What is an Elephant?

An Interdisciplinary Study



Photo Source: http://www.seorf.ohiou.edu/~af318/structur.html





GIS 3991: Interdisciplinary Studies Core Seminar

Interdisciplinary Studies Program, Wayne State University

Written by the entire class

Edited by Geraldine Moore

Winter Semester 2001


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Our Cast of Disciplinary Experts were: (click on underlined link to read each section):  BACK ROW FROM LEFT: Pat Dove (Art), Gerald Williams (Anatomy), Geri Moore (Editor, Hunting and Conservation), Andrea Harp (Hinduism), Betty Willis (Natural History); FRONT ROW FROM LEFT: Katoya Bean, Alicia Bernabei (Intelligence), Suzy Bjorklund (Myths), Sara Wagoner (Literature), Tradina Carter (Communication), Linda Lawera (Uses to humanity)




Table of Contents


Natural History of the Elephant

The Anatomy of the Elephant

The Intelligent Elephant

The Elephant as a Religious Symbol in Hinduism

The Versatile Elephant

Communication Among Elephants

Elephants in Literature

Elephants: Myths, Anecdotes, and Personal Reflections

Art by and about Elephants

Elephant Trivia

Elephant Poetry

Elephant Jokes

Elephants: To Kill or Not To Kill, That Is the Question?

Where Did All the Elephants Go?

Works Cited

Appendix A: Stockade used to trap Asian elephants

Appendix B: Elephant noosed for training


Instructor's Note:   I was tempted, somewhere along the way, to revise this paper and make it look a bit more "professional."  It would have thereby gained some coherence and accuracy, but would no longer express the authentic voices of the participants and student-editor.   So despite some misgivings, it's posted here almost as it was handed over to me by the project's editor.  The final paper says some very interesting things about elephants, of course, but it's posted here mainly as an example of what an interdisciplinary class projects can accomplish.  I think students enjoyed the collaboration that this involved, the topic, and the outcome:  a holistic answer to the question "what is an elephant."


The Blind Men and the Elephant

A Hindoo Fable


John Godfrey Saxe

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It was six men of Indostan
To learning much inclined,
Who went to see the Elephant
(Though all of them were blind),
That each by observation
Might satisfy his mind.

The First approached the Elephant,
And happening to fall
Against his broad and sturdy side,
At once began to bawl:
"God bless me! but the Elephant
Is very like a wall!"

The Second, feeling of the tusk,
Cried, "Ho! what have we here
So very round and smooth and sharp?
To me 'tis mighty clear
This wonder of an Elephant

Is very like a spear!"


The Third approached the animal,
  And happening to take
The squirming trunk within his hands,
Thus boldly up and spake:
"I see," quoth he, "the Elephant
Is very like a snake!"

The Fourth reached out an eager hand,
And felt about the knee.
"What most this wondrous beast is like
Is mighty plain," quoth he;
"Tis clear enough the Elephant
Is very like a tree!"

The Fifth, who chanced to touch the ear,
Said: "E'en the blindest man
Can tell what this resembles most;
Deny the fact who can,
This marvel of an Elephant
Is very like a fan!"

The Sixth no sooner had begun
About the beast to grope,
Than, seizing on the swinging tail
That fell within his scope,
"I see," quoth he, "the Elephant
Is very like a rope!"

And so these men of Indostan
Disputed loud and long,
Each in his own opinion
Exceeding stiff and strong,
Though each was partly in the right,
And all were in the wrong!


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This semester, our class was posed with the question ‘What is an elephant’? The comparatively small class was divided into a team of specialists: anatomist, evolutionary biologist, historian, and so on. We never imagined or dreamed that this large mammal could be so complex. We researched various aspects of the elephant and came up with this compilation describing various physical, mental and behavioral aspects of the the elephant. Peruse through our compilation and discover the world of the elephant!

Natural History of the Elephant

Is it a horse? Is it a cow? No, it is simply our largest land mammal known as the elephant. From the beginning of Greek history philosophers have hypothesized about the history of the elephant. This section will provide details about the location of fossils in geological time, explain the evolution of the elephant, give an explanation of the origin of the authentic elephant and offer an ecological explanation for its extinction.

In the past, the elephant has established itself in every environment--from the highest mountaintop to the bottom of the ocean. The elephant is believed to have originated from Moeritherium,a small, now-extinct, mammal.

The Moeritherium probably gave rise to the elephants and to their nearest relations, the Dinotheres and Mastodons. A second branch of this family is the hyraxes and the third branch is comprised of the sea cows. This is confirmed by fossil Proboscideans of the hyraxes and sea cows from the Eocene era that show close similarities with the ancestors of the modern day elephant. Proboscidean is a word coined by Carl Illiger and means an order of mammals with a trunk. The ancient order of proboscidean contained some 164-352 different species and subspecies (Shoshani 480), classified in 44 genera and eight families.

The remains of the early Proboscidans of the Eocene and Oligocene eras were located in Africa, which suggests that they originated on the continent of Africa. The growth of these Proboscideans caused competition that led some of their members to seek alternative new environments. The primary migration was to Asia, which became a center of radiation for many different lines of ancestral elephants. It was from Asia and Africa that the Proboscideans began to wander globally. The competition within a limited environment caused migration into farther places on Earth. The process of migration was easier because during that time there were land links between all the continents except Australia and Antarctica (Carrington 103-111).

The remains of the nearest relations to the African elephant were found in the Mediterranean Islands. They stood only 6 feet 3 inches at the shoulders and were comparable in size to a small African forest elephant. One distinguishing feature of these animals was the enlargement of the bones of the skull into a crest-like structure encircling the front of the head. None of these remains represent the direct ancestors of the African elephant of today, but they were near the main stem of the true elephant.

Figure 1


The Anatomy of the Elephant

Elephants are the largest of the land animals, yet very agile, with a magnificent trunk, and a lifespan similar to humans. There are at least two species left of the 350 species of elephant that once roamed this planet. The largest of the two species is the African elephant and the smaller is the Asian elephant. Some comparisons and differences are evident from the following chart (source: a display located on the main floor of Wayne State University Science Library).





5 - 7 tons

3 - 5 tons

height at shoulder

3 - 4 meters

2 - 3.2 meters


more wrinkled


number of ribs

up to 21

up to 20

highest point

at top of shoulder

at top of head

size of ears

larger, do exceed

smaller, do not


width of neck

exceed width of neck

in mature individuals

fold medially

fold laterally

dorsal of pinnae

shape of back


convex or level

shape of head

no compression;


no bulges, no dish

dished forehead

has dorsal bulges



Lozenged - shaped

narrow, compressed


both sexes posses tusks, which

when present

are larger in males

small, mostly in males

The example above does not mean that because there are at least two species of elephants that there are "only" two species. There is now believed to be two species of African elephants, and one Asian.   One African species lives mostly in the open savanna of Africa and the other in the forests of Africa. The African forest elephant tends to be stockier than the savanna elephant and also has straighter tusks and rounder ears. DNA testing is also suggesting that there is enough difference between the two to consider them as separate species. However, scientists are stating that the evidence is still somewhat inconclusive and more testing should be done.

Elephants are the living members of a larger group or order, scientifically called "Proboscidea" (named after the most distinguishing organ - the proboscis, or trunk) (Shoshanni 14). The elephant tusks are made of ivory upon which the ivory market is thriving and is one of the reasons for the species being listed among the endangered creatures of our world. The longest recorded tusks for an African elephant measured 10 feet 8 ½ inches (Shosahni, 73). The tusks are elongated incisor teeth, not canine, and of course are used in protection against danger, even though the elephant has almost no predators, except for man, who hunts the elephant for its tusks.

The trunk is a fusion of the nose and upper lip. It has no bones or cartilage. It is composed of muscles, blood, and lymph vessels, nerves, little fat, connective tissues, skin, hair, and bristles. The two openings at the tip of the trunk are the nostrils. There are about 40,000 muscles in the elephant trunk. The trunk is to an elephant what the hand is to a human. Its amazing strength, delicacy, and versatility is especially apparent in encounters where trunks are intertwined in greeting or in a form of elephantine "arm-wrestling" (75).

The internal organs of an elephant are not proportionately larger than those of other mammals. In comparison, sometimes they are relatively small. For instance, the brain of an adult elephant weighs 10-12 pounds and the brain of a human is a little over 3 pounds. Although the brain of the elephant is almost 3 times the size of the brain of a human, it is proportionately one-tenth the size of a human’s because the elephant’s brain is one-five-hundredth of its body weight, where the brain of a human is one-fiftieth. We could continue this comparison with several other of the internal organs of the elephant as they relate to other animals and their size.

The difference in the size of the ears between the African elephant and the Asian elephant can be explained in the difference in geographical climate conditions. The African elephant’s habitat is nearer the equator and the warmer climate mandates the larger ears. On the other hand, the Asian elephant is adapted to the cooler more northern climates and have the smaller ears. Elephants cool themselves by fanning and flapping their ears (68). The ears are also used in the "threat posture" by extending the ears at right angles from the body, which indicates the elephant is ready for the attack. The elephant’s hearing range can go as low as 14-16 Hertz and as high as 12,000 Hertz, whereas the hearing of humans can only go as low as 20 Hertz and as high as 20,000 Hertz (Groning 63). These low tones, called infrasounds, allow elephants to communicate without humans hearing their sounds except with the use of electronic sound recording devices. The vision of the elephant is relatively poor and also not that very necessary because the elephant depends so much on the use of the trunk to receive information and guide its travels.

The Intelligent Elephant

The elephant is a most fascinating animal with the largest brain of all land mammals.  In this section, we will take a short look at its behavior and intelligence.

