If you would have asked me a year or two ago when I was typing away at my desk job, I would have never have thought that I’d ever be swimming and bathing with elephants in a river in the mountains of northern Thailand. Fast forward to a month ago, and I was doing just that. I quit my job and found myself having a once in a lifetime experience: I was an elephant owner for a day.
There are fewer than 30,000 Asian elephants alive today, making them an endangered species. Many of those elephants are held in captivity, often times mistreated by their owners and forced to walk on harmful concrete and asphalt streets in large cities for show. Even worse, humans have been encroaching on elephant habitats, destroying the resources that elephants call home and poaching elephants for their ivory tusks.
I did some research on how to interact with elephants in a responsible way, and my experience at an elephant sanctuary with rescued elephants was extraordinary. These animals roam the jungle mountains in northern Thailand freely. They are monitored by the sanctuary caretakers in partnership with the veterinary school at Chiang Mai University.
I spent an entire day caring for one elephant. I learned a few Thai words, so I was able to communicate with him, telling him when to open up his mouth and lift his trunk for bananas. I dusted off his back with a thatch broom, bathed him in the river and trekked with him on a long walk through the river and mountains, all the while talking to him and rubbing his cheeks and trunk. I even got the rare opportunity to feed and play with a 13-day-old baby elephant. Below, I’m sharing some of the life advice I got from elephants. Sure, it might seem silly, but these majestic animals can definitely teach us a thing or two about peaceful living.
Life Advice from Elephants
1. Eat mostly plants. Get your fiber, nutrients and calories from food that grows in the ground. For life and longevity, eat mostly plants.
2. Flap your ears. Elephants are not shy. When you get to know them and look into their eyes, you can see the emotion and love. When they are happy, they show you by flapping their ears. They don’t hide their joy, they proclaim it. Don’t hide your happiness: Express yourself!
3. Live in a community. Elephants can live to be over 90 years old, and it is rare to find one living alone. They live in clans with family and friends, many for their entire lives. They thrive when they are in community together with other elephants.
4. Show your love. Elephants are strong, know what they want, have very complex individual personalities and love to snuggle up. I’m pretty sure this exact description could fit heaps of people in my life. Practice giving affection and show your love.
What have you learned from animals in your life? Tweet us your thoughts @BritandCo!
(Photos via Getty)