We have recently received a shipment of carved stone sculptures from Zimbabwe, and among them are three very handsome Shona elephant sculptures. They are highly detailed and very dynamic; the elephants appear to be heading somewhere important and raising their trunks to sound a trumpet call.
They make me think of a very poignant story I read not too long ago about a man who lived all his life out in the South African bush. When a particularly restless herd of elephants began to wander outside the boundaries of a large game reserve called Thula Thula, they caused trouble for the owners and were on the brink of being shot as pests. Lawrence Anthony managed to subdue the elephants and earn their trust, and he somehow convinced them to remain within Thula Thula where they were safe.
Having heard about Anthony’s skill with the intelligent but often intimidating animals, people began sending solitary elephants as well as groups to Thula Thula for Anthony to rehabilitate. There are now two full herds living safely in the game reserve thanks to his skill and determination.
When Anthony died in March of this year, he had not seen the elephants in over a year and a half. But according to his son, Dylan, the two herds arrived at his home within a day of each other, having traveled over 12 hours in solemn single-file lines through the bush to pay homage to him. How could they possibly have known that he had died? Moreover, how could they have communicated with each other to stage a simultaneous memorial? They stood vigil for two days before returning to their territories within the reserve.
Although the Shona carvers are from a different part of Africa than the elephants Anthony worked so hard to protect, it is clear from the sculptors’ attention to detail that they recognize these animals’ extraordinary qualities. Please share your favorite stories about elephants with us in the comments!