The elephant is a very family-oriented mammal.  Each group of females, called a family unit, consists of the Matriarch, her adult daughters and their children.  The Matriarch is the group leader.  She is the eldest and, therefore, the wisest and most experienced.  She walks in the front of the group to reconnoiter the territory, listen for danger and decide where the family will go next.  The adult females in the group are usually related, and they share the tasks of living and rearing the young.  The family unit stays together for their entire lifetime.  Sometimes an unrelated cow (female) comes in contact with the group.  If there are many family units in the same area, which provides for much more protection, the juveniles are allowed to run on the outskirts of the group for experience and learning.

The male juveniles reach sexual maturity between the age of 10 and 12 and leave their family unit between the age of 10 and 19.   Adult males do not have the same close-knit family unit that the females do.  They may hang around each other in bull areas but they are basically on their own. 


A cow may come into estrous four times per year, provided she doesn’t have a young calf and provided she is not pregnant.  She is in estrous for two to six days.  She is able to breed when she is eleven years old, but in nature this happens later.  Mature females will often run from young bulls trying to mate with them.  They appear to prefer older bulls and especially bulls in musth because their aggression and dominance will protect them from other bulls.   In evolutionary terms, as well, such bulls have proven themselves by surviving and reaching their prime.  Bulls come into musth at around 30 years of age.  Musth lasts for two to three months and is characterized by swelling and discharge from the temporal glands, continuous discharge of urine and very aggressive behavior toward other bulls and humans.  When a bull comes into musth, he will go searching for females to mate with.   If a bull in musth and a bull that is not in musth wish to mate with the same female, the bull that is not in musth almost always backs down.  A bull in musth is dominant over any bull that is not in musth.   The bulls start coming around the group a few weeks before the cow is actually ready to breed.  They often mate a number of times, stay beside each other and she is protected by this bull from other bulls who also want to mate with her.

The gestation period is 20-22 months.   When a female is close to giving birth, another adult relative usually joins her.  When she is ready to deliver, this "allomother" or "auntie" is right there with her to help remove the sac, to help the little one stand up and to watch for predators.  Births usually take place at night, but not always.  The baby will suckle for two years, or until its tusks start to bother mom.  The baby drinks 21 pints of milk per day.    Everything the baby learns is from its mother and the family unit.  It takes over two years for the baby to learn how to properly use its trunk.  The mother uses her trunk to teach, protect and show affection to her baby.  If something happens to the mother, another female in the group will sometimes adopt the baby.  If a baby gets separated from the group and does not find a mother to adopt it, the youngster becomes easy prey for predators.  Still, motherless babies often perish.

Full-grown males eat 330 - 375 pounds of vegetation and drink 40 gallons of water daily.  Elephants love partial ripe to ripe fruit.  They graze for 16 - 18 hours a day.  They may sleep standing for 4 hours during the hotter times of the day and sleep lying down for 2 - 3 hours during the night.  In the dry season, they often dig a hole in the ground with their tusks to reach ground water.  They often eat salty earth as well, for its mineral content.

Elephants love water and are very good swimmers, thereby confirming perhaps their aquatic origins.  An elephant’s skin is very sensitive which is why it must bathe regularly and wallow in the mud.  This provides cooling, as well as protection fro sun and insects.

What is truly fascinating about elephants is their care and concern for their loved ones that are dying.  When a group member is dying, the group surrounds it and either sets their trunk on top of the dying one or caresses him/her with their trunk. 


The group stays with the dying elephant some time after its death.  They also put branches and leaves upon the body as if to bury it.  When elephants come into contact with the bones of elephants, they carefully inspect them with their nose.  Scientists believe that they may have such a great sense of smell that they can actually tell if the bones are from a family member or a starnger's.  They will sometimes carry a bone with them for a while.  Sometimes a herd will ignore bones and walk right past them.   On one occasion, a mother was seen to carry her dead baby around with her for 2 to 3 days.

Female elephants also have a secretion from the temporal gland.  However, the purpose for this secretion is to find members of a family unit or related family units.  They also use infrasound to communicate.  When members of the same family of or two family units meet after a separation, they run toward each other, rumble, trumpet, scream, intertwine their trunks, click their tusks, flap their ears, turn around and around, and rub against each other with affection and joy.  

Elephants are very playful.  They run around trumpeting and making lots of noise.  They do a lot of sparring, which is when they put their foreheads together, pushing against each other, to test their strength.  The calves’ favorite game is to climb upon a sleeping elephant.  The one on the bottom wiggles and tries to get up.

Elephants can be very dangerous.  Cynthia Moss was studying a group of elephants one day and she came upon a bull that was in musth.  The bull charged her vehicle.  Had she not gotten away, she may have been killed.  Also, there are old bulls that sometimes have been driven out of their traditional territory because they lost a leadership battle.  Some elephants are plain dangerous, in or out of musth.   It's not clear what turns elephants into rogues.  It's possible they suffer some pain, or that they suffered at the hands of poachers, other humans, or other elephants.  Sometimes, human intervention and separation from the socializing influence of older elephants can turn them into rogues.  A rogue is extremely dangerous, and it often conceals his aggressiveness and strike without notice.  Elephants who are captive in a zoo can also be very dangerous. In fact, handling elephants in zoos and circuses is, by far, one of the most dangerous professions in the world!

Captive elephants have been known to stuff the bells around their neck with mud in order to silence them before going out to steal bananas.  In the wild, they give many other signs of high intelligence.  For example, the matriarch will lead the family unit back to a water hole she may have not visited for 20 years.  They may use a branch to scratch themselves.    Much of their behavior is learned. 
An experiment was conducted at the Zoological Institute in Munster to determine whether an elephant was capable of ideational behavior, or in other words, be able to anticipate what will come of certain actions.  A five-year-old elephant was used in a discrimination test.  The goal of the first experiment was to determine whether she could be taught which object of two was right and wrong.  Two cardboard boxes were used with a piece of bread in the right box.  A cross was painted on the lid of the first and a circle was painted on the lid of the second, with the cross was to be the right choice.  It took her 330 tries to learn which one was right and which one was wrong.  However, after that, she always picked the correct one.  In successive trials, she considerably improved.  Additional pairs of shapes were added to the experiment.  By the fourth pair, the elephant was able to pick the right one in just 10 tries.  She was starting to understand that there was a right shape and a wrong shape.  They gave her a total of 20 pairs to memorize and she mastered all of them with only a few mistakes.  Although this test covered 600 trials, the elephant did not get tired but seemed to continue becoming more and more interested.  

In anotehr series, a lid with 3 dots was positive and a lid with 4 dots was negative.  In another experiment, the dots on the 3 and 4 dot lids were presented in four different patterns.  The elephant could be trained to choose the correct 3-dot lid, suggesting the elephants have some concept of number.   She would now be tested on the ability to form an abstract concept.  

After a period of one year, she was re-tested on the visual patterns to demonstrate that an elephant has very good memory.  She got 73 - 100 percent correct on all the pairs except one. 

Cynthia Moss and Karen McComb conducted a playback experiment in order to determine the ability of females to recognize others through infrasonic contact calls. The contact calls used were from known adult females. The low-frequency recording equipment used was: a Sennheiser MKH 110 microphone linked to a Sony TCD D10 DAT recorder with DC modification. The study determined that females were able to recognize the calls of family unit members, related family members and other females outside their group, or acquaintances. The contact call was played for different groups of elephants. The elephants who were in this female's family unit or who knew her and liked her responded by making a contact call themselves or by coming closer to the source of the sound. Elephants who were merely acquaintances of this female listened only and strangers reacted with fear or defensiveness. Playback of the call of an elephant who had died, to her family unit, elicited contact calling three months after her death, and contact calling and approach to the loudspeaker 23 months after her death. It was estimated that a female would have to know the contact calls of at least 14 family units or, 100 adult females, which would be the mean family group number. Female elephants thus appear to have unusually extensive networks of vocal recognition that are comparable to, or better than, human memory and social recognition of friends. Females communicate on infrasonic frequencies of 15 – 35 Hz. The lower frequency calls, used for contact communication, have a mean peak of 21 Hz and last for 4 – 5 seconds. These calls are used to stay in contact when they are visually separated.
Clearly, the elephant is an extremely intelligent animal.  I hope this information will encourage you to further research this extraordinary animal.

The Elephant as a Religious Symbol in Hinduism

Religious and cultural traditions within a group are generally accompanied by legends or myths that are passed from generation to generation. These stories or accounts, whether written or oral, explain a practice or belief that serves as a historical record of a cultural or religious tradition. In most societies and civilizations, these tales of lore are often recorded in drawings or etchings and/or written chronicles. It is not surprising that a culture as rich as that of India would have such a vast number of myths and legends that are woven into the core and fabric of its existence.

Animal icons are an integral part of Indian culture. These pictorial images are used as representations and interpretations of the myths, legends, and folklore that are a part of the religious and cultural experience. Myths deal with themes that are shared by the human experience and are usually centered on the life and death of this world and the world beyond. Mythology cannot exist without the inclusion of animals. Gods and animals are the two communities that frame that of the human community and are the two forces by which we define ourselves (Encyclopedia of Religion 183). The role of animals in mythology can be mysterious, with some being more mystical than others. Such is the role of the elephant in Hindu religious culture--the one symbol that has pre-eminence in eastern art and culture. " Throughout India stone sculptures covering the outside of Hindu temples and cave carvings depict the iconography of the gods and goddesses and the stories of their feats. They are of great artistic merit…but only exceptionally would they be considered worthy of worship. Icons inside the temples, however, have been created and installed by a ritual process which has prepared it to be inhabited by God" (Knott 53). Sculptures and figurines of elephants are particularly popular with some having religious significance and others decorative purposes (Carrington 223).

