What is it like to be an elephant calf?

Yesterday, by way of refreshment from enumerating the falsehoods in Sholto Byrnes’s review of our book, Jeremy and I chatted a little about elephants. He’d sent me a picture of the Toronto elephants playing water games, so I made him envious by saying I used to join the Seattle elephants in their pool to scrub their backs and generally play with them. This led to a discussion of how one gets used to being around such large animals, and Jeremy asked if they knew not to tread on people by accident. I said they do, and told a little story to illustrate, and he thought I should share it, so I will. Consider it refreshment from whatever you need refreshment from.

One of those summer pool-play days, I was standing a short distance away from the pool and the youngest calf, Sri, who was about three at the time, was standing at the edge of it. She was about my height then, but so is an SUV – she was about my height and weighed several times as much. The older calf, Chai, was in the pool and she suddenly gave Sri a playful bump from behind that sent her rocketing straight toward me, too fast for me to jump out of the way. Sri slammed on the brakes in order not to crash into me. It’s not easy to do that! She had to dig in her feet and brace her legs and just jar herself to a stop – and she did. I was very impressed by that (not to mention very relieved). She was just a kid, but she not only knew not to crash into me, she knew it mattered enough to make a big effort.

The Toronto ‘phants on Saturday:

From Safari 2009-06-27

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