Elephant ride at Elephant Whispers in South Africa

Elephant Encounter – amazing facts

Have you ever seen the inside of an elephant’s mouth, stood between its front legs or stroked its back and survived to tell the tale? I also studied the sole of an elephant’s foot (it has toenails). Did you know that elephants are matriarchal? That the moms raise the children and discipline them? Or even that teenage elephants need to remain with the herd to learn how to behave? Legendary elephant graveyards probably exist in muddy places where the grass is soft and easy to chew because elephants mostly die of hunger as their teeth are no longer able to chew.

Elephant ride at Elephant Whispers in South Africa

Training Elephants

Elephant Whispers, Hazyview, South Africa, is one of many places where elephants are being saved, literally, from being killed. The seven elephants at Elephant Whispers were all “problem children”. I had to think of Colonel Hati and his troupe in the Jungle Book when these great big elephants all obeyed a string of requests: turn right, turn around, walk forwards. Then we could each ask an elephant to do something, even my seven year old could ask Jabu to pick up a hat and he did! African elephants, as opposed to Indian elephants, were reputed to be untrainable! The elephants aren’t forced to do anything but are taught to link an action with language using tidbits as reward, neither are they linked to a single trainer. This was our introduction to the elephants, then we could actually touch one of the elephants called Thandi, which means beloved. The hide is very rough! We scrutinised the soles of her feet as she lay patiently while we also inspected her huge toenails. The sole looks much like the rest of the hide except that it can be contracted to walk easily in muddy conditions.

Riding on Elephants

Elephants don’t sweat but cool themselves by fanning their large ears and dipping their bodies in water. We had a good view of the teeth and massive tongue, a photo opportunity between the forelegs and then a ride! An intricate process to ‘board’: our elephant gracefully kneeled down and my daughter and I and a trainer made ourselves comfortable on the huge saddle and hung on tightly while Thandi heaved herself upright. I tried not to think about the fact that my sons were on Jabu who had been a sad elephant seven years ago waiting to be put down. He lost his mate to another elephant and went on the rampage, attacking other animals and humans. The sanctuary insisted on taking him in and he calmed down. We enjoyed a smooth ride, a lovely view of the bush and the Kruger National Park from on high and returned with renewed respect for these gentle giants.

Elephant Sanctuary Habitat in Tennessee

The Elephant Sanctuary in Hohenwald, Tennessee is the largest natural habitat refuge in the United States, according to information on the organization website. Elephants who have retired from circuses and zoos may find a home on the 2700 acre habitat with natural environments for Asian and African elephants.

Sanctuary for Retired Elephants

Elephant Whispers in South Africa

Elephants live out their retirement years roaming in one of three separate and protected environments. Resident elephants are not required to entertain or perform, but they get to live out their golden years living like elephants.

The Elephant Sanctuary takes in needy female elephants, which are released to roam on the 2700 acre habitat. While the habitat is still a form of captivity, it comes pretty close to being in the wild for the mammals.

Elephants are social animals, so when they are released into the sanctuary they look for a friend. They pair off, just like human girlfriends who hang out together, according to a CBS report.on You Tube with Steve Hartman, on CBS News with Katie Couric:The Animal Odd Couple.

The sanctuary takes in only female elephants because it is not natural for adult female and male Asian elephants to live together. Female elephants live together in a social setting, but adult males prefer to be alone.

Fact or Fiction? – Elephants Never Forget

The Elephant Sanctuary website has pictures of all their elephants and the property. In their “In the News” section they have published an interesting article by James Ritchie that was published in Scientist American. The article, titled “Fact of Fiction? – Elephants Never Forget”, talks about the long memory that is legendary in elephants.

In the article, Carol Buckley at the Elephant Sanctuary, reported that when a resident elephant was introduced to a newcomer the two girls, Jenny and Shirley, could hardly contain their excitement at seeing each other. It turned out that the two had been in the same traveling circus 23 years earlier.

Researchers believe that their remarkable power of recall is how elephants survive. Matriarch elephants hold a store of social knowledge that their families rely on to survive.

Elephants have high intelligence, right up there with dolphins, apes and human beings. According to research these are the only mammals that can recognize their reflections in the mirror.

Tribute to Jon and Jim Hager

Elephant Whispers

Jon and Jim Hager were the twin duo, famed for their years on the country music show “Hee-Haw”. Sadly, both of the 67-year-old men passed away recently. Jim Hager died in May, 2008. Jon Hager passed away on January 9, 2009.

The musical twins were avid supporters of the Elephant Sanctuary from its beginning in 1995.

Elephant Sanctuary Mission

The Elephant Sanctuary provides a humane natural environment for female elephants to live out their golden years after being retired from zoos and circuses.

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