As a religious symbol, the elephant is purely Asian.  It represents royalty, power, wisdom, fertility, longevity and more (Encyclopedia of Religion 82). Ancient belief systems of Asia tend to twist and bend upon one another within the many varieties of Hinduism and Buddhism. In both, man and the elephant make their first appearance in the cosmos together and in both elephants are associated with water and rainfall, the primordial givers of life to dust (Alexander 73). Their shape, size, and color are symbolic of clouds and rain. This connection paved the ground for the development of a cult around the elephant who was worshipped as a folk god (Gupta 11). In most art forms, the elephant is the object of worship or it appears with a god who is worshipped. In countries such as Laos, Cambodia, and Thailand, elephants were believed responsible for watering the fields. Lord Indra, The Rain and Storm God, is sometimes depicted riding on an elephant with a lightning bolt on his forehead (Elephant Page 1). The main use of the elephant in eastern religious art is in the representation of Ganesha, the great Hindu God (Carrington 223). As a Hindu religious symbol, the elephant is highly favored.

Hinduism, the largest religion of India, has an abundance of gods and goddesses throughout the country. The most widely worshiped Hindu god deity is Lord Ganesha: The Elephant God. He is one of five prime Hindu deities. Ganesh, as he is commonly called, is an elephant-headed god who has an extensive legend. He represents "perfect wisdom" and is highly loved and worshiped by his devotees. Ganesh is considered to be the "remover of obstacles" and a "bestower of prosperity (Gentz 382)." Ganesha is also called Ganapati. "Ga means ‘knowledge’, na means ‘salvation’, and pati ‘lord’ (Ganesha 1)". His image can be found at the entryway of temples and in places of business. Followers of Ganesh always pray to him before beginning any new venture in life to remove any obstacles that would block their way. Ganesha is also "the patron of literature--he combines the natures of the two most intelligent beings--man and the elephant (Alexander 77)." A variety of sculptures, drawings and carving represent this deity, as shown in this figure.

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Legends of Lord Ganesha differ in some points from region to region but the most popular tale states that his mother Parvarti, who possessed mythical powers, was lonely for a child. While her husband, Lord Shiva was away on a penance journey, she allegedly took dead skin cells from her own body and formed a son that she named Ganesh. One day while she bathed, she placed Ganesh at the door of her chamber to guard her privacy. She forbade him to let anyone enter her door. Lord Shiva returned that day and not knowing that he now had a son, attempted to enter Parvarti’s chamber. Ganesh, unaware that this was his father, would not allow him passage. In a rage, Lord Shiva beheaded the child. Upon Parvarti’s discovery of what happened she became inconsolable and demanded that Lord Shiva bring the boy back to life. He then ordered his servant to go out and bring him back the first available head he came upon. The legend goes on to say that the servant came upon an elephant that was sleeping. He severed the head of the elephant and presented it to Lord Shiva who in turn attached it to the body of the boy he had slain. Lord Shiva brought him back to life and bestowed upon him "a boon that people would worship him and invoke his name before undertaking any vigil" (Hinduism 2).

As an icon, the body parts of Ganesh each serve as symbols. Like the accounts of his creation, these representations vary from region to region. The most popular are illustrated in Figure 2:





Elephant Head, wide mouth, and large ears:

The large head symbolizes wisdom, understanding. The wide mouth represents the natural human desire to enjoy life in this world. The large ears represent the capacity to listen to others.

Tusks -

The hanging trunk between the two tusks represents the discrimination between the worldly and spiritual domains. Most idols reflect a broken tusk, which symbolize Ganesha’s victory over a demon.

Stomach -

His big belly peacefully ‘stomachs’ all experiences of life.

Trunk -

The trunk represents efficiency, adaptability, and is the smasher of all obstacles.

Arms -

The four arms symbolize four inner equipments. One hand holds an ax, which is used to cut off all of the false attachments of his devotees. In the other is a rope, which he uses to pull his followers closer to the truth and to tie them down to the highest God. The third hand holds a rice ball called a modaka which he feeds to his devotees as a reward for their faithfulness. The fourth hand is empty and is used to extend blessings to the devotees.

Mouse -

Most representations of Ganesha depict a mouse at his feet. The mouse represents the desire to serve.

Snake -

Represents the fire that is present in the subtle body, or the power within.

In most Indian icons, animal figures are placed beneath the Gods and share common traits, which represent, or are interpreted as, the "vehicle" to carry the human figure. It is the "duplicate-representation of the energy and the character of the god." In the case of Lord Ganesha, the rat or mouse figure symbolizes the ability to overcome obstacles. The rat is a vanquisher of the granary as the elephant is the vanquisher of the forest when he uproots trees and shrubs, and crosses lakes and streams to reach his destination. " The two represent the power of this god to vanquish every obstacle of the Way (Zimmer 70)." It is said that the ‘vehicle’ of the gods shows the smallness of humans. The curved trunk acknowledges that access to the path of enlightenment is difficult but that access is present (Gentz 382).

Many Hindus favor one particular god or goddess, their ishta-deva or chosen one. Family tradition generally determines this, though some people may develop a special relationship with a deity. Hindus also recognize and offer worship to many other gods (Knott 60). According to Dr. Nikhil Dhurandhar of Wayne State’s Nutrition and Food Science department, a practicing Hindu, Lord Ganesha is one of several Gods that he worships daily in general. Ganesh signifies wisdom and knowledge. In his role as a researcher and educator, Dr. Dhurandhar prays to Ganesh to "bless his quest for learning and to gain more knowledge." He has an idol in his office and in his home. He states: "It is not my practice to sit before the idol and wait for an answer, but to pray for his blessing as I go forth in my ventures." Dr. Dhurandhar related that his family’s oral history concerning Lord Ganesh is true to the popular legend. When asked if he believed the story about the creation of Ganesh he stated, "he couldn’t care less if it were true or not because he does not worship the history, only the God."

Similarly, Sharada, a Wayne State research assistant, shared with me her worship practices and beliefs on Ganesh. In her case, she worships Ganesh as "the remover of obstacles." She prays to Ganesh and other gods on a daily basis. Prayers to Ganesh start her day so that any obstacles in her way will be removed from her path. Her family’s account of Lord Ganesha’s birth was the same as the popular legend. On a personal basis, she has never had reason to doubt the account as told to her as a child. Sharada bows to her idols and uses chants and meditation as a part of her prayers. The worship of Ganesh is important in her daily life but so are many other gods who also have a place in her religious rituals.

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In addition to the tangible images that exist, there is a treasure trove of myths, legends, and symbols associated with gods that belong to India alone. Ganesha and other gods and goddesses are also depicted in temples laden with gold, religious ceremonies, magnificent stone carvings, and other artifacts that predominate the art of the region as shown in figure 2. Since the end of the 18th century, scholars have been editing, translating, and interpreting tales and images not yet defined or deciphered. It is estimated that Indian traditions have been handed down in unbroken continuity since the second millennium B.C. These histories have primarily been in oral form leaving an imperfect record of events (Zimmer 12). While there are certain periods that have been barely documented, there are tens of thousands of historical accounts, which remain in manuscripts waiting to be edited and published. There already exists a wealth of great works that are in publication in both Western and Indian editions. Pictorial depictions of the gods and goddesses of India play a large part in the historical accounts of the gods and how they came to be worshiped and why they are worshiped. The worship of Ganesha continues to flourish in India. The devotees of Ganesha are known as ‘Ganapatyas’. Devoted Hindus in all parts of the world celebrate the festival of Ganesh Chaturthi. as an affirmation of Hindu tradition. In September 1995, images of Ganesha around the world were purported to be "devouring milk" offered to them by their devout followers (Figure 3). Small miracles such as this are said to be commonplace in Indian religious life (Knott 53).

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In modern day India, festivals honoring the elephant-god are celebrated yearly.

As with most religious and cultural traditions, some myths, legends and tales are more popular than others. For the Hindu, a special relationship has been formed with the elephant. Perhaps the deity of the elephant began with a prayer being answered, or maybe it came in a dream. The practice of worshipping the elephant has made it a religious symbol that continues to be shared by most Hindus today.


The Versatile Elephant

The elephant has made its impact on humanity by its sheer size, intelligence and devoted assistance to man. This section will discuss the elephant's service to man.

During the Stone Age, the mammoth was hunted for its massive size because it provided large amounts of food. In China, during the Pleistocene period, mammoth bones were ground up and used to make medicines that were believed to be helpful remedies for many illnesses including impotence. Elephants served man's aesthetic and artistic needs. They were representative of religious symbols and artistic motifs. Elephants served man in many wars and in battles as "tanks" and as transporters of goods and ammunition. Elephants have been used in some countries to lighten work loads. In some Asian countries, elephants are used in the logging industry to perform heavy jobs. In many countries elephants have been trained to perform and entertain in circuses and amphitheaters.

In tribal areas, elephant carcasses furnished tribes with clothes, covers from the fur, the tendons for string and twine to tie bundles, and bones were used to build huts. The elephant's bones and tusks had many uses for example: building shelter, making tools, and weapons according to Groning and Saller. In China, during the glacial period of Pleislocene, "fossil 'dragon bones' have long been collected and ground into medicinal powders, said to be effective against all sorts of infirmities and impotence" (45). The bones in question weren't dragon bones, but the remains of the large mammals like the mammoth that roamed the earth during that period. During the Middle Ages, it's believed that Chinese craftsmen used ivory from elephant's tusks for many things. "Huts were built as places of worship, made from mammoth bones and tusks" (45).

