Archives for posts with tag: elephants

Florida is a place of beauty, abundant nature to observe and photograph, and unexpected experiences. When given the opportunity to go to Busch Gardens, I knew there were animals there. What I had not realized was how many and how close I could get to some of them. Add a zoom lens, and I was able to take photographs I had only dreamed of before I got my DSLR and traveled to The Sunshine State.

I love palm trees too, so they were high on my priority list. These tall, spindly ones are among my favorites.

Many of my animal photos were taken from the steam train ride. I didn’t always catch the guide’s descriptions in their entirety, which unfortunately means I don’t have a proper kind for this beauty. Just an antelope. I really like the way it stands out against the pop of green it grazes.

Though the head of this white rhino is nearly in silhouette, its distinctive horn is unmistakable. Rhinos are so tragically endangered that it makes me both incredibly happy and incredibly sad to see one. These creatures deserve to live on Earth as much as we do. Hopefully, some way, some how they will be given a renewed opportunity to thrive.

I read somewhere that modern DSLRs have something like 5,000 setting possibilities. Um, no. I’m learning how to use it and may continue to do so for as long as it’s mine. I concentrate on lighting and composition to get what I want. Or try to. I end up with a higher and higher percentage of shots I love, so I’m satisfied with how I’m doing so far. I still have some trouble with depth of field. Sometimes those mistakes turn out to be happy accidents. I was able to crop this giraffe one so that it looks like an intentional piece of pop art. I’ll take it!

Elephants have such timelessly beautiful faces. They look old and ageless at once, with wisdom gained and emotion endured etched into the lines around their eyes. Just like us. It’s my understanding that they are very similar to us in many ways. They bond with family and friends, love them, grieve them when they are gone. It would be a pretty wonderful thing to have an elephant for a friend.

Emus are so cool and fluffy. They seem sweet, but I’ve heard they can be cantankerous, kicking very hard among other things. Years ago I was at a wildlife park in New South Wales, Australia. I was enraptured, photographing koalas high in a eucalyptus tree (The koalas were high in the tree, not me!), when I felt a presence behind me. It didn’t touch me. I could just sense that something was close. I reluctantly removed my face from my viewfinder, and slowly pivoted. It did not take a full body turn to come face to face with an apparently curious emu. When I say face to face, I mean that it was really close. We gazed into each other’s eyes for a heart stopping moment. Then, I slowly backed away, until I realized it was still standing where I’d left it. At that point I beat a hasty retreat, glad to have had such a close encounter, and also glad to walk away emu kick free.

I’m glad this zebra was in the shade, so that its amazing markings were able to really be showcased. Bright sunlight could have caused too much contrast or glare, but this is perfect. Really studying the complex patterns of striping on its forehead and knees in particular, show what a wonder zebras are. Beautiful, almost but not quite comical looking, they’re a gift nature has bestowed upon us. Let’s enjoy every stripe.

This lion and lioness seem content in each other’s company. They’re both gorgeous. His mane surprised me by how rough it looked and how much actual red was in it. Nearby, a lioness had taken up residence in the fake bed of a fake truck that decorated the exhibit. By looking at her through the glass right over where she lay, I could see, count even, the individual hairs on her back. That is the closest I’ll ever be to a lion, I’m sure. I could have stood there, gazing upon such majesty for hours. It was an experience I’ll always treasure and never forget.

I’ll close this out with a pic I took with my phone. It’s not sharp like the ones from my camera, but it gives an idea of how beautiful the Christmas decorations were. I rode the Skyride and loved dangling, swinging, and swaying high above the gorgeous lights, but nothing quite compares to being close to them. it was a day filled with many of my favorite things, the top favorite being, as always, the magic that comes out of my camera.

‚ÄčI saw an article about several tour companies ceasing to offer elephant rides as part of tours overseas. This is such good news for animal lovers…and of course the elephants in question. Apparently incredible cruelties are used to make elephants docile and submissive enough for tourists to ride them, as well as other ways they are used for entertainment. Though I didn’t know anything about methods used to make elephants suitable for human “enjoyment” until I recently read a little about the subject in passing, I formed strong feelings about elephants in captivity a long time ago.

It was a typical American zoo. Many fascinating exhibits showcasing animals most of us would never see in person, if these exhibits didn’t exist. The animals seemed well cared for and content.

Except for one.

There was one special place that was a magnet for the eager and adventurous zoo goer. Elephant Rides! A relatively large enclosure was set up in a dry, dusty area. It reminded me of the horse riding rings many small towns had when I was a child. People would trailer their horses in, so they could ride around and around a churned dirt field, essentially showing off their horsemanship to anyone interested enough to sit on bleachers in the hot sun, eating popcorn and drinking sweating cups of what was colloquially known as “co’ dranks”. The horse riding rings were enclosed in fences made up of posts and rough planks. The elephant riding dust pit was ringed by a fence made of metal poles and bars.

Like many people I love animals and want to be as close to them as possible. So I went with eagerness, excitement, and a modicum of fear to check out the elephant ride area. Several people waited in line, as a woman who looked like she couldn’t decide whether to laugh or throw up was assisted in mounting the very large lone elephant who waited to be humiliated yet again.

Yes, humiliated. Elephants have very expressive faces, oddly since their features aren’t as mobile as ours. As this female elephant, who might have been a proud matriarch in another time and place, stood stoically waiting for the signal to move, I was drawn to her eyes. They were the saddest eyes imaginable. I didn’t notice how she was handled or treated. It was as if I had fallen into a deep, sucking well of quiet dispair. She looked my way and I felt guilty for even standing near her static torture. I wanted to hug her. To whisper in her great, flopping ear that she was loved. Respected. A subject of awe. 

All I could do for her, as she was urged into motion, her passenger gaining the thrill of a lifetime at the expense of a lifetime of captivity, was make absolutely sure that she would carry one less person on her regal back that day. Very near tears, I turned and walked away. 

Obviously, the memory of that brief encounter has never left me. I had loved zoos and wildlife parks up until that day. Honestly, I still do to an extent. However much I dislike even the idea of wild animals in captivity, I also recognize the value of often rare opportunities to see living, breathing gorgeous-even-if-they’re-ugly creatures in habitats as close to their natural environments as possible. I don’t know how many people actually appreciate and understand the privilege of seeing an elephant’s eyelashes sweep across the orb of its gaze, a baby giraffe’s delicate spotted neck, or the rippling muscles beneath a zebra’s stripes, but if even one in a thousand zoo goers left a conservateur it would be one more person who understands the sense of responsibility and respect that needs to accompany admiration, even adoration of wildlife.

Some might say I think too much. I say many don’t think enough. Elephants are intelligent creatures, loving and loyal with their families and friends. They mourn their dead and sacrifice for the greater good. I will always remember the nobility of that gaze, the dignity of her stance, and compare her visible innate qualities so favorably against the conduct and demeanor of her passenger. There is no doubt which one I’d rather have for a friend.

This storyabout an elephant held captive and treated horribly for 50 years is heartbreaking. It’s also one of the most uplifting stories I’ve ever read by the time it’s over. Not only was he rescued, he also gets to explore a life of freedom in a safe place where he may still enjoy his freedom for at least another decade. Why am I so incredibly moved by this story, when there are so many others that are similar?

Because this elephant wept when he was rescued.

Read it for yourself and let it make your day a little brighter. It’s so worth learning the horrors this elephant has been through, because you also get to follow him back into the light. We speak of the endurance and exquisite nature of the human spirit. We know elephants love and mourn…and now that they cry the tears born of deep emotion. If this example is any indication, the incredible elephant spirit carries a remarkable endurance and exquisite nature of its own.