After the horrible experiences I went through as my trainer tried to break me, I had hoped that I might get to live with the other elephants at the amusement park that I was sent to after being kidnapped from my family as a baby. Unfortunately, that was not to be the case.
My trainer knew that I would seek comfort from and form bonds with the adults in the herd. This was unacceptable to him, as he wanted to be the only one that bonded with so that I would perform for him. But how could I love someone who had hurt me and frightened me so much? Day after day I stood alone in my small corral, longing for the touch of another elephant. Night after night, I was driven in to the barn where I was chained to the cement floor by two of my ankles. I was so lonely and afraid and I missed my mother and aunties desperately!
The man started bringing me little treats. He tried to entice me with apples and bananas, but I was afraid that the hand that offered the treat would soon offer pain again instead. This angered the man and so he stopped feeding me. He knew that eventually I would be hungry enough to take the food from his hands and he was right. After nearly a week with no food in my tummy, I used my tiny baby trunk to take an apple from his hand. After that, I took the offered treats every time but it was always in the back of my mind that this same man, my trainer, had hurt me and that I must always be careful of him.
It was then that my training began in earnest. The first time the man tried to use the bull hook to guide me, I tried to run away, fearing the blow I knew would come, but the chains around my ankles prevented me from moving. I had learned my lesson during the breaking process and I knew that fighting would only bring more pain, so I gave in. I started to learn the commands the man forced on me.
With the help of the sharp hook, I learned that when he said the word “FOOT!” if I lifted my foot as high as possible, I could avoid the pain he threatened me with. I also learned to raise my trunk in a salute when he said the word “TRUNK!” To avoid a stab or a blow, I learned what was expected of me when my trainer said “MOVE UP,” “EASY,” and “STEADY,” all words that meant move forward, slow down, or stand still. Every movement I made was by the direction of my trainer and never was I allowed to move around on my own. I had spent almost every minute of my first two years walking many miles a day, playing in the mud, and trotting between the legs of the adults in my family. Now if I tried to make a move without the command of my trainer, I was told “STEADY!” and hit with the bull hook. It was horrible, but elephants are smart and I quickly learned exactly what he wanted me to do.
For hours every day, I endured the lessons and learned many more commands. When I wasn’t in training I was allowed out into my corral where I watched the other elephants interact with each other. I listened to the roar of the rollercoasters and the screams of the children who rode them. I smelled the strange fumes of machinery and junk food and I watched the other elephants perform for the crowds of people who clapped and cheered to see a wild animal do the tricks that we were forced to learn.
Did the audience know how strange and lonely our lives were? I hope not. I like to think that if they really knew what we were put through for their entertainment, they wouldn’t have been there…
STAY TUNED: An Elephant’s Tale, Part 3 coming soon.
Photo Credit: PETA http://www.ringlingbeatsanimals.com/bound-babies.asp