The wisdom of elephants


I’m currently enamored with this print that my husband gave me for our 15th wedding anniversary. It will soon grace my new office wall; and I find myself reflecting on the symbolism of the elephants in my new artwork. I love elephants, not only because they turn my mind immediately to the wonders of Africa and Asia that have shaped my heart in so many ways, but also because of the remarkable lessons their lives offer humans:

Remember the past.

Elephants are known for their excellent memories. Scientists believe that their memories help them survive, oftentimes helping them remember long lost water sources, reconnect with old friends, and survive harsh conditions.

Walk with dignity. Lead with wisdom.

Led by matriarchs, elephants choose their leaders based not on aggression, but on wisdom, intelligence, and problem-solving skills. Their most effective leaders are often the oldest in the herd who demonstrate characteristics like strong decision making ability, compassion, and hard work.

Listen well. Stay attuned to potential dangers.

Elephants listen not only with their giant ears, but also by picking up vibrations in the ground through their feet. They listen keenly to stay aware of their surroundings and possible threats to their herd.

Protect the vulnerable.

When threatened by a lion attack, elephants form a circle to protect their young. It is a remarkable and tender event to watch the mama elephants circle their babies as they fiercely defend their young.

Travel together.

Scientists who study elephants note that individual elephants in a group each have their own personalities. Their personality traits impact their relationships within the herd as well as their leadership roles and survival skills. The elephants with the strongest relational skills end up being the more successful members of the herd. The ones who are difficult live more isolated lives.

Be affectionate with loved ones.

Elephants use their trunks to show one another all kinds of affection from love to playfulness to consolation. Mamas use it to guide their babies and babies have even been known to suck on their trunks like thumbs to calm themselves.

Enjoy life.

Who doesn’t love watching an elephant take a bath?!?! If you ever make it to Sri Lanka, top on the list to visit should be bathtime at Pinnewala, an elephant orphanage near Kandy.

Catch a glimpse of the bathing beauties here:

Check out these fascinating articles on elephants: