8th wonder of the world – elephants! (CTST)

Lou prepares for her bath and mani-pedi, given by men, women and children who couldn’t wait to get up close and personal with the elephants. Look at those sizable toenails? What color of nail polish do you think would look good with her eyes? © Photos by Diane Weidenbenner, 2016

Note: This is also my Celebrate the Small Things entry for the week, although that’s a bit of a misnomer, since elephants are large and amazing!

Recently, two friends and I went to visit three beautiful, amazing African rescue elephants who were spending their summer vacation near French Lick, Indiana, at the Wilstem Ranch. We love animals so when the opportunity to “give them a mani-pedi” came to our attention, we had to go. You could choose either an educational hour with the elephants or you could choose to learn about them and give them a bath, including cleaning and moisturizing their feet.

Makia enjoys a refreshing beverage in-between services at the Wilstem Ranch near French Lick, Indiana.

When will you ever have the opportunity to get up close and personal with elephants to help them with their daily bathing/pampering routine? Just as with any spa experience, it was necessary for us to make reservations!

We stayed at a bed-and-breakfast Friday night so we could be bright and bushy-tailed for our elephant introduction at 9 the next morning.

We were taken to their newly built indoor shelter that has roomy stalls for the elephants to sleep in. All three elephants were rescued and now enjoy their days roaming freely over acres of lush, tree-filled land. They are bathed twice daily as part of their hygiene routine and you can tell they enjoy every minute of it.

The oldest elephant, Makia, is 42 and she was also the biggest of the three. It looked like she might have some cataracts forming but it didn’t seem to bother her.

Lovie is known as the problem child. She was born with only one tusk so perhaps she feels she has to make up for it with more personality?

Even though adults and children alike standing next to them could be crushed by a slight shift of the elephants body or feet, the animals are polite, mild-mannered and very careful of their caretakers.

Lovie was born with only one tusk and she’s the most “spirited” of the three, causing trouble sometimes. When we were there, and the elephants were brought out for us to touch and observe closely, Lovie was put in the corner stall away from the crowd because she had been especially hard to handle that morning.

Lou, was the youngest of the three elephants and also the smallest. You could tell they all had distinct personalities. Depending on their habitats, elephants can live to be 60-80 years old. Can you imagine the size of the birthday cake necessary to accommodate the birthday girl and all of her friends?!

Sandy and Kris participated in the bathing of the elephants and I was content taking pictures, and petting them towards the end. Unfortunately, I didn’t get a photo of Kris in all her glory, brushing the elephant, but she enjoyed it and the two of them got to experience the elephants twice since there was time at the end of the session. It was a great day spending time with friends!

My friend, Sandy (center), and the owner spray soap on the elephant’s back. The feet are done last, with an oily moisturizer applied with a large paint brush.

I have to bring this up, because it was amazing to witness, even though it’s not the most pleasant topic. When the elephants had to use the elephant restroom, it’s not like they could just excuse themselves. Urinating was not really a big deal, since there was plenty of clean water to hose everything down. When the elephant had to evacuate her bowels, however, it was a major event. The assistant had to rush over with a jumbo rubber trash can and place it strategically in order to catch the poo. In true spa fashion, the elephants were then misted with a pleasant smelling spray so as to not offend anyone.

You can bet she is purring as they clean and brush behind her ears.

It’s no wonder they eat between 300-600 pounds of food a day – their metabolisms must be on overdrive. Did you know they actually make paper and journals out of elephant poo? It certainly is in large supply!

I had to read up on elephants before our visit, and although there are many amazing attributes, here are my most favorite, in no particular order:

♥  African elephants are the largest animals on Earth.

♥  They are vegetarians (grasses, bark, roots, sugarcane) and we watched them pick up apples with their trunks and eat them whole. You know what they say? An apple a day …

♥  Their seemingly tough hide is
actually very sensitive and they can feel a mosquito. They also get callouses on their head and backs which eventually slough off and start the process all over again.

Look at those beautiful eyes and long eyelashes. She could be a model for a Maybelline commercial, right?!

