day, plus 250 lbs of hay, 20 lbs of mixed grains,10 lbs of elephant pellets, and 25 lbs of fresh produce and cut bamboo.
Then of course all of that intake eventually becomes massive output to cleanup.
While at Two Tails you can get your picture taken with an elephant. But even more fun is that you can ride an elephant! It’s something I did and I loved it! There are platforms that you walk up taking you to the elephant’s height. The elephant patiently waits for you to get seated, then one of the staff guides the elephant around the ride area.
It is definitely one of the “tasks” the elephant enjoys.
To keep life more natural for elephants, the Zambinis also have zebras, camels, tortoises, ostriches, and emus on the premises so they can mix with wildlife from their native lands. Should you ever find yourself in central Florida, a visit to Two Tales Elephant Ranch is a fabulous experience. Especially for kids! Reservations are required in advance. You can’t just show up and expect to get it.
In the interim, you can show love to the elephants by donating or becoming a Two Tails member, and preserving a quality life for these gentle giants. The website is www.allaboutelephants.com. Or you can adopt one of the eight elephants that is a permanent resident. Two Tails Ranch is licensed by the USDA and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Department.
“If elephants didn’t exist you couldn’t invent one. They belong to a small group of living things so unlikely they challenge credulity and common sense.“Lydall Watson
If you enjoyed this blog and know someone else who would enjoy it, please share it.