photosbygerry ellis from the david sheldrick wildlife trust, a nursery and orphanage for elephants in kenya’s tsavo east national park. here, fifty five keepers are charged with being around the clock parents to an elephant. the elephants, however, are the ones who chose their caretakers; it is the keepers who must ingratiate themselves to the elephants and earn their trust.
when elephants first arrive at the orphanage they are often traumatized from having witnessed the slaughter of their mothers and family by poachers. grieving can last several months, and they often lose the will to live. but as dame daphne sheldrick, founder of the orphanage, explains, a caretaker is charged with “persuading an elephant to live when it wants to die.”
approximately 35,000 elephants are killed by humans every year. with an estimated 350,000 elephants left in the whole continent of africa, they will be gone in the wild within ten years.
cbc’s the nature of things did a program on the elephants and their caretakers. you can foster an elephant with the david sheldrick wildlife trust online here. for more on the emotional lives of elephants, as well as the david sheldrick wildlife trust and other human efforts to save them, check out these posts
The first language humans had was gestures. There was nothing primitive about this language that flowed from people’s hands, nothing we say now that could not be said in the endless array of movements possible with the fine bones of the fingers and wrists. The gestures were complex and subtle, involving a delicacy of motion that has since been lost completely.
During the Age of Silence, people communicated more, not less. Basic survival demanded that the hands were almost never still, and so it was only during sleep (and sometimes not even then) that people were not saying something or other. No distinction was made between the gestures of language and the gestures of life. The labor of building a house, say, or preparing a meal was no less an expression than making the sign for I love you or I feel serious. When a hand was used to shield one’s face when frightened by a loud noise something was being said, and when fingers were used to pick up what someone else had dropped something was being said; and even when the hands were at rest, that, too, was saying something. Naturally, there were misunderstandings. There were times when a finger might have been lifted to scratch a nose, and if casual eye contact was made with one’s lover just then, the lover might accidentally take it to be the gesture, not at all dissimilar, for Now I realize I was wrong to love you. These mistakes were heartbreaking. And yet, because people knew how easily they could happen, because they didn’t go round with the illusion that they understood perfectly the things other people said, they were used to interrupting each other to ask if they’d understood correctly. Sometimes these misunderstandings were even desirable, since they gave people a reason to say, Forgive me, I was only scratching my nose.Of course I know I’ve always been right to love you. Because of the frequency of these mistakes, over time the gesture for asking forgiveness evolved into the simplest form. Just to open your palm was to say: Forgive me.
By Nicole Krauss, The History of Love (via wordsnquotes)