In 319 BC, the famous King Pyrrthus crossed the Adriatic Sea and fought against the Romans. "King Pyrrthus was the first to use war elephants against the republican citizen and peasant armies of Rome, by this time a world power." (218) He had an army with 25,000 men and 20 trained elephants for battle. By using the Asian elephants they inflicted a heavy defeat to the Roman army. The horses of the Roman army were very frightened by the size of the elephants who were trumpeting furiously. The powerful elephant proved to be "living tanks" in battle. The elephants were used in hunts and served as "a sleeping bunk" which was made comfortable with structures that were fastened on the backs of the elephant, to accommodate the emperor on his hunt. Elephants also served the ladies of the court on trips and journeys, they carried tents, luggage and supplies .

In battles, elephants were placed in the front line and the cavalry were placed behind them. They often made the difference in battle and helped the army gain a victory. They also served as "war machines" or "tanks" in battles. In addition to being in battles they also transported supplies and ammunition strapped on their backs. They traveled well in difficult forest terrain, in swampy jungles and they were able to climb mountains easier than a horse.

During the 16th and 17th century, elephants were used to entertain in imperial courts by fighting in exhibitions. In Thailand, elephant fighting contests were held in festivities to entertain the public. To enhance the fights, fireworks were thrown during the contests, which served to train the elephants in battles. In Thailand elephants were used in sports and in races as well. They played soccer , football and ran in a 100 meter race for "heavyweights." They were considered" exotic weird and wonderful creatures," cites Groning and Saller. Elephants are quite intelligent and helpful in performing work states Dr. T. Horonaday in the National Geographic Magazine, article, the African elephants are ranked third on a scale of one through ten on the most intelligent animal list. The chimpanzee and orangutan, were the only two that preceded the elephant. Dr. Horonaday further states that the elephant "shows little evidence of reasoning yet I know it to be gentle and patient, quick to comprehend, ready to obey, and willing to learn" (496). Elephants can also serve man by being trained to do menial tasks for example an elephant named Rja Bahadur was trained to place garlands on visitors or to respond when his name was called.

Elephant serve as "bulldozers" and as loggers in the jungles of Southern Asia. They are trained to respond well to a (mahout) their trainer for various tasks. Without words, but with signals the mahout instructs by sitting on the elephants neck and by pressing behind the elephant's ears or shoulder, with his knees, heels or toes, he's able to communicate and give directions and commands. Elephants can be directed to move forward, turn, pick things up, break branches, stop, kneel and follow many other commands. Elephants were also used as a means of transportation for loggers and hunters, states M. D. Chaturvedi, of the National Geographic Magazine. He further states, that working elephants are obedient, and can work for 5-6 hours. They are used to extract timber from the ground with their husks, and to haul logs through rain and muddy terrain.

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Communication Among Elephants

When studying the phenomena of elephant communication one comes to understand the complexities of sound. One aspect of sound used in elephant communication, which Katy Payne discovered while conducting research at the Washington Park Zoo in Portland, Oregon, is infrasound. While studying these elephants in the zoo, Payne felt throbbing, like those which one sometimes associate with a large church organ. On her way home at the end of the research she realized that this throbbing could be infrasonic calls that she associated with her study of the great fin and blue whales. By then, it was already known that elephant could hear infrasounds, but not that they could produces such sounds.  Once she arrived home, she borrowed equipment that could read infrasonic sounds and four months later returned to the zoo and recorded the sound. At playback ten times the regular speed she heard sounds. (Payne, 1)

Infrasonic sound is a sound with frequency below the audibility range of the human ear. (Merriam Webster Online) The human ear responds to a frequency range of approximately 20 to 20,000 Hz. (Strong, 43) Many of the calls made by elephants have infrasonic frequencies of 15-35Hz. Earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, wind, thunder, and ocean storms are main sources of infrasonic sound. (Payne, 21) These deep sounds create longitudinal waves, which travel great distances through rock, water, and air. Longitudinal waves are a disturbance in which the particles of the medium move parallel to that of travel. These waves propagate in solids, liquids, and gases. (Strong, 38) Zoologists believe elephants may be helpful in providing them with early warnings of earthquakes and weather disturbances because of their ability to hear such sounds. (Britannica Online)

These sounds are very beneficial to elephants during times of distress and separation because sounds refract and diffract. Refraction is the bending of waves when passed from one medium into a medium having a different wave speed. Refraction of sound is most commonly observed when overlying layers of air are either warmer of cooler than underlying layers. The air near snow-covered ground is cooler than the overlying air and, consequently, the sound speed is lower in the air near the ground. In such circumstances a sound wave will be bent downward, because sound travels more slowly closer to the ground. In the summer the air is generally cooler higher above the surface, and sound is consequently bent upward. (Strong, 52) Waves travel faster in warmer climates and elephants live in warm climates, so these infrasonic sounds travel fast and long. The ability of sound to refract can send a distress signal quickly up to six miles away.

Diffraction is the bending of waves around obstacles or through openings. We are able to hear around corners even though we cannot see around them. Sound waves are large, usually measured in terms of meters. (Strong, 52) This attribute of sound enables it not to be stopped or blocked by any obstacles. The power of these infrasonic calls also aids in communication. Some of the calls made by female elephants attain 106 decibels and may be powerful enough to communicate with elephants 3-6 miles away. (Poole, 53) Most of the elephant’s calls contain harmonics. Harmonics are frequencies that are multiple integers of the lowest frequency called the fundamental. In many cases the upper harmonics are within humans’ audible range. We are aware of only 30% of the conversations between elephants. It appears to me that this low sound produced by the elephants could be a protective feature against any outsiders that would invade their social order.

Alarm calls are some of the calls that are infrasonic in nature. Elephants send out these calls to other elephants when danger is arising or currently happening. These calls let the other elephants know to stay clear of the danger. Some dangerous situations that elephants have experienced are hunting by humans. Other dangers they experience are fires, thunderstorms and earthquakes, though those are less frequent. These alarm calls as stated earlier can reach up to 3-6 miles in distance. Researchers and native villagers have witnessed from high hilltops elephants responding to an alarm call sent from an elephant 5 mile away in another direction. Before Katy Payne discovered infrasonic communication among elephants, people thought that they were capable of telepathy. The reason behind this belief is that when they saw the elephants responding they heard no sound.

Bellowing is a sound made by females and young calves. This particular sound is audible. The young calves will make this sound while in play with one another. Chasing each other, climbing on each other or just simply running around. (Moss, 26) Females are known to make this sound after being mated by older male bulls. This sound calls her family to her side to vocalize with her. Moss cites an example of this on page 6.

Tallulah rumbled, moaned and screamed throughout the mating and stood with her mouth wide open and bellowed after Ed dismounted. Her family dutifully came running over and vocalized and demonstrated with her.

Rumbles are also sounds made by females during and after mating. When a female elephant decides to be in consort with a mature male bull, she will rub up against him and make repeated low, long, pulsated rumbles. (Moss, 95) Consort is an espousal time between male and female elephants. This decision is especially good for females because during this time the bull keeps all other prospects away from the female. The female will not have to worry about being mounted by three or more bulls in one day or throughout her estrous cycle. Long, low post-copulatory rumbles are also made after mating when the female’s family is around her with excitement.

Trumpeting can be heard among elephants in greeting one another. Greeting can last for up to ten minutes or more with their temporal glands secreting down their faces, trunks entwined and much vocalization. They will click tusks together, spin, back up into each other, urinate, and defecate - all to show affection. High-pitched rumbles are made at this time also. Trumpeting is also heard among calves during play. Calves will call to the adults with a loud, pulsating, nasal trumpet when they have wondered away from their family group. Elephants do not tolerate lions and when they feel threatened by one they will charge after them letting out a shrill trumpet in defense of their calves and family groups. (Moss, 166) When they are frightened they will give out trumpet sounds.

Humming sounds are made by mothers to their calves to keep them close. Since calves are new to the world around them, they become very curious about their surroundings. At times they become so distracted that they are unaware of the group’s movement, so the mother vocalizes humming.

Male bulls make a special sound when in musth. It is called the musth rumble. Musth is a time when bulls are in heat and are ready to mate. Females or other bulls when in musth never use the sound. It is a low infrasonic sound and seems muted to the human ear. It travels a long distance probably to warn other bulls of its musth state. Females pay close attention to this call. They will respond by approaching the bull or by vocalizing and secreting from their temporal glands. (Poole, 58)

Screaming is another sound that takes place during greetings. There is a lot of screaming taking place among calves when poachers kill an adult female. When this happens the calves mill about and climb over their dead relatives trying to find their mothers. After the killing is over the calves are sometimes captured for zoo sale and safari parks. (Moss, 316) Male calves will scream in protest to their mothers not standing still or walking away while they are trying to suckle. (Moss, 166)

Another aspect of communication among elephants is chemical signals where olfactory and vomerolfactory behaviors are involved.

For many types of signals, sniffing may provide adequate information. The nasal turbinates of elephants contain million of olfactory receptor cells and their sense of smell is keen. (Rasmussen, 19-34)

These tangible features come into play when mating, relating status, and recognizing other elephants. When an elephant is stressed or excited, male and female African elephants secrete a watery, chemically sparse temporal fluid. (Rasmussen, 19-34) They use their ears to spread this smell out into the air so that other elephants can locate and identify them. The tip of the trunk houses two types of vibrissal hairs, small corpuscles and free nerve endings. Such features enable the trunk tip to detect vibrations, finely manipulate objects and transfer liquids. (Rasmussena, 19-34) The elephant uses its trunk tip to transmit fluid to the anterior part of the hard palate where the VNO ducts are located. They use this contact to determine reproductive significance. During mating when male bulls are in musth the secretion from the temporal glands changes drastically in chemical composition and becomes very thick. It alerts bulls of their hostile state and females of their readiness to mate.

