Monday, May 3, 2010

Feel-good story of the week!

I have to admit to uttering an "Awwww!" or two (or three) over this story.

These extraordinary images show the trust and understanding developed between children and orphaned elephants calves rescued from a forest.

The one-year-old elephants live in Arignar Anna Zoo in Chennai, southern India, where they are cared for by a team of mahouts - a person who works with the animals - and their children.

The youngsters are carried home from school on the elephant's backs, shower together, play football and even sleep curled up with them.

Zoo staff believe without this friendship and love the orphaned elephants would have died soon after being rescued.

Mahout Rajan, 25, said his four-year-old daughter Lavindya has a special bond with the orphans.

"When she says 'stop' the calf obeys her," he said.

"She is very gentle with them and they will wrap their trunks around her to show their love. Such is the bond the calves will only go to sleep when the children cuddle up and pat their backs."

This extraordinary emotional bond between child and elephant has been developing over the past year since the zoo took in its first orphan.

Rangers found Sharon wandering alone in the forest and brought her to the zoo. Now the 14-month-old orphan has a fixed routine along with the three other baby elephants Narsima, Urigam and four-month-old Giri.

Their day starts with a morning bath, and it's not just the elephants who get a scrub down.

The children join in too, and 14-month-old Urigam can't resist grabbing the bucket with his trunk and pouring water over gorgeous Lavindya.

Lying in the small pool, the youngsters splash cooling water over the elephants and tickle their tummies with a scrubbing brush.

"Every morning at 7am they wait at the place where the kids have a bath before going to school," said Rajan.

"They are so punctual and they adore showering with the children." Breakfast follows bath time and once again the children are quick to help feed the orphans a mix of milk, coconut water and glucose.

The mahouts feed the elephants every three hours with their favorite snacks of water-melon, bananas and sugarcane, to build up their strength.

Fed and washed, the youngsters head off to school but out here in the bush there is no school bus to collect the students.

Instead Lavindya, Nandini, 4, Nandgopal, 8, and Anu, 6, hop onto the elephants backs and trundle through the scrubland to their village school. The elephants carefully carry their school bags in their trunks.

There's more at the link, including more photographs.

Call me a soppy sentimentalist if you like, but I love stories like this - particularly because I've worked with orphaned elephant calves in South Africa, and know just how intelligent and social they are.



Mikael said...

Beautiful story, although some danger alarms go off when I see a four year old described as gorgeous.

Noons said...

Lovely story. Good to see this is still possible in this sad world.

Stranger said...

Actually, this is one of the traditional ways to "train elephants."

Although you don't really train an elephant - if Packy finds itself doing something it does not want to do, it quits. Often violently.