♥  Like dogs and cats, they like to be brushed behind the ears. They also purr (heard as a rumble), when they are being bathed.

♥  They form deep family bonds and live in tight-knit herds of female elephants. Males leave the family unit when they become teenagers and live alone most of the time. Elephants also display signs of great grief, joy, anger and play.

♥  Elephants have amazing memories and can remember people after being apart for a long time. This long-term memory also helps them find favorite water holes located miles a

♥  Their trunk is divided into
two by a membrane and they can play the harmonica. No, really, they can!

The three elephants will be in Indiana until the end of October, when the temperature drops. I guess you could say they are “snowbirds” who like to winter in Florida with their owners.


  1. Reply

    I love your first and last photos so much because of the eyes. It’s always about the eyes for me for human and all animals photography.
    I also love the idea of a rescue shelter for elephants. These majestic creatures need it.

    1. Reply

      Thank you for your feedback. I appreciate it. You are right about the eyes, and they are hard to photograph so when you are able to capture a moment, it’s awesome. Thanks for visiting my blog!

  2. Reply

    This is wonderful! I lived in IN for a while but I’ve never seen a live elephant. Apparently IN got more interesting after I left! lol. Thanks for all the pics and the details about elephants. It’s amazing their skin is so sensitive, they like baths and mani-peddies, and they can play a harmonica! Have a great weekend!

    1. Reply

      Thanks for visiting my blog. I found it amazing that this ranch in Indiana is where these beautiful creatures come for the summer. They also have zebras (also rescue), and then they offer horseback rides, ATV rides and ziplining. I’m from Denver so it’s fun to discover unique things to see and do in Indiana. Perhaps it’s time for you to visit Indiana again 😉

  3. Reply

    What a neat experience! Makes me want to take a trip there and see the elephants for myself. Love the pics!

    1. Reply

      We’re already planning on visiting again next year. It was super hot and humid when we went so next time, we want to go when it’s more tolerable. The elephants didn’t seem to mind but then they WERE the one getting the pampering!

  4. Reply

    Wonderful post. I love the last picture – as if you could see into her soul.

    1. Reply

      Thank you for visiting my blog. Their eyes are very soulful. Amazing creatures!

  5. Reply

    What an informative post, interesting read 🙂

  6. Reply

    I love the elephant! I travel and take photos like this. You’re so knowledgeable about elephants.
    I went to the zoo in Asia over the summer and photographed elephants. Maybe I can use them in blog photos one day. (Do you remember how to..) or something like that.
    Congratulations on being Danny Ray’s featured blogger. I was his featured blogger too!
    Maybe you can check out my site if you need a blogging tip or two. That’s what I write about.

    1. Reply

      I bet your photos are wonderful! Did you have a good experience in Asia? I will visit your site this weekend. Thanks for visiting my site. I enjoy reading tips from other bloggers so I look forward to it. Have a great weekend!

  7. Reply

    Elephants are amazing and I love your photos. I didn’t know their trunk was divided in two or that they could play the harmonica! Amazing and cool.

    1. Reply

      Thanks for visiting my blog! I appreciate the encouragement.

  8. Reply

    Loved this post! It’s not often you get to see elephants up close and personal. Thanks for all the great details. I had no idea paper and journals could be made out of elephant poo. Or that elephants could play the harmonica. Great photos, too!

    1. Reply

      I was amazed at how interesting the elephants were also. Thanks for visiting my blog and the encouragement. It’s much appreciated! Hope you’re enjoying the fall!

  9. Reply

    Wow, what a wonderful encounter. Glad to hear the elephants are being so well cared for. Who wouldn’t love a good bath? Looks like fun.

    1. Reply

      Thank you for visiting, Tamara! It was such a fun experience – they are amazing animals.

    1. Reply

      Thank you! Have a great week!

  10. Reply

    What an experience! Thanks for all of the pictures and the information. Kind of makes me want to have the chance to scrub an elephant’s ear too 🙂

    1. Reply

      I know, right?!

Leave a Reply

Leave a Reply