We probably should not attribute human emotions to animals, but if we could? I would say elephants have a sense of humour. I mean, what if they actually did…? It would sure explain a lot to me…! Here are a few reasons why I like to think they do…
The boys and I were on our way to school last week when I saw a bull elephant on the road heading towards me. He was quite a distance away still, but I could see I was going to have to wait a bit. He had this typical swing in his step of a bull in musth: urine dripping and staining his back legs. And I could smell him a mile away. Elephants in musth that walk in the road don’t easily give way. For anything.
Bulls can walk on the road like that for kilometres. Traffic jams forming both in front of and behind the elephant, the people in the cars not sure what to do. Behind the elephant is definitely the place I would rather be. The people in the traffic jam in front always have this panicked look on their faces. “Can I turn around?” “ Will I be able to reverse without backing into someone?” “What if he charges?” Definitely a bit of a predicament to be in, especially when it is getting close to gate closing time!
The elephant in the meantime doesn’t have a care in the world. He just walks along in the middle of the road. I can almost see an amused expression on his face: “Look at all these silly multi-coloured ants, they are so scared of me!” You would almost think he was doing it on purpose! I sure would if I were an elephant!;-)
It is not just the bulls in musth that make me think elephants have a sense of humour. I was on a sunset drive once with my friend the guide from Lower Sabie. We were watching this elephant that was busy feeding on a tree from up close and personal. You could see the elephant was a bit unsure of what to do. He was swinging his front foot and rubbing his eye with his trunk. Almost as if he was telling us “can I just eat in peace here please?” Then, he picked up a branch and threw it towards our truck! Everyone had a lekker laugh. We got the message loud and clear, and let the big guy enjoy his tree on his own.
Then there was an elephant bull my friend from photography school and I watched at a waterhole. It was during the heat of the day and we were on our way from Satara to Olifants during a fantastic two-week Kruger vacation.
We watched this big bull while he was having a drink at the waterhole north of Ngotso. He had the place all to himself for a while, but it did not take long for a big herd of impala to show up. A group of zebra wasn’t far behind them. This obviously annoyed the elephant. And even though the poor thirsty impala and zebra kept a respectful distance, the elephant took a big trunkful of water and sprayed it all over them! This scared the living daylights out of the parched animals and they scattered. The big bull, or should I say bully;-) then left, with a smug look on his face.
Baby elephants are extremely amusing to watch. They still need to learn how to control the muscles in their tiny trunk. I have seen them try and use their trunk to drink water, just like the big elephants do. But they just did not manage to get it right and flopped their useless appendage around in frustration. Eventually just diving into the water face first to get a drink. The way they mock charge a car or an innocent guinea fowl just to try and scare someone is absolutely adorable!
So if elephants have a sense of humour, it would totally explain why they leave branches and twigs scattered all over the road. Branches so big, you have to slalom around them in order not to get one stuck under your car. The same goes for all the dung heaps in the road. No one wants to drive over those! It almost is as if they design an obstacle course for the cars just before the gates open. I like to think they then watch from a distance!
Have you ever experienced something that makes you think elephants have a sense of humour too? I would love to hear it!