180 Degrees

Story by anonymous 

I’ve always had a deep love for animals, and known I wanted to work with them in some capacity. I was majoring in Animal Science at a university in the states. Our professor had a great relationship with the local zoo, and we made a fieldtrip there to talk about animal husbandry. The General Curator asked for a volunteer (for what, I didn’t know) and my hand shot up immediately. I was picked and whisked away on a golf cart to the elephant enclosure. The curator was drawing blood from the elephant’s ear, and I got to assist. Looking into the dark elephant barn its sad and foreboding appearance was not lost on me. What really struck me were the large cuffs and a chain cemented into the concrete. The curator had me wait outside the door while he asked an elephant to present it’s foot for chaining then bend its head down and present its ear. While I was standing there, outside of the elephant barn, on one side of a chain link fence, there was a different elephant chained to the cement on the opposite side of the fence. We studied each other, me in total wonder and amazement at my close proximity to this magnificent animal. While the elephant couldn’t get to me, her trunk could, and did. There was just enough of a fence to separate us, but not enough to keep her from reaching her trunk around it to me. Starting at my feet, she sniffed and gently caressed my entire body, up and down, with her trunk. It was a truly magical experience, and one that still stays with me. Later, I had the privilege of working at an elephant sanctuary in the States, and fully realized the pressures and hardship zoo elephants face. I’ve also traveled to Africa twice, and witnessed great herds of elephants in the wild. They are truly an awe-inspiring species, deserving of protection and advocacy. Today, I have found myself working outside of the animal world, and I no longer look at animals in captivity the same way.

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