In summary, communication is a fundamental aspect of any society, whether of animals or of humans. Without communication a society would not be able to peacefully coexist. We would not know how another feels, or be able to express our feelings; such as love, joy, happiness, anger, sorrow, sadness, etc. We could not teach the next generation their history, which is vital to not repeating mistakes and giving them a knowledge or origin. Progression of the society would not even be possible and that leads for a life of misery. Just as it is important for a society to communicate among themselves, it is also important for various social groups to understand each other. Humans do not occupy this would by themselves. They interact with the animals on this earth by giving and taking, though it seems we do more taking than giving. It is important for humans to understand that plants, animals, and humans beings are all apart of a great big circle of life and what we do to each of these eventually affects ourselves. Whether the effects are immediate or further down the road, we all suffer when we do not act in wisdom, kindness, and respect for life of all kingdoms. This brings to mind a scripture (Romans 8:19-23). It tells about how the whole creation groans and travails in pain for the full redemption of the children of God. They groan because they are living in a sinful world and experience imperfections, pain and sorrow.

Elephants in Literature

The first mention of elephants in literature was around 480 BC. The report was done by a Carthaginian who was establishing settlements on the west coast of Africa. He wrote that the marshes near the Atlas Mountains were haunted by elephants. The man's account was preserved only in Greek translation, but it was also the Greeks who gave a lengthy account of the elephant. They described the elephants in captivity and discussed their use in warfare.

After a lot of searching and viewing, I came to the conclusion that there were few works of fiction about elephants. I then remembered the children's series "Babar", an elephant that leaves the jungle to live in the city. To examine if this elephant had all the characteristics of a real elephant I read further. I checked out "The Story of Babar, the little elephant", by Jean De Brunhoff, who was an author from France. On the first page, it tells how much the mother elephant loves her new baby. The book also tells about the little elephant playing with the other babies and digging and spraying mud. At one point, the mother is shot by a hunter, and Babar cries for the loss of his mother. This shows that the author was accurate in giving a characteristic of the elephants. Showing that the elephants can understand that a loved one is gone. Throughout the book, Babar thinks many thoughts and never forgets his mother and still cries when he thinks about it. This shows that elephants do not forget, especially something as terrible as death. The story goes on as more of a fairy tale, but the specific attention paid to the true characteristics still is evident.

A second piece of fiction that I looked at was a book called, "Elephant Song", by Wilbur Smith. The main element in the story was ivory. It explained that in Africa, ivory is the object of greed, corruption, and senseless death. In the cruel world of poachers, one determined man and one determined woman risk their lives to stop the slaughter of the elephants, which is a species on the verge of extinction. Dr. Armstrong and Kelly Kinnear, who is an anthropologist, travel from the Mountain of the Moon to the deep forests of central Africa. They fight a battle of their lives. They were up against the powerful individuals who would wipe out an entire population of elephants to get their lust for ivory met. This book not only highlights the manner that the elephants are being killed, but the emotion behind the animals. On more than one occasion, the book paints a mental picture of the fear and torture the elephants experience. By torture, I mean the babies that are left without a mother and are crying and screaming at the dead mother's side and not understanding why she will not get up. There is also a pack of elephants that Armstrong and Kinnear follow to see how they plan to escape, the wrath of the poachers. The book also focuses on the elephants and how peaceful they are when they are left alone. The book was interesting because it touched on the facts about elephants and also created an atmosphere that made me keep reading.

The third piece of fiction that I looked at was another book, "To the Elephant Graveyard", by Tarquin Hall. This book takes place in India, in the town of Assam. Assam, which is on India's north east frontier, has a killer elephant on the rampage. The elephant is stalking patty fields, murdering farmers, and leaving behind their mutilated bodies. The local forest officials are powerless against the beast. The officials decided to call in a licensed elephant hunter. Hall (who is also the author), flies to Assam to convince himself that no elephant could be guilty of this crime. The Khasi tribe lives in perfect harmony with the elephants, and have peacefully coexisted together for hundreds of years. Hall starts asking questions about why this elephant would start killing people. The tribes people explain that the elephants are losing their natural habitats. The elephants are hungry, confused, and left with very little forest to hide in. Some of the elephants have adapted to the domestication, but the others are resolute and furious. The central theme of the book is the search for the killer elephant in Assam, India. This all takes place in a region where the ancient ways are quickly disappearing along with the forests and its elephants.

The fourth piece of literature is the short story "The Elephant Hunter", by Ernest Hemingway.   This is a very touching story.  The main character, is described during an elephant hunt , this way:  "I care, David thought. I saw him [the elephant] in the moonlight and he was alone but I had Kibo [David's dog]. Kibo has me too The bull wasn’t doing any harm and now we’ve tracked him to where he came to see his dead friend and now we’re going to kill him. It’s my fault. I betrayed him."   This really is a turning experience in a boy’s life, who feels that by telling his father, a professional hunter, and an African companion, a hunter too, about an elephant passing by, he betrayed the elephant. Hemingways describes the days-long chase of the elephant by all three, as well as the boy’s dog Kibo, in order to kill the bull and get his magnificent tusks. At the end they do, and the bull slightly wounds the man who has killed his friend, very close to the same spot. From now on, the boy David resolves, he’ll tell his father and other people nothing.

The last piece to be discussed is "Moti-Guj", by Rudyard Kipling. The story gives many factual descriptions about elephants. I think the story really touches on the emotional part of Moti and his relationship with his mahout. This story confirms the story about elephants and their memories and the feelings that they have.

The literature involving elephants is very limited and I'm not sure why. Elephants are not directly a part of our everyday lives and maybe that is why they are not used more often as subject matter in books. Either way, this was an opportunity to learn more about an animal that I have just began to study. The elephant that is used in children's books "Babar", is in the books for a reason. I think it is to show children that an elephant can have human qualities and also have magical qualities. It also shows the children that endings are not always happy, even ending in death. That is very important to teach children, that they can't escape everything. The other two adult books, "Elephant Song" and "To the Elephant Graveyard", are very graphic and detailed. The two stories both gravitate toward the feelings and emotions of the elephants. I think that is because to a lot of people, emotions in elephants are fascinating. To think that an elephant can express human feelings is remarkable.

Elephants: Myths, Anecdotes and Personal Reflections

What do elephants and witchcraft have in common? It’s simple: they both have a history in mythology. Since the creation of the popular ideas of elephants, our world has been fascinated by the supernatural grace these now-endangered species have given us. These over-the-top stories, usually held as fictitious, bring upon us the abundance of folklores tied to elephants. It is agreed the White Elephant plays an important role in Asian folklore and history. Four of the myths relating to the white elephant are: the evolution of elephants, the birth of a popular god in Buddhism and elephants as "Rulers of the sky." Two of the myths put a different twist on how the white elephant evolved on earth. The other two are how the white elephant is a strong character in some religions. On the African folklore aspect, the myths incorporate the ideals of truth and witchcraft. Hearing these stories, it makes people wonder how did these tales come about? Whatever the reasoning, one needs to realize that every living thing on this earth has a story, maybe not as far-fetched as the ones on elephants, but they’re the stories which created the structure behind some of your beliefs. The focus of this paper will be four stories based on Asian mythology and two examples of African mythology of elephants.

Before I summarize the four chosen folklores of the white elephant, I want to give the meaning of a few terms that will be used throughout the paper. These terms are as follows: myth, legend and superstition. As described in the Oxford American Dictionary, a myth is a story that contains beliefs or ideas about ancient times and is also described as an idea that forms part of the beliefs of a group or class but is not founded on fact. A legend is a story handed down from the past, which may or may not be true. Superstitions are a belief that is held by a number of people but which lack foundation.

One of the first legends recorded was the evolution of the elephant. Hailing from Indian culture, it begins with the myth of the gods and demons searching for the serum of life. Legend has it that the white elephant was produced out of the efforts made by the Devas (gods) and Asuras (demons) who joined together to find the Amrta, the drink of immortality (Gupta, 3). Both the gods and demons needed to find a way to produce the Amrta. With the help from Brahma and Indra (the lord of the waters), the Devas and Asuras collected what they needed in order to start the "Churning of the Ocean" (Gupta, 4). As S.K. Gupta states in his book, Elephant in Indian Art and Mythology, "The oceans are said to be the mine of many jewels." During the process of churning the ocean, nine magnificent jewels came out. The very first jewel was that of Airavata, an elephant (otherwise known as the milk-white elephant). Considering this fascinating birth of the elephant, royalty treated the white elephant with praise and high recognition. Airavata was celestial in the eyes of the king and people of the land. To all, the white elephant brought luck and abundance to the king and his kingdom.

The second legend of origins of the elephant describes the birth of Airavata (the white elephant) from the cosmic golden egg (Gupta, 7). At the request of the wise men, Brahma (Supreme Hindu divinity) took two halves of a broken eggshell in his hands and breathed life into them. Another account stated that Brahma sang seven holy melodies over the two halves of the eggshell (Carrington, 233). However, both myths report that Airavata came out of the right side of the egg along with seven other male elephants, and on the left side sprang eight female elephants. In the realm of folklore, elephants were depicted as the bearers of the universe, because the white elephants had size and sturdiness. Therefore, throughout time the elephants were worshiped for their strength.

