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Copyright Margot Hattingh 2008
Margot Hattingh
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Elephants – by Margot Hattingh

Elephants are for me a profound symbol on the spiritual as well as on
the physical level.   I am not alone.  People have revered and feared
elephants for thousands of years.  Myths and legends abound, from
Africa to the far east. Their images have been painted in caves and
inside Egyptian tombs.  They, themselves, are lavishly painted and
decorated in the east on holy days.  Ganesh the most beloved Indian
god is shown in the form of an elephant.  

So much is still being discovered about them and their behaviour.   
Their ‘human’ behavioural traits are well documented.   It is only
within the last decade that it was discovered that they communicated
over large distances with each other using ultrasound.  It has also
been recently discovered that they are very sensitive to vibrations
underfoot.  They can ‘feel’ a stampeding herd kilometres away.  

I lived for some years in Etosha National Park in Namibia in the late
70’s and early 80’s where the elephants were still able to be
migratory and had never been culled.   There were breeding herds –
normally the most elusive and skittish of elephants – who were
totally unafraid of humans.  I have sat in a car closely surrounded by
a large herd, with the adult females towering over me, while a few of
them put their trunks out and gently touched and sniffed the car
before unhurriedly turning away and ghost-melting into the thick
mopane.  Unforgettable, heart-stopping moments.  

I am passionate and perhaps a little unbalanced about elephants.   I
believe that most people can only aspire to the ‘human’ qualities that
elephants exhibit.  The loss of hundreds of thousands of elephants to
wholesale poaching, culling and habitat shrinkage due to human
demand over the last 100 years is a terrible tragedy happening in
front of our eyes.  Their disappearance, like the canary used in coal
mines to warn of poisonous gas, is a highly visible symptom that the
planet is losing its wild, mysterious people, places and animals to
exploitation.  

I can go on forever but will end with a couple of quotes :

‘The beast that passeth all others in wit and mind … and by its
intelligence, it makes as near an approach to man as matter can
approach spirit’  Aristotle

‘For that which befalleth the sons of men befalleth beasts; even one
thing that befalleth them; as the one dieth, so dieth the other; yea,
they have all one breath, so that a man hath no pre-eminence above a
beast, for all is vanity’  Ecclesiastes 3:19

Good books to read are :

The End of the Game – Peter Beard
Sacred Elephant – Heathcote Williams