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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
♥ 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.