Elephant Whisperers – The Future’s Not Ours to See – Que Sera Sera

I just read an astounding story about the recent death of animal whisperer Lawrence Anthony.

Lawrence Anthony

“For 12 hours, two herds of wild South African elephants slowly made their way through the Zululand bush until they reached the house of late author Lawrence Anthony, the conservationist who saved their lives. … There are two elephant herds at Thula Thula. According to his son Dylan, both arrived at the Anthony family compound shortly after Anthony’s death. “They had not visited the house for a year and a half and it must have taken them about 12 hours to make the journey,” Dylan is quoted in various local news accounts.”

The article continues, ““A good man died suddenly,” says Rabbi Leila Gal Berner, Ph.D., “and from miles and miles away, two herds of elephants, sensing that they had lost a beloved human friend, moved in a solemn, almost ‘funereal’ procession to make a call on the bereaved family at the deceased man’s home.”

Read the whole story here: http://delightmakers.com/news/wild-elephants-gather-inexplicably-mourn-death-of-elephant-whisperer/

This amazing story of Mr. Anthony who authored “The Animal Whisperer: My Life with the Herd in the African Wild” http://www.amazon.com/The-Elephant-Whisperer-Life-African/dp/031256578X reminded me of an experience I had when I was in Thailand a year ago February. I had the opportunity to visit The Elephant Nature Park http://www.elephantnaturepark.org/ founded by Sangduen Chailert (Lek).

I was fortunate to visit on a day that Lek was lecturing to her volunteers, so I got to hear her personally introduce the film about the Park. A warning precedes the film, cautioning audience members who might be sensitive to violence. I happen to be very sensitive to violent images and often can’t sleep if I see a film or read a story that disturbs me before bed – but I decided to take a chance and stay to watch the film anyway in order to learn.

I had spent the day in the hot sun bathing and feeding elephants Lek had saved. I’d waded into the muddy creek and balanced on the stones – throwing pail after pail of water over them, getting soaked from their sprays, and walked with them back to their feeding area.

With my elephant friend at The Elephant Park in in Chiang Mai province, Northern Thailand

I’d fed them pounds upon pounds of fresh vegetables from enormous bowls – entire squashes, halved melons, heads of lettuce –  all in huge quantities – carefully holding each piece so the elephant could grasp the food with its trunk or placing a large chunk directly into the animal’s mouth.

An Elephants’ Tooth – photo Judith Z. Miller (c) 2011

In addition to information about the Park’s history and images of the elephants living there, the film also described and showed, in gruesome detail, tortures some of the elephants had to endure.

At one point the film showed images of a wild elephant being tortured into submission for days and days on end so that it would agree to work. Lek was there, powerless by law to take any action, present only so that she could treat its wounds and nurse the beast back to health after its weeklong ordeal was over.

I won’t go into detail here because the description what happened is so horrifying. Suffice it to say that I had never seen or heard of anything like this before.

After seeing the film, I was overwhelmed with grief and compassion for the animals, and I wanted to say a personal thank you to Lek. So I asked a staff member where she might be, and he pointed me towards a corral not far away.

I walked down the dirt and stone path to the corral and looked through the thin wire fence that separated me from the elephants. I looked closely, and there was Lek, just a few feet away from me – a tiny thin woman, sandwiched between several massive beasts, quietly humming a tune.

She was underneath the belly of a “baby” elephant – a massive creature – reaching her arm around to the front to stroke it’s trunk.

As Lek held the elephants’ trunk, she hummed.

She hummed the same tune over and over, and as I stood there silently listening, I could swear I heard Lek humming the chorus to a tune Doris Day made famous, “Que Sera Sera Whatever will be will be,” over and over again into the baby elephant’s ear.

Que Sera Sera
Whatever will be will be
The future’s not ours to see
Que Sera Sera
What will be will be
Que Sera Sera


How this tune, written by Jay Livingston and Ray Evans and first published in the United States in 1956, had made it’s way half way around the world to The Elephant Park in Chiang Mai province in Northern Thailand in 2011 and out of Lek’s mouth, I’ll never know –  But the elephant seemed mesmerized.

While she hummed, the beast picked up his massive leg and placed its enormous foot directly on the back of Lek’s spine. There the elephant stood, gently swaying to the music, with his leg, weighing at least several hundred pounds, gently poised in the air, resting on precariously on Lek’s back.

I couldn’t help but think that one small shift of the elephants’ balance, and Lek’s back would have surely snapped in two. Yet instead of an air of apprehension, there was tenderness and exquisite trust.

I was bearing witness to the sweetest bond between human and animal I had ever seen.

I stood silently spellbound, listening to Lek humming.

Eventually, I realized it was time for my group to leave the Park. I hadn’t said goodbye or thank you. But I knew in my heart that my thank you would have been just another human voice, one among the many who were moved by what Lek had accomplished for her wonderful elephant friends.

I knew my words could never compare to the tenderness of that moment  – that sweet bond of trust between Lek and the baby elephant she’d saved.

A big wet sloppy kiss!

Judith Z. Miller

Artist Soul Speaks

(c) May 15, 2012


About artistsoulspeaks

Judith Z. Miller, aka "Zelda," lives in an erotic, musical, spiritual universe; she writes as a way of coping with its beauty, sensuality, frustrations and ecstasies. In NYC, she has read at events sponsored by organizations such as Nehirim, Zeek Magazine, Essentuality, and at venues such as Blue Stockings, The Jewish Community Center, Wow Café Theatre - and late at night to her girlfriends in bed. She published in Inside Arts magazine, The Washington Post, and American Theatre magazine. Judith was trained as an actress in Washington DC, co-founded The Fine Line Actors Theatre, acted in numerous productions, created original performance material and was awarded an NEA Arts Management Fellowship in Theatre. Judith is a self-trained visual artist who is inspired by the beauty of nature and the guiding force of her intuition. She draws and creates primal sculpture and wearable art from trees, stones and found objects, which she fashions into ritual staffs, wearable amulets, and employs in healing rituals. She was profiled in The Daily News; the subject of feature articles in Mann About Town magazine, Home News Tribune, In Brooklyn, The Park Slope Paper, The Wave, and The Daily Sitka Sentinel, and featured on NY-1 Television. In 2008 her paper “Sometimes a Tree Isn’t Just a Tree,” was read at the First International LSP-and Translation Studies Oriented Textual Analysis conference at Chouaib Doukkali University, El Jadida, Morocco. Judith was the founder and director of ZAMO! representing a multi-cultural mix of world-class GRAMMY® nominated and JUNO ® award-winning performing artists for over 20 years. She taught self-promotion for performers, presented by organizations such as The Field, The Red Tent Women’s Project and the Brooklyn Arts Counsel. She was the Chief Rhythm officer of Microfundo, a crowdfunding platform supporting musicians worldwide. She was a 2011 British Airways Face-to-Face Opportunity contest winner traveling to Thailand where she met with indigenous woodcarvers and shaman. A healing ritual artist, she created Zelda's Body Breathing Healing System (TM), and offers private sessions and workshops. Judith (Zelda) resides in Port Henry New York.
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