Elephant memories

Tellington TTouch Equine Practitioner, Tina Hutton, recently alerted me to a fascinating study on elephant intelligence posted on Discovery News Video on Animals: Elephants Show Cooperation on Test. Check it out!


Tina has been teaching TTouch and riding for more than two decades and is an MBS Feldenkrais Practitioner incorporating cutting-edge concepts in her trainings. Tina commented:

“Very interesting research. I am studying more and more about brain intelligence , both from brain research in the human format, and in my own experiences of working with animals…. and love how TTouch works so well in that concept of expanding an animal’s ways of thinking and learning to figure out new ideas,tasks, situations…very cool!”

Check out her website at www.tinahutton.com .

This link reminded me of my time at the Sheldrick Wildilife Trust.  I had the special privilege of spending several hours
with tiny orphan elephants and young rhinos at Daphne Sheldrick’s sanctuary in Nairobi, Kenya in 1990. This was in a time where there were few visitors and Annegret Ast and Harriet Crosby and I had the joy of interacting with two of the orphans.

I recently met with Annegret’s daughter, Amilee in Salzburg and she told me she has a scrapbook with photos of us with the Sheldrick ele’s.

Here is an entry from my journal.

With a baby Elephant in 1990.

December 19. Sunday. Nairobi
Off to Sheidrick’s Animal Orphanage which I’ve seen on a TV documentary. The Sheldricks have been caring for orphaned animals for many years – primarily elephants and rhinos. This is the only private residence inside the Nairobi National Park. Daphne Sheldrick is away on Safari, but her daughter Jill, met us. We were greeted by two yearling elephants, two yearling rhinos, to tiny 3 and I month old elephants and a yard full of warthogs!

The two baby elephants had just finished their noon feeding and came out for play. They are attended 24 hours a day. Fiona, the little female is 3 months old. She was found after her mother was shot by poachers. She appears cheerful and “smiles” and plays.

Dika, the little male, was found November ill at about three months old. He is still depressed and obviously misses his mother. Fiona and Dika both wear blankets most of the day to protect them from the sunburn. Normally their mothers stand over them to protect them from the sun. These two aren’t much bigger than a Great Dane.

Sheldrick’s don’t believe in punishing the elephants. They treat them only with reward. If one gets out of line the worst reprimand they need is a light rap with the knuckles on the forehead, but Jill said that is very rare.

The male keepers obviously love the elephants. They rolled out a big softly blown up inner tube from a tractor tire and the elephants, sometimes three at a time, came and sat and rolled around and lay in the tube sometimes on top of each other and on top of their keepers who playfully encouraged them to throw sand over their backs and roll around.

We were allowed to play with the youngest two, who were fascinated by our hair – somewhat longer than the keepers’. Harriet and I squatted so Dika and Fiona could chew on our hair and wrap their trunks around our heads. They somehow found this most intriguing. It was a funny feeling to have an elephants tongue pulling my hair.

During the day the elephants wander into the woods of the park – always accompanied by the keepers – as protection from the lions.

I just read Daphne Sheldrick’s new book, “An African Love Story“. It’s an inspiring story and I highly recommend it.

Another book I loved and was so sorry to finish is “Secrets of the Savanna: Twenty-Three Years In nThe African Wilderness Unraveling The Mysteries of Elephants And People” by Mark and Delia Owens.

This is about their elephant research in Zambia. They are compelling story-tellers and I felt as though I know them intimately after reading their book. It is especially interesting to me because Harriet Crosby and I spent 10 days with Sheila and David Siddel at their Chimfunsi Chimpansee Sanctuary in Zambia just before our stop over at Daphne Sheldrick’s sanctuary in Kenya.

At the Chimfunsi Chimpansee Sanctury we saw an elephant graveyard where the Sheila and David Siddel had seen elephants spending a long time delicately touching elephant bones in a way that they appearing to be remembering. Just standing in
the middle of those remaining bones had a special energy.

The time spent with the elephants was so special and their amazing ability to cooperate and connect with one another on such a deep level is something that all beings can learn from.

© 2012, Linda Tellington-Jones. All rights reserved.

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