ElephantasticFebruary 28, 2020 in India ⋅ ☁️ 30 °C
Lesley and I have had a complete change of scene today, by visiting an Elephant sanctuary.
It is set just outside Jaipur and a driver took us and brought us back. We passed right through the middle of the old city, which was thronged with people and vehicles in every direction. Progress was slow, but it did enable us to gaze with fascination on everyday Indian life. By the end of the day there is rubbish everywhere. No one seems to think it would be a good idea to tidy up or take it home, but apparently it is collected from the streets overnight. We found this hard to believe, but it was in fact the case as we saw this morning. Please don’t run away with the idea that it was pristine first thing, just a slight improvement!
We encountered several weddings and when I asked whether it was usual to have weddings midweek, our driver replied that there was no particular day, but that the couple would consult an astrologer who would advise as to the most auspicious day for their union. This is clearly a good day for many.
On arriving at the sanctuary we were warmly welcomed and introduced to five female Asian elephants. We were to look after Simpha. She is forty six years old and brought up by the family who runs the farm. They have twenty four elephants at the moment, some are theirs and others have been rescued and they have taken them in. We started by getting up close and personal! Elephants have poor eyesight and can only see 20-25 yards ahead, but their hearing and sense of smell is acute. We were encouraged to stroke and talk to her, which would enable her to get to know us. Her mahout told us that by the end of the afternoon she would be our true friend and if we were to return five years later, she would know us. Elephants are very intelligent animals and have a prodigious memory. It was then feeding time and we fed her sugar cane. You have to place the cane on to the tip of her trunk with the word ‘lei’ which means ‘take it’. She will then carefully manipulate it to the right angle before putting it in her mouth and crunching away.
If you are a bit slow with delivery, she will let you know with a rumble! Feeding time over, it was time to paint her with vegetable paints. She stood very still and let us do this and we painted a flower garland down her trunk. It was no Leonardo, but sufficed. Then came bath time - yes, here is where we get soaked we thought. We had taken a change of clothes just in case, but it was not needed. A hose was produced and her first requirement was a drink and what a drink. You pour the water into the end of her trunk and it disappears miraculously upwards. I guess when full, she pulls her trunk away and shoots the water into her mouth. The trunk holds about 10 litres of water and we did this at least 10 times - some drink! We then hosed her down and scrubbed where we could reach. A large bowl of water sat in front of her and we kept expecting her to spray us any time, but Simpha was a complete lady and behaved impeccably. Once clean we took her for a walk . She needs to walk a minimum of 15kms daily, but we only did 2! It was then time to say goodbye to our new friend, thank the staff and return to our hotel.
It was a fascinating insight into the world of the Asian elephant. We learned a lot and consider it a real privilege to have spent some time with Simpha, one of the iconic animals of India.
As a postscript, tonight, a wedding procession passed our hotel and we rushed out to look. The bridegroom was in the middle of the throng beautifully dressed and mounted on an equally fabulously dressed white horse. It I’d customary for him to approach the bride’s family in such a fashion on the big day. It was a joyous end to a special day.Read more