The third legend takes a different view on how the white elephant plays a role in mythology. The story depicts the importance of the white elephant in the Buddhist faith. One of the most popular myths relating to the white elephant is the birth of Buddha (the enlightened one). This myth is still held in popular belief in Buddhism. It starts one night when Queen Maya (Buddha’s mother) had this dream where a white elephant appeared. This was no ordinary elephant, as the elephant donned six tusks and had a lotus flower sticking out of its trunk. Appearing by Queen Maya’s right side, the white elephant touched her and the Buddha was conceived. Later on, while Queen Maya was traveling to see her father, she needed to stop and rest. Sitting under a tree, Queen Maya gave birth to Buddha, which emerged from her right side. As the newborn Buddha walked in each direction as a compass, lotus flowers sprouted and bloomed. He stopped, turned around and spoke, "This is the last body I will ever have." Seven days later Queen Maya died (Carrington, 74). One account states that Queen Maya’s sister was to have taken care of Buddha, but other fairytales talk about how Buddha was cared for by an elephant. From the very first day of Buddha’s conception, until his last days, the elephant has been held in great prominence in Buddhism.

According to another legend the very first elephants to grace the earth, were born with wings. The wings given to them, the elephants ruled the sky holding a deep respect for the moon and the stars thus, placing them with the other gods and goddesses of myths and legends (Carrington, 74). Elephants were also depicted as being white, with a resemblance to the clouds. They possessed a supernatural magic of causing lightning and inducing rain (Carrington, 74). However, a curse was placed on the elephants and they lost their wings. The legend goes that one day a number of elephants were flying in the sky and positioned themselves on a branch of a tree to listen to the sage Dirghatamas, while he gave a discourse to his disciples. Under heavy strain the tree limb broke, disturbing the ascetic and killing some of his students (Carrington, 75). Angry at what just happened, the yogi cursed the elephants so that they lost their wings and also their power of changing shape (like a cloud) at will (Carrington, 75). Since that day the elephants were destined to walk the earth and all proof of elephants donning wings were gone.

One of the greatest powers a human could have is the imagination to believe anything is possible. If one considers the possibility of everyone possessing an open mind, the mystery of folklore would have a chance to survive the scrutiny. These days, folk stories are considered endangered along with the elephants. However, for a person to believe, something in his experiences had to justify its meaning. On the other hand, proof of fact is not always needed to make people believe. For example, Christians have a belief in God. The Bible tells of stories of God's magnificent power, but can we actually go on that to prove he is out there? In point, the myths of the White Elephant made the kings and kingdoms feel the same way. Folklore on White Elephants represented strength, religion, fertility, wealth and royalty. Religions and rules were created and systems of belief were based on the popular legends. Since the creation of the universe, folklores, myths and legends have made an impact on our societies.

The myth of white elephants has made an impact on the past and the present. In current times, the elephant still holds prominence in Buddhism (Ratnasinghe, 1). It is the only animal possessed of grace to carry the sacred reliquary containing the "Danta-d hatu’ (Tooth-relic) of the Buddha, in the annual Esala Perahera in Kandy (Ratnasinghe, 4). Also, movies have brought the essence of elephant folklore to the main front. In the early 1950’s, Walt Disney made a full-length picture called Dumbo, which was about an elephant with big ears, finding the courage to fly. The idea of a flying elephant had to come from somewhere. Walt Disney must have heard the tale of the "winged-elephants" and his movie grew from there. Also, throughout the centuries, elephants have been good luck charms on bracelets and have been used in politics to show the symbolism of strength.

All in all, elephants play a strong role for everyone. They make children smile and adults amazed at their spirit. It is sad though to see this magnificent creature being destroyed by the very people who worship them. As long as the universe is still turning, the tall tales of elephants will be passed through generations. We at least owe the kind and gifted elephant that one honor.

Art by and about Elephants

Elephants first appeared in art in the Upper Paleolithic Period, some sixty -thousand years ago. Paintings and engravings of the mammoth and the straight – tusked elephant are commonly found in the caves of the time and on pieces of ivory, horn, or bones used as arrow-straighteners or for other purposes (Alexander, pg. 221). Our primitive ancestors believed that to draw an image of an animal would automatically give them power over it. Since Stone Age times, elephants have been a popular subject with tribal artists in Africa and the east. They are depicted both in engravings on rock faces and the walls of caves and as woodcarvings. Rock engraving is no longer practiced, or only to a very limited extent, but in Africa woodcarving remains a flourishing art. The first works of art was a fertility symbol carved from Ivory tusk some 25,000 years ago.

The elephant has been equally popular with artists in citified communities, and has been depicted in every art medium. In ancient times one particularly common use of its image was on coins and medals, for it was regarded as a symbol of power and longevity (Karl, pg. 221).

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Elephant sculptures and figurines are particularly popular in the East, some possessing religious significance, others being simply decorative. The main use of the elephant in eastern religious art is in representations of Ganesa, the great Hindu God of wisdom and prudence, which is always depicted with an elephant’s head, perhaps to indicated his intelligence. Elephants also appear on temples and public buildings of all periods, or as sculptures on such masterpieces of oriental art (Carrington, pg. 223).

The ivory trade got started around the time of Christ, when hundreds of thousands of mammoth tusks excavated in Siberia began to find their way to China. By the year A.D., 1,000 Arab traders dominated the enterprise. When Marco Polo returned to Venice in 1295 and described the goods and glories of the East, chief among them ivory, every seafaring nation in Europe began to search for routes to India and the Far East. A history of ivory poaching would have to go back to the Portuguese navigators (Alexander, pg. 71).

African elephants have ivory tusks that are valuable in certain cultures and used for different purposes. Often the ivory is hollowed out and used as an instrument or a horn. One horn is known as an "olifant" which was used in Medieval Times. African natives carve the ivory into trophies or trinkets. Ivory was used in fine Roman furniture, both as veneer and as inlay (Alexander, pg. 78).

The African elephant, the largest land animal on the planet, stands out as one of the most potent symbols of the animal kingdom. The image of the elephant appears on some of the most important ritual objects used in ancestor veneration, masquerades, and rites of passage. Yet it also adorn humble domestic objects (combs, food bowls, heddle pulleys and commercial products (beer, detergent, and postage stamps). Sometimes the elephant is depicted in isolation, other time it is part of a complex scene.

African interpretations of the elephant vary considerably. Although it has been over two hundred years since the Akan people, (of coastal and forest areas of southwest Ghana) have coexisted with the elephant, the symbolic image of the pachyderm continues to inform their visual and verbal arts. Representations of elephants on musical instruments, chiefly regalia, and goldweights, celebrate the might of the beast and simultaneously praise the implied powers of chief executive (ArtsEdNet, pg.1).

For the Bamana peoples of Mali, images of the elephant and other bush animals appear in the masks and puppets of youth association masquerades that celebrate the prowess of the hunter and are danced at the beginning of the hunting season. Distinctive attributes (large ears, trunk, and tusks) of these brightly painted wooden masks identify the character as an elephant.

The physical body of the elephant can also communicate some of the same messages as visual representations of the animal. The ivory, hide, hair, bone, and callus of the animal provide raw materials for many objects, from the ceremonial to the practical. These materials are likely to be used in a leadership context, for they often connote status and power. Ivory, admired for its luster, durability, and strength, remains a desired medium for prestige objects. In its rarity, it communicated messages of power, status, and wealth. In Japan, were ivory trade is thriving; there is a large demand for personal ivory signature seals. In 1996 ivory carved from seventy tusks, worth $90,000 was shipped to Japan (TED Case Studies, pg. 2)

The elephant as material serves many purposes in the secular and sacred life of African cultures. Chiefs in Ghana, Cote d’Ivoire, and elsewhere, for example, hold flywhisks made from the elephant’s tail. As is suggested in the proverb, (Though the elephant’s tail is short, it can nevertheless keep the flies off the elephant) the animal’s tail is a metaphor for the chief’s abilities to solve all problems despite his apparent shortcomings (Pondering, pg. 3). Many people buy these flywhisks made from the elephants tail at the International Festival in Detroit every summer among other African elephants works of art.

Several children books serve as other mediums to depict elephants. Artists such as Jean De Brunhoff and Laurent de Brunhoff wrote and illustrated books about Babar the royal elephant. Walt Disney produced the classic animated Disney film, Dumbo, a baby circus elephant that is cruelly mocked until he realized that his enormous ears are a blessing in disguise.

Artists such as Craig Hilton-Barber who paints wildlife and lives and works on his family owned preserve in Zimbabwe Africa can attest that elephants are truly amazing creatures that we should all learn and earn from. His painting "Beware" oil on canvas sold at $3,550.00 and he has more were that came from. The Preserve, home to the last large breeding herd of Black Rhino is partially supported by the World Wildlife Fund. A portion of all proceeds from the sale of Craig’s work is donated to conservation efforts in Zimbabwe.

In class, we’ve heard a live performance by an all elephant orchestra, many of us have seen the elephant paint pictures, dance, and perform tricks at the circus.

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It is important to remember that indigenous ivory use in Africa never threatened the elephant species. Together with spices, minerals, and slaves, ivory were both incentive and prize for the intense European interest in colonizing Africa. Over the centuries, the decimation of the elephant and the monumental tragedy of the slave trade were in fact linked to the exploration of Africa’s natural resources, including its peoples, by economic and social forces external to the continent.

In conclusion, the high value placed on ivory and man’s uncontrolled craving for such ivory has alone been the greatest cause of the elephant's struggle against extinction. Big game hunting, in both Africa and Asia, has led to a drastic decline in the elephant population over the last century and a half. A more civilized and pleasant way to have ‘elephant trophies, jewelry, and works of art’ at home or in the lodge is to acquire an anatomically correct teak or rosewood sculpture. The precision and beauty of these sculptures, works of art and jewelry will help to remind us that the loss of such creatures from the face of the Earth would indeed be a great tragedy.


Elephant Trivia


How Do You Say It? – "Elephant" In Many Languages


Elephant Poetry


Once there was an elephant,

Who tried to use the telephant--

No! No! I mean an elephone

Who tried to use the telephone—

(Dear me! I am not certain quite

That even now I’ve go it right.)

