Tuesday, December 13, 2011

A Bottle for a Baby Elephant

I had the great privilege of performing as part of a cultural exchange program in the exotic country Sri Lanka several years ago, and while I was there my hosts were determined that I see their country and the places that brought joy to them.  We that in mind, one of the many places we visited was the Pinawela Elephant Orphanage.  And what an experience that was!

This elephant orphanage, one of the first in the world, was started to save the many baby elephants orphaned due to poaching in the jungles of Sri Lanka.  It is also a rehabilitation center for older elephants injured by hunters and left to die.  The orphanage at that time, consisted of a few rude buildings to give shelter to the elephants and their keepers, a covered area where we tourists could feed the babies, and acres and acres of land and crossed through by a river where the elephants could safely live.

Baby elephants at Pinawela Elephant Orphanage in Sri Lanka
Shortly after our arrival, a boisterous group of baby elephants came thundering up the hill from the river to the shelter looking for their bottles.  A more incredible sight of boundless uninhibited joy cannot be described.  These babies were free!  They were not behind bars and glass and more bars and moats and walls in a zoo.  These babies were not standing alone in horror as their mother died in the jungle.  These babies were happy, protected, and loved.  These babies had been saved and were being nutured in a loving caring place each with its own keeper who provided for their wants and needs.

And, I, with the help of a keeper, was able to provide for one moment in one day of one baby elephant's life--its breakfast.  A large baby bottle filled to the rim with nutritious milk.  As that baby elephant's trunk twisted around my bare leg and I petted its wiry haired back we were both transported!  For me, the smiles have never stopped when I think of that moment.  For that baby, I hope he is now safely returned to his jungle home--a free and fully grown elephant.

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