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Human and Elephant Relations: 

Human and Elephant Relations

What exactly is an elephant?: 

What exactly is an elephant? Elephants are the largest surviving land mammals Three species: African Bush, African Forest, and the Asian Elephant Distinguishing feature: the trunk

Asian and African Elephants: 

Asian and African Elephants

How similar are we?: 

How similar are we? Most mammals are born with 90% of their brain mass; humans are born with 26% while elephants are born with 35%. This means that their brains grow to a similar extent. Elephants show a vast range of emotions. They also are known for invention/innovation, foresight, and deception. They have been known to make and use tools. They remember complex places and smells for decades. They can hold grudges and take revenge after years. Elephants love alcohol – they like to feel intoxicated!


Elephants and Humans: A Brief History Humans witnessed the final days of the Wooly Mammoth, and we may have contributed to its downfall. The Mammoth provided sustenance for those who lived all over Eurasia and may have helped keep humans alive during the last Ice Age by showing us edible plants and becoming food themselves. Mammoths existed on every continent save Australia. One species survived until 1700 BCE on Wrangel Island. Indians and other Asian groups have revered and worshipped elephants for thousands of years. Elephants have been tamed in the Indus Valley from 2000 BCE. There are roughly 3000 captive elephants in India and 480 in Sri Lanka. “Hindu and Buddhist exalted elephants as incarnations of nearly all virtues.” - Eric Scigliano, pg. 75

Elephants in War: 

Elephants in War First use: 1100 BCE in India and China Alexander the Great [331 BCE] 1591 in a Burma/Siam conflict Cannons marked the end of war elephants, but they were used by the US military to work in areas inaccesible by machinery

Elephants in India – Kerala: 

Elephants in India – Kerala Kerala is home to more than 700 elephants, many of them tuskers, who are used in temple worship and religious festivals. Each elephant is assigned a few mahouts, or carers – they feed, bathe, and massage the elephants daily.

Elephants in India - Ganesh: 

Elephants in India - Ganesh Generally accounted to be the most popular and widely worshipped on the Hindu deities. As the remover of obstacles, he is worshipped in homes and businesses, and often appeased before entering another temple for worship. He is: Lord of the World [Ganapatya] Lord of Beginnings Lord of Obstacles [Vignesha] God of Wisdom Special Patron of Writers and Merchants


Ganesha Elephant head denotes intelligence, power, and fidelity Single tusk represents ability to overcome dualism Wide ears are for wisdom and having the ability to hear what people say Pot belly contains to infinite universe, the bounty of nature and shows that Ganesh can swallow the sorrows of the world and protect it Raised palm symbolises peace Attended by a mouse, his steed

Elephant as a Symbol for the World: A Buddhist Perspective: 

Elephant as a Symbol for the World: A Buddhist Perspective Disciples asked Buddha: What about the scholars who say the universe is infinite and eternal? And what about those who oppose? Buddha answers: Knowing one side of the argument is not the same as knowing the whole truth.

White Elephants: 

White Elephants Sacred in Myanmar [Burma], Cambodia, Laos, and Thailand Rulers with white elephants were regarded as just, their lands prosperous and peaceful


Thailand – The Land of White Elephants “The elephant was not just the bearer, defender, and servant of sacrosanct Thai values but their very embodiment – if it happened to [be a] 'white elephant'.” - Eric Scigliano, pg. 98-99

The Thai Elephant Orchestra: 

The Thai Elephant Orchestra Project of the Thai Elephant Conservation Centre in Lampang. “In keeping with the center's exploration of human-elephant interaction, a set of instruments were designed with the elephants' particular dexterity and strength in mind.” - Earth Ear Catalogue review


Conservation The Asian elephant is an endangered species. About 20 percent of the world’s population lives in the present range of the Asian elephant. In this region it is estimated that human population numbers could double in as little as 23 years, resulting in loss of habitat and greater human-elephant conflict. The African elephant is a threatened species. The highest projected human population growth in the next 25 years is expected in Sub-Saharan Africa. Africa will need to increase its food three-fold, turning existing elephant habitat into cropland, which will increase human-elephant conflict. There are many conservation projects taking place all over the world in Thailand and Sri Lanka, African and even America! Find more information at www.elephantconservation.org, www.elephantnaturepark.org, www.elephants.com, and by searching for elephant sanctuaries on Google.


“I believe it is necessary and right to unravel the webs of worship and myth, ritual an war, exploitation and art that we have wrapped the elephant in. But these strands say more about ourselves , in our noblest and basest aspects, than about the living animals. We still have much to learn about ourselves from our relationship with them, but we have so much more to learn about them and, perhaps, from them. If through greed and negligence we drive them from the earth, our story as well as theirs will be unfinished. When their lives are done, ours will be diminished too. The world will be a small and meager place when it has room only for us.” - Eric Scigliano, Love, War, and Circuses,pg. 301

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