Howe’er it was, he got his trunk

Entangled in the telephunk;

The more he tried to get it free,

The louder buzzed the telephee—Of elephop and telephong!)

--Laura E. Richards


Elephant Jokes

What is the difference between an elephant and a piece of paper?

You can’t make a paper airplane out of an elephant

Where is the only place in the world an elephant can visit the dentist?

Tuscaloosa, Alabama

What is gray and has a trunk?

An elephant on vacation!

How does an elephant get down from a tree?

He sits on a leaf and waits for the fall.

Why did the elephant cross the road?

Because it was the chicken’s day off!

How do you stop and elephant from charging?

Take away his credit card.

How do you make an elephant float?

A glass of root beer and one scoop of elephant.


Elephants: To kill or not to kill? That is the question

The subject of hunting elephants is very disturbing and alarming. Elephants, both Indian and African, are now considered endangered and threatened species because the entire elephant population has been decimated over the course of the past 20 years. This loss has occurred by various people and for various reasons, chiefly by poachers seeking elephant ivory. The situation is such that bans have been placed and acts have been put into practice outlawing the killing of elephants and the trading of ivory.

The reasons and methods for hunting Asian elephants are entirely different from those used for hunting African elephants. Asian elephants are mostly hunted for training in the service of mankind. Very seldom are Asian elephants hunted for their ivory because only the males have ivory tusks and they are generally much smaller than the ones on the African elephants.

Asian elephants are still killed for their ivory, although not to the extent of African elephants. Still, the numbers are alarming. For example, 100 years ago in Thailand, there were 100,000 elephants living (http://www.phuket.com/conservation. Today it is estimated that only 5,000 survive and 3,000 of those are in captivity. The elephant population is estimated to decrease by 3% yearly. This would mean that if no more elephants are born in Thailand, elephants would be extinct in Thailand in the next 30 years.

The Asian elephants had decreased to such a level that in 1976, CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora), added the Asian elephant to its Appendix I. Animals added to Appendix I are given the greatest level of protection.

The African elephant is not so lucky. He is hunted almost entirely for his tusks. The poachers wait until all of the other family members are gone, if they themselves are still alive. Afterward they use saws to remove the tusks.

Until recently it was illegal to kill an elephant anywhere in Africa. Due to the alarming number of elephants that were killed for their ivory, an international ban was placed on the trading of ivory in 1989. Unfortunately this ban was temporarily lifted in 1997 so that some African countries could sell their surplus of ivory to Japan. Elephants are not the only animals that have ivory. The rhinoceros and walrus are two of the other animals that have ivory, but elephant ivory is the most desirable ivory available. Elephant ivory is preferred because it grows the entire life of the elephant; thus it has the potential to grow as long as 10 feet and weigh as much as 250 pounds.

The second most common reason elephants are hunted is for food. The pygmies of Congo are a prime example of the people that hunt elephants for the meat. An elephant’s carcass can feed a village for several months and up to 1 year.

One acceptable reason to hunt elephants is for the protection of the environment. Elephants are by nature vegetarians and the volume of food needed to sustain them is quite vast. Baby elephants require up to eleven liters of milk per day (Shoshani, 190). Mature elephants eat between 220 and 660 pounds of food to survive daily. They eat approximately sixteen hours per day. They also require lots of living space because of their large size. They need space to roam and they are continually on the move. The problem here lies within the fact that in Africa, the population in 1950 was 220 million. Today there are approximately 740 million people and that number is expected to double by the year 2025 (http://www.panda.org). With less space available to elephants, the chances of an elephant destroying a farmers crops for the season increases. Almost 60% of Africans are subsistence farmers. As such, they depend heavily upon their crops for their own survival.

"To man, who worships freedom above all things, the loss of liberty may appear to be the greatest calamity which can befall any living creature, be it human or animal" (Shebbeare, 57). This truth is evidenced by the fact that humans continuously fight for their freedom(s) and rights. In America, and many other countries, many have fought and died for basic human rights simply because they felt as if they deserved them. Unfortunately they have not always maintained this belief in respect to animals, especially the Asian and African elephant. Man believes in the pursuit of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness – his alone! This essay will discuss the problems associated with elephants, and the reasons and methods used by poachers in the hunting of Asian and African elephants.

The subject of hunting elephants is very disturbing and alarming. Elephants, both Indian and African, are now considered endangered and threatened species because the entire elephant population has been decimated over the course of the past 20 years. This loss has occurred by various people and for various reasons, chiefly by poachers seeking elephant ivory. The situation is such that bans have been placed and acts have been put into practice outlawing the killing of elephants and the trading of ivory.

The reasons and methods for hunting Asian elephants are entirely different from those used for hunting African elephants. Asian elephants are mostly hunted for training in the service of mankind. Very seldom are Asian elephants hunted for their ivory because only the males have ivory tusks and they are generally much smaller than the ones on the African elephants. In the cases where the males alone are killed, this disturbs the male-to-female ratio, availing far fewer bulls to a greater number of cows for the purpose of reproduction. This has a tremendous impact on the future of the Asian elephant, coupled with the fact that the gestation period for a cow is anywhere from fifteen to twenty-two months makes it even more difficult for the population to grow.

The Asian elephants are generally hunted in the dry season, from November to March. They are hunted, captured and sold as workers for logging in mountainous terrain. They are hunted in the dry season when the sources for water are few and it is highly likely that several cows will be found together drinking. They are confined to few water holes. The method for capturing and subsequently training the Asian elephant requires certain individuals with specific skills. In order to catch the Asian elephants, a group of approximately thirty men assemble for the task. These men are called khantis. It is believed that khantis understand elephants and elephants understand khantis. The khantis set up 3 stockades in order to trap and capture the elephants. The first stockade occurs at the water hole. The first team comes after the elephants in the evening after the sun sets. The elephant is very cognizant of what is happening and attempts to escape. Oftentimes the head cow cocks her ears alarming her would-be attackers that they are getting ready to charge them. They are fighting for her freedom. This 6-ton animal is not going to give in easily. She attempts to flee, only to find herself and other members of the herd running directly into the second stockade.

The second stockade consists of several slender upright poles that are close together. Slivers of rattan cane hold these poles together and from the inside of the stockade they are invisible. This stockade has a circular shape (See Appendix A). It is approximately twenty-two yards in diameter and the walls are twelve feet tall (Shebbeare, 62). This is effective because the Asian elephants are generally no taller than 8 feet tall. Once inside, some of the elephants will attempt to stampede the walls. Of course, the keepers with the usage of spears and torches discourage them. Another deterrent is a 4 -5 foot ditch is dug around the perimeter of the stockade that further inhibits the elephants from stampeding the walls. Many times the elephants are left in this stockade anywhere from a couple of hours to a couple of days without food and water. By the time they give up on escaping they are extremely tired and hungry, thus their training begins. Interestingly enough, they are escorted out of the 2nd stockade and into the 3rd stockade by the kunkis. The kunkis are tamed elephants used to train the wild elephants. The kunkis are generally larger than the newly captured elephants.

The method for training Asian elephants is rather brutal. They are tied very closely to a tree by the neck (See Appendix B), which sometimes give them blisters. They are taken to and from the water holes by the kunkis. The kunkis are trained to unloose and re-tether the noose about the wild elephants’ neck. After a couple of days, the trainers take the legs of the captured elephants and stretches the front and back legs so that they are around 4 to 5 feet apart. The trainers take the elephants’ legs and tie them to a tree at their ankles. This is not a natural position for elephants because the elephants’ front legs are normally a couple of feet from the back legs, whereas when they are stretched, the front legs are 4 to 5 feet wider than the back legs and this is not a normal position for elephants. This stretched position makes standing on all four legs difficult and tiring. A cow will generally lean or kneel on her front legs in order to get some relief. This generally goes on for 10 to 15 days depending on the willingness of the cow to comply. After the cow realizes that she cannot free herself from the ropes around her legs, she gives up and is considered broken. At this point a wild elephant begins to act like a tame elephant and at this point they are taken to an auction to be bought by individuals or dealers. The training period lasts much longer for more stubborn elephants. The khantis have been known to brutally beat the elephants, bite their ears and make them bleed because of the many veins found in their very vulnerable ears.

Asian elephants are still killed for their ivory, although not to the extent of African elephants. Still, the numbers are alarming. For example, 100 years ago in Thailand, there were 100,000 elephants living (http://www.phuket.com/conservation. Today it is estimated that only 5,000 survive and 3,000 of those are in captivity. The elephant population is estimated to decrease by 3% yearly. This would mean that if no more elephants are born in Thailand, elephants would be extinct in Thailand in the next 30 years.

An elephant killed for its ivory.

The Asian elephants had decreased to such a level that in 1976, CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora), added the Asian elephant to its Appendix I. Animals added to Appendix I are given the greatest level of protection.



The African elephant is not so lucky. He is hunted almost entirely for his tusks. Poachers and left to die almost always gun down the African elephants. The poachers wait until all of the other family members are gone, if they themselves are still alive. Afterward they use saws to remove the tusks. What must be understood is that tusks are simply teeth. Elephants do not have canine teeth; instead they have tusks, which are the upper incisors that are lodged into very deeply into sockets in the elephants’ skull. These teeth are used for digging, resting their heavy trunks, protection and even greeting each other. Imagine a dentist hunting you down for your teeth and brutally murdering you because that is the only way that they can dislodge them from your skull. This is exactly what happens when elephants are gunned down, killed and robbed of their beautiful ivory.

