Where the blood pumps through the veins in their Africa-shaped ears, a leathery map of river channels appears. Or maybe it is a map of the well-used pathways across the dusty plain of winter-stricken terrain – routes their ancestors have walked for thousands of kilometres over thousands of years.
Whichever way you look at it, elephants are a part of the landscape and World Elephant Day stands to remind us of that.
Their giant footprints have pock-marked Earth’s surface for generations, each set belonging to an animal whose lifetime can span 60 years. Their young are cared for, taught, and protected by the members of the herd. As female relatives, sisters, mothers and daughters, aunts and cousins, they are invested in one another and they stick together, living under the leadership of their matriarch.
We share a lot of characteristics with elephants. We can relate to their relationships and the emotions they express; joy, sadness, curiosity, wariness, playfulness, trust and distrust. We’ve witnessed elephants showing affection to one another, and comforting one another in a time of sadness or remembrance.
It seems unfathomable that these expressive, powerful, intelligent animals land up in circuses or petting zoos; chained, confined to tame their wild instincts and pander to our human desires to be closer than close.
What could be better than watching elephants tenderly reach out to one another, coddle their calves, rejoice in the presence of water, strip the leaves from trees and feast joyously and in abundance?
Let World Elephant Day once again stand as a reminder to choose ethical tourism activities that pay respect to elephants and enhance their wellbeing. Spending time in the natural world where elephants roam the savanna is one of the most rewarding experiences of life.
Support organisations that protect elephant habitats, act against ivory poaching, reverse the damage inflicted by snaring, and invest in the longevity of this species.
After all, they wear the map of our world on their ears.
Written by Chloe Cooper
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