Getting to Know an Elephant

July 27, 2013 Christine McDonald Wild Animals

Relatives of today’s elephants lived in Oregon, not so long ago. It must have been something to be in the company of large mastodons and mammoths, with 14-17 feet long curving tusks, on the heads of animals 2- 3 times my height. Both the mastodon and the mammoth roamed North America from Alaska to Florida, and adapted to numerous climatic changes. The woolly mammoth could possibly have survived the last ice age had it not been for man’s predatory nature. These royal mammals have been extinct for about 10,000 years, with evidence of a few enduring individuals surviving until 7,000 years ago.

At different times in Earth’s history there have been as many as 353 known species of elephants. Today, elephants are confined to two main species, the African elephant and the Asian elephant. Most paleontologists and biologists would agree the elephant is one of the most unusual creatures on the planet. Its ability to adapt and change may account for its creative and distinctive characteristics.

The elephant is the largest land mammal on the planet. Standing 10-12 feet at the shoulder an African elephant can weigh ten tons. An elephant’s cushiony feet, have seismic sensors in them to pick up vibrations as far as twenty miles away.  They use their large front toenails to tap against the surface of the Earth to send information in some morse code like signal. Their trunk is a novel adaptation of over 100,000 nasal muscles and is one of the most expressive organs in the entire animal kingdom. This “fifth limb” gives the elephant dexterity to maneuver and manipulate objects.  Their large ears add another dimensional oddity. The African elephant’s ears are twice as large as the Asian elephant’s ears. They express emotions, signal danger and control body temperature.

elliesElephants and humans have much in common, even though genetically we are extremely different.  We share our warm blood, our communal societies, the length of our lives, our ability to remember and learn, and to shed tears and express grief at death. In many ways the elephant trunk is even more versatile than the human hand. It is capable of lifting weights exceeding a thousand pounds and can pick up and discern between objects one tenth of an inch in diameter. Like humans, the brains of an elephant child are not fully developed at birth and require their dependence on their elders, and a complex social structure to mature. Elephants are truly amazing wonders of our planetary existence!

Elephants are just as mysterious as they are odd looking. Ganesh, an elephant headed God, is revered in Hinduism as the remover of obstacles. Buddha was known to tame wild elephants and is believed to be one of his reincarnations.  Elephants have been celebrated for their strength and nobility.  Prehistoric cave drawings depict mammoth like creatures throughout Europe.  South African cave art of elephants can be seen at over 5,000 sites. Lyall Watson’s book, Elephantoms revealed elephant mysticism in his story of an elephant phantom he encountered in the wilds of South Africa as a child. Numerous accounts around the globe have described elephant like ghosts associated at sites where elephant species once existed. My research left me wanting to know more about these ancient guardians of the Earth.

Elephants have showed up in my dreams numerous times, with insightful messages. I am gifted to be clairaudient and have worked with many animals on the inner planes. I was surprised when an elephant showed up in my conscious awareness as I was turning inward on a quiet summer afternoon in Portland, Oregon. I have included elephants in my prayers and had made a commitment to understand them and their plight more as part of the Corelight group committed to helping the elephants, whales, rhinoceros, dolphins and wild horses. But at the time it happened, I was not consciously asking to be connected to an elephant. It just happened.

The top of the elephant’s head drew me inward as I became aware of the large fan like ears; first one ear, and then the other, moving in a rhythmic fashion, cooling a massive body on a warm savannah day. The top of a broad head felt very open and I found myself settling more and more into an elephant body as we merged together. I sensed the indentations behind the ears, and became aware of the muscles moving the ears. Our connection deepened as we communicated in this non-verbal way over the next few days.

I am not sure why this particular elephant showed up in my consciousness, or if perhaps this was a mysterious elephant from some historic time like the phantom elephants described by Lyall Watson. It arose in my consciousness as I was researching the plight of the elephants and going through news stories about poaching of elephants, the demand for ivory, and the brutal assault of these animals in the name of ignorance, poverty and greed. It was disturbing to think of what was happening to these majestic beings and even more disturbing to think they may not be with us if the present rate of poaching continues.

We have lost three quarters of the world’s elephants in the last 10 years. At the present rate of destruction, there may not be any elephants in the wild within the next ten years.  News articles talked about the high price of illegal ivory and how it is being used to support militant guerilla groups and terrorist activity.  The poaching of African and Asian elephants has exploded as the demand for ivory has grown in Asia. On the current market an elephant tusk can sell for $1,000 a pound.

The only way I could get through the news reports, and stay connected to my emotions was by keeping a bottle of flower essences nearby. I had to wonder what dire circumstances existed in Africa and India to create such an ugly drama resulting in over 30,000- 40,000 elephants poached every year, and another 10,000 dying as a result of orphaned and abandoned young, and loss of herd structure. The hardest hit areas are in central Africa, where the African Forest Elephant, a smaller subspecies of the African elephant, have plummeted 76 percent in the last decade.