The number of elephants killed for ivory has fluctuated over time. There has always been a demand for elephant ivory throughout history, but after World War I, the demand lessened. In 1970 there was an upsurge in demand. The Asian countries, in particular were the largest consumers of elephant ivory throughout most of history and especially during this time. One of the reasons the demand was so great was because the ivory was used for things such as the hanko (http://www.asahi-jc.com). A hanko is a signature block made up of the signers last name used to sign documents and such. Almost everyone uses them because they do not sign their names with pen and ink.

Until recently it was illegal to kill an elephant anywhere in Africa. Due to the alarming number of elephants that were killed for their ivory, an international ban was placed on the trading of ivory in 1989. Unfortunately this ban was temporarily lifted in 1997 so that some African countries could sell their surplus of ivory to Japan. During this time, Botswana, Namibia and Zimbabwe’s elephants were downlisted from Appendix to Appendix II, which in essence lifted the international ivory trade ban for those countries. Elephants are not the only animals that have ivory. The rhinoceros and walrus are two of the other animals that have ivory, but elephant ivory is the most desirable ivory available. Elephant ivory is preferred because it grows the entire life of the elephant; thus it has the potential to grow as long as 10 feet and weigh as much as 250 pounds. Elephant ivory is very beautiful, durable and suitable for carving. It does not burn and is not easily damaged. Elephant ivory also polishes beautifully. The elephant ivory is easily workable with woodworking tools; therefore no special tools are needed when carving it. Objects created from ivory last for a very long time. For example, the ivory keys on a piano may turn colors and become a little worn, but even in an older piano, the keys are generally in very good shape. Also, if you take a look at billiard balls that were formerly made of elephant ivory these balls stand up to heavy force and generally do not lose their shine and luster. There are many, many uses for elephant ivory, but if the ivory were taken after a natural death it would not be as bad. The fact that they are killed for their tusks is very upsetting.

The second largest reason elephants are hunted is for food. The pygmies of Congo are a prime example of the people that hunt elephants for the meat. An elephant’s carcass can feed a village for several months and up to 1 year. The old pygmy’s technique for hunting elephants is really rather unique. With the pygmies, the hunting of an elephant is a 1-man job. While most hunters use guns, the pygmies use broad, sharp spears with a thick shaft. The pygmy chooses the elephant that he wants to hunt and it is usually a young animal out on the edge of the herd. They study their prey, following them wherever they go, until they know the elephant’s habits and personality (Armand, 106). They literally roll around and get covered in fresh elephant dung. They do this until the smell of man is eliminated and is replaced by the smell of elephant, which takes 2 to 3 days (Armand, 105). After they have come to know the habits and patterns of their prey, the go in for the kill by waiting until the elephant is getting sleepy. The pygmy silently glides through the forest between the legs of the sleepy animal. The elephant’s sense of hearing is acute when he is asleep and the slight move of a branch could mean the pygmies death if he is heard. The pygmy, when he is ready, thrusts the spear into the belly of the elephant. He must be careful to move out of the way at the right moment so that he himself does not get caught and trampled to death. He must withdraw his spear and run away from the herd quickly from the elephant’s huge feet. Unfortunately this way of hunting the elephant inflicts lots of pain and suffering on the elephant because it takes several days for the elephant to die (Armand, 106). In actuality, this is the beginning of the hunt for the pygmy because he must continue to follow the elephant until he dies. He has to follow the trail of blood left by the wounded elephant.

Just before the elephant dies, the pygmy cuts off the tail to take back to his tribe as proof that he has killed an elephant. They then return to the place where the elephant lies in order to feast on the elephant meat. It could take up to 10 days to reach the place where the dead elephant lies. Upon arrival to the elephant’s carcass, the pygmies perform a ceremony, eat some of the meat raw, cook some for the older members of the tribe who have no teeth, and attempt to preserve some for later. It is brutal, but amazing that a 3 to 4 foot person can kill an 8-ton creature. Clearly in this case, the pygmy is not after the elephants ivory, but after its meat. Not all pygmy tribes hunt elephants only a few.

Elephants are such intelligent and beautiful animals and it is difficult to understand why anyone would hunt and kill them, especially for selfish gain. There are, obviously, good and bad reasons for hunting elephants. In the case of the pygmies, it is for survival, for food. It is not something that is done by all pygmy tribes and certainly not something that diminishes the elephants in great numbers. Their reason for killing elephants, in my opinion, is reasonable and justifiable. They do not go after the larger elephants and they are not attempting to profit from elephant tusks.

Another acceptable reason to hunt elephants is for the protection of the environment. Elephants are by nature vegetarians and the volume of food needed to sustain them is quite vast. Baby elephants require up to eleven liters of milk per day (Shoshani, 190). Mature elephants eat between 220 and 660 pounds of food to survive daily. They eat approximately sixteen hours per day. They also require lots of living space because of their large size. They need space to roam and they are continually on the move. The problem here lies within the fact that in Africa, the population in 1950 was 220 million. Today there are approximately 740 million people and that number is expected to double by the year 2025 (http://www.panda.org). With more people living on the continent, the space that they had to roam freely is being cultivated for human use. As a result, there is an insufficient amount of undisturbed habitat left for the elephants. Many of the countries within Africa find it difficult to feed the people, so the feeding of elephants is even less important to them.

With less space available to elephants, the chances of an elephant destroying a farmers crops for the season increases. Almost 60% of Africans are subsistence farmers. As such, they depend heavily upon their crops for their own survival. They can in no way afford to spare their food for the elephant. It is truly difficult and tragic, but in this case the transportation and culling of elephants becomes necessary.

Culling elephants is just one of the efforts aimed at conserving elephants. This is certainly reasonable and does not threaten the elephants with the possibility of extinction. A certain number of elephants are legally killed to curb the population. This practice is currently being carried out in South Africa. The proceeds go back into the community so that there is less opportunity for bribes to be taken by the elephant keepers.

Elephants, like humans, deserve to live. So much has been discovered about elephants including their behavior and social patterns, their system of communication, and their family structures. Elephants are extremely unique creatures. The killing of elephants in unavoidable, but the concept of culling decreases the volume of the killings.

In response to whether killing elephants should or not be allowed depends on motive and point of view. For a poor farmer who cannot afford for his crops to be destroyed, the answer could be yes; to the pygmy, the answer could be yes, but in moderation; to the uneducated, poor man that can’t find work who turns to poaching as a way to make a living, the answer, again, could be yes, but to the young elephant learning how to be an elephant and learning how to survive, the answer is certainly no! For those that are concerned and amazed with elephant behavior, the answer would be no! So, which answer is correct? To kill or not to kill is a question that I would not want to answer.

There are several reasons for banning the trade of ivory and the killing of elephants in general. The number of elephants that remain today is small compared to just 30 years ago. When the death rate is greater than the birth rate of any specie, the possibility of extinction exists. The extinction of elephants would be an absolute tragedy for elephants and humans alike. Unfortunately, in 1999 the ivory trade ban was removed and countries are now free to sell their ivory to Japan. This makes it virtually impossible to stop the meaningless slaughter of elephants. Many of the countries are in so much debt that they cannot any relief from the International Monetary Fund (IMF). In such cases, governments have no way of distinguishing between the stockpiles of ivory and the ivory taken from a recent slaying of elephants. While this ban was lifted for certain countries, there is almost no way of keeping other countries from joining in. In fact, most poachers just heard that the ban was lifted. That is certainly enough for them to start killing elephants for tusks again. Unfortunately, history dictates that where there is a ban placed, a black market for forbidden articles arises. In this situation, not only will a black market arise, but also it will certainly thrive without a system of checks and balances in place.


Internet Sources













Where Did All the Elephants Go?

Elephants with their massive size and huge presence once roamed the earth in large numbers and many species. In the 21st Century, they exist in the wild in only two continents and three species the Asian Elephant or the Elephas Maximus and the African elephants or the Loxodonta africana africanaz (the larger of the two) and, Loxodonta africana cyclotis. How is it that such an animal is now on the endangered species list? Well, let’s consider its predators: Humans.

The large absence of our trunked friends is largely due to the large numbers that have been slaughtered for a prize commodity. Ivory is highly favored in places like Japan and since elephants produce it, they get the short end of the stick. In a decade (1979-89), the demand for ivory has caused a significant decline in the elephant population. As reported by a recent PBS program, The Elephants of Africa, 1.3 million elephants lived in Africa in 1977 and now there are less than 600,000 in the wild. Of the Asian elephant, less than 50,000 remain.

In addition to poaching, the Elephant has fallen victim to the ever-growing human population. As humans continue to populate areas in Africa and Asia, the elephant loses its habitat. Farmers also consider them a nuisance. Elephants also harm their own environment by overuse.

Many conservation efforts are underway to change the fate of both the African elephants. One such program is part of the American Wildlife Foundation’s Conservation Service Centers (CSC). CSC staff help establish fair agreements between communities and experienced corporations or small businesses. Such arrangements provide returns for the company, steady income, and jobs for local residents and in turn, room for wildlife. The CSC has been successful in establishing or is currently working on agreements in the following regions: a.) Ololosokwan, Serengeti, northern Tanzania b.) Loisaba, Laikipia, northern Kenya and c.) Taita, southeast Kenya.

The United States Government has also gotten into the conservation business. On November 19, 1997, the U.S. Congress signed the Asian Elephant Conservation Act into law. This act makes financial resources available for conservation programs within the Asian elephant range states. In 1995 Ringling Brothers and Barium & Bailey established a 200-acre Center for Elephant Conservation dedicated to the conservation, study and breeding of the Asian elephant.

Elephants are a very important and precious part of our history and our future. Let us aid in the worthy cause of their conservation.


Appendix A

Source: Shebbeare, p.63

Stockade used to trap Asian elephants



Appendix B

Source: Shebbeare, p.69

Elephant noosed for training








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