For as long as I can remember my favorite animal has been the elephant. This probably has something to do with the fact that I was born and raised in Alabama where college football is almost a religion. Everyone in my family is a big fan of Crimson Tide football and I was exposed to the elephant branding from a young age.
However it happened, to this day I still find elephants fascinating. With their unique combination of protruding tusks flanking a long prehensile trunk, they’re unlike any other creature on Earth. Indeed, as the largest land animal alive today, they are the only remaining representative of the megafauna that once dominated the planet. They’ve survived when so many other species have gone extinct. With their thick dry gray hides, they even look like an ancient relic. There’s just something powerful and mysterious about these majestic beasts.
I was lucky enough to fulfill my life-long dream of riding on an elephant when I visited Nepal in 2009. You can take an hour-long journey through some of the national parks on the elephants. Only female elephants are used for these treks since they’re more docile than the males. The Nepali drivers who sit atop their necks generally steer by pushing their feet behind the elephant’s ears. However, when the elephant deviates from the route or otherwise disobeys orders, he strikes them with a stick that has a sharp metal tip. They claim it doesn’t actually hurt the elephants, but it’s hard to tell whether it’s true or not. I relished the experience at the time but I’m not sure I would do it again. I’ve since heard that carrying multiple passengers day after day has a cumulative detrimental effect.
As a fan of elephants I’m deeply concerned about the dwindling population numbers in Africa caused by poaching.