Small world of grey and blue

Small World of Grey & Blue (c) Young World, The Hindu, 2013The baby Asian elephant talks of his life in the herd and how wonderful it is to grow up in a large family.

Dear Aristotle,

I can understand the anguish of those human toddlers. As a baby elephant, I am mollycoddled by my grandma, mom, aunts and sisters. I just can’t imagine what my life would be without them. Now, let me take you to my world that is bundled in love and harmony.

Well loved

I weighed 100 kg when I was born; so my mother told me. It may seem like an enormous birth weight but it really isn’t when you look at my parents! They are HUGE! My father weighs about… hmm, maybe close to 5000 kg and my mother only slightly less! We newborns look cute and petite when we walk in our herd, amidst countless petting trunks and thick, pillar-like legs of my family members.

Until I grow over nine feet tall, which by the way is my father’s height, my world would be one of just grey and blue.

Kids of Elephas maximus , better known as the Asian elephant, are really smothered with love. I am not complaining. I get to drink milk not just from my mom but also from other mothers with young ones. We are one big happy family. Baby elephants also gobble up their mother’s poop. Now this might put you off but truly it is one easy way to get nutrients and helpful bacteria. You see, the problem for elephants is poor digestion. Though adults take about 150-200 kg of grass, leaves, shrubs and bark every day, they can assimilate only about half of that. They eliminate the rest. My, how many times we have to go! Maybe between 20 and 30 times a day! Life is fun as a baby elephant. I hold my mother’s or sister’s tail with my trunk when moving from one place to another. This way I don’t lose her in the big herd. Speaking of trunks, it is an incredible organ. We smell, breathe, trumpet and feel with it. We pick up things, even something as minute as a pin, with the help of a finger-like projection at the tip of the trunk. I am typing right now with my “finger”!

No animal is a threat to us except man. I have heard my aunts say that there are only about 30,000 of us in the wild in Asia, of which about 18,000 are in India, in the jungles of the Western Ghats and the North East. That makes us an endangered species.

Couldn’t all animals co-exist in harmony without being a threat to others?

Couldn’t all species of animals live together as one big family as ours?

Asian Elephant Jr.

Reply from Aristotle

Carnivores eat other animals

Herbivores feed on plant material

Omnivores are generalists.

Foliovores stuff their faces with leaves

And insectivores with those over-populated irritants.

Frugivores gorge themselves on fruits

And lignivores on wood.

Sanguivores fill up with blood of other animals

So, baby maximus, what do we call you?

Let me tell you — Coprophagia is the consumption of one’s own or others’ you-know-what.

It is nature’s way of providing nutrition to animals.

Gorillas do it; the baby pandas and koalas also do it. Rabbits and some rats move their food twice through their digestive system before they leave it alone and move on.

Published as part of a series titled ‘Aristotle’s Mailbag’ in Young World, The Hindu, dt. February 5, 2013

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