I just read an astounding story about the recent death of animal whisperer 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.
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.
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.
Judith Z. Miller
Artist Soul Speaks
(c) May 15, 2012