E is for Elephant

One of my favorite animals of all time. I had a couple of stuffed elephant toys growing up and I loved seeing them in cartoons.

They seem to be big gentle animals, but if they are made mad, they could do a lot of damage with their size. They are very smart and they have emotional concern when other elephants are hurt or in danger. Kind of like the intuition dogs have when it comes to the things and people they care about.

The children’s book character, Babar the Elephant, was first published in France in 1931 by Jean de Brunhoff. There were many stories written about Babar, but there was also a lot of concern about the first book, The Story of Babar. The fact this was marketed as a children’s book has many parents concerned with the Mother elephant being shot dead by a hunter early in the story. Maybe a little too startling to be a bedtime story.

As kids, the Disney movie, Dumbo, gave us an interesting view of them. The movie premiered on October 23, 1941 and was the shortest animated Disney feature at 64 minutes. Dumbo, who was actually named Jumbo, Jr., was ridiculed because his ears were bigger than normal. A mouse named Timothy helps him build his confidence to reach his full potential, to fly.

I remember when a circus train let the animals off by the house I grew up in. They had to walk to Met Center, the venue where the circus took place. For all of the fun and performing that we saw, we had no idea how elephants were being treated behind the scenes. After reading Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen, she shows their compassionate side coming through despite  how the animal trainers treated them.

Even though we see them in zoos, Africa and Asia are their natural habitat. Elephants are herbivorous and  eat leaves, twigs, fruit, bark, grass and roots. Their ivory tusks have also been in high demand, even in some cases stolen and sold on the black market.

I wonder why we show them as such a gentle animal in some places, but we treat them as something to be feared. From what I’ve seen and read, I don’t think we really understand them.

What did you think?

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