Elephants are the largest land animals, and the African elephants are the largest of all. Like most big people, these big animals are generally quite gentle.
But they are wild animals, and that means they are unpredictable (not that we can always predict what people will do). As I travelled through Africa by vehicle I hardly gave a thought to being attacked by an elephant. But I admit being frightened when I stalked an elephant once in Zambia’s famous South Luangwa National Park.
At the time I was the U.S. AID Affairs Officer in Malawi, the country just to the east of Zambia. I had been visiting a friend who was the AID Affairs Officer in Lusaka, Zambia’s capital.
When I went after the elephant, I went with my camera, not a gun. But a ranger went along with a gun to guard me — just in case. Even so, I was frightened. But not too frightened to take this photograph:
Then, the elephant turned on me — and I was really scared. But held my ground long enough for this shot:
I am happy to say the elephant didn’t kill me, and the ranger didn’t kill the elephant. Truce!
Actually, the big elephant at the right in the photo below didn’t seem any too happy with me either. When they flail their big ears, watch out.
This elephant family lived in Kenya’s Tsavo National Park. Yes, that’s snow and ice on the mountain in the background — 19,000 foot Mount Kilimanjaro, Africa’s highest mountain, just over the border in Tanzania:
Elephant gentleness, however, is the rule. And no photograph that I ever too illustrates this better the photo below of one each of five different species of animals — an elephant, a bushbuck, a Ugandan kob, an impala, and partially hidden at the left, a warthog.
This was in Uganda’s Queen Elizabeth National Park near the Congo border and the Ruwenzori Mountains (the so-called Mountains of the Moon). The river is the Nile and the color in the ski is indeed a rainbow.
This photograph always reminded me of the painting, The Peaceable Kingdom, by Edward Hicks, an American folk painter and a Quaker minister. O, if we could all live in peace with each other, man, woman, and beast alike!