In Asia, habitat destruction and poaching of the male elephants for their tusks has made the Asian elephant almost extinct. Only 800 bull elephants remain of the 20,000 Asian elephants in India. Their numbers and the genetic viability of healthy herds are dwindling every year as more elephants are poached.

As challenging as it was, doing the research opened something up in me. The elephant’s vulnerability and my own seemed to merge as I realized the extinction of elephants may happen in my lifetime. As I got to know this elephant more, I sensed she was a younger and smaller female in the herd.  I could feel her love for the Earth, her connection to her family, and a bigger cosmic connection with humanity. I found her company very grounding and comforting despite our meeting in vulnerability.

For several days, I felt “my” elephant nearby. If I was questioning the connection, I could find her by parting the veils of consciousness, like layers of curtains. As I was meditating one morning, I felt her again, but this time she was accompanied by a woman. A wise African woman placed the palm of her hand on the leathery skin, and recited a chant. The elephant was very receptive and I felt my own hands tingling as I witnessed some ancient ritual between species.

I cannot imagine a world where elephants no longer exist in the wild.  While research may continue on their unique adaptations and physical characteristics, they are poorly understood as spiritual beings. They have a sacred function that is yet to be revealed to humanity and it may take the opening of the global heart before we will know their higher purpose. They are more like us than not, despite our differences, and if we stand by and allow them to become extinct we will have missed an opportunity.

Sharon Callahan, an animal intuitive, from Mt Shasta writes in an animal communication with the elephants, “Many species are being forced from the Earth through extermination before human sensitivity develops the capacity to understand their profound significance and their sacred function. A very sad human shortcoming. When animal species become “extinct” of course they do not cease to exist. Their souls simply take refuge in the realms of light from which they came.”  Each species on the Earth at this time has a sacred function.  If the elephants leave without us understanding their significance, others, as history has shown us like the woolly mammoths and mastodons will follow.  The elephants communicating through Sharon go on to say, “To wipe out a species thusly placed is to move toward annihilation of your own species. It is only a matter of time. We must look upon one another as sacred beings with a sacred task to perform in sacred timing.”

What You Can Do:

Pray for the elephants. Join the Corelight prayer circle for elephants.  Use this prayer or create your own:

Blessed Oneness, that which I am and which we all are in our deepest Essence, please communicate to those gentle giants of the Earth, the elephants, that I stand in strength and solidarity with them. I offer this prayer from my heart for their healing and well-being.

I pray that they may find support where they need it and compassion instead of abuse. May the humans they come in contact with respect and honor who they are as sentient beings. May they be blessed with peace and a fear-free life and held in loving kindness. I offer great gratitude knowing this will be so. Thank you, Amen.

Follow the updates on elephants, rhinos, whales, dolphins and wild mustangs  on the For Love of Wild Animals Facebook page.

An Action List from the World Elephant Day website:

  • Study elephants in their “keystone” role in the environment and interrelationships with plants and other animals because all of nature is interconnected.
  • Learn about and support organizations that are working to protect habitat for wild elephants and finding solutions for human-elephant conflict.
  • Support organizations that are working to stop the illegal poaching and trade of elephant ivory and other wildlife products.
  • Support organizations that are building natural sanctuaries and alternative habitat for domesticated elephants to live freely.
  • Do not support organizations that exploit or abuse elephants and other animals for entertainment and profit.
  • If you wish to experience elephants in their natural environment choose eco-tourism operators who support local elephant conservation projects who treat elephants with respect and dignity.
  • Support healthy, alternative, sustainable livelihoods for people who have traditionally relied on elephants, wild animals and natural resources. Learn about indigenous cultures that have traditionally lived in harmony with elephants.
  • Be an elephant-aware consumer.  Do not buy ivory or other wildlife products.  Do not buy coffee that is not fair-traded or shade-grown, nor products with palm-oil. These commercial crops are grown in plantations that have decimated elephant habitats. Only buy wood products that have been certified by the Forest Stewardship Council, which promotes responsible management of the world’s forests, which is the natural habitat for elephants and other wildlife.
  • Talk about elephants at your school.  Initiate an elephant study group to share knowledge and ideas about the plight of elephants and what can be done to ensure their survival into the future.
  • What do you love about elephants?  Their intelligence, empathy and caring for one another are just a few of their qualities.  Embrace these qualities and live them in your own life.
  • Use your love of elephants and World Elephant Day, August 12, to start a conversation with the next person you meet. Tie a string around your finger right now so, like an elephant, you don’t forget!

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