Destinations Magazine

Touched: Nepalese Baby Elephant

By Colleen Brynn @ColleenBrynn

The Planet Earth DVD that tells the tale of an elephant separated from his mother in a dust storm killed me on the inside. I know nature predominates, and the videographers couldn’t just turn the little guy around and reunite him with his mother. I know that, but it still angered me to see – not at the videographers, but at the tragedy of The Way Things Are. I cried and sobbed when I watched this footage.

And this is how I felt before I played with a baby elephant.




Nature, animals of all kinds, have always tugged at my heart. I’m a huge animal lover.

I grew up in a house full of animals. At one point, we had a bird, a cat, two dogs and a hedgehog, and I can remember spending oodles of time around horses with my horse-loving mama. At the moment, I have a cat, Maple, and a dog, Penny. Even as I write this, Maple is pinning my left arm down with her full weight as she breathes contented little cat-snores.

Life with animals is inherently therapeutic. Life without animals (at least for me), is decidedly a sliver sadder. The inflation of happiness I feel when an animal is near me after a period of absence is practically tangible. I can taste the difference happiness from an animal makes me feel.

As a traveller, I often say goodbye to the animals in my life for stretches of time while I am on the road. I’m kind of used to this, but it doesn’t make me miss my critters any less. When I come across other people’s pets when I’m traveling, I’d say I’m almost embarrassing. I soak it up. Cuddles. Rubs. Playtime. Naps if possible! I recently wrote a little In Memoriam for my friend Rachel’s dog, Huck. There were lots of cuddles and tons of playtime with Huckleberry Finn while I was in Goa.

In that piece, I mention that I aim to remember the animals that have touched me in my travels… the animals that have added a splash of their therapeutic non-judging, unconditional love to my life.

The first, we begin with the elephant of Chitwan National Park, Nepal.




On this chilly, gray October morning, I was flipping through my Facebook newsfeed. One of my friends had shared a video compilation of people rescuing animals from various perilous situations. While touching, none of these clips brought be to tears until the one where the heroes struggle to pull a baby elephant from a hole. The scene that follows is the mother running across a field and the baby’s little legs carrying it as quickly as possibly towards his mother until the two reunite. As I watched, I bawled and bawled.

With my previous experience with Planet Earth, obviously I have a preordained soft spot for elephants. But ever since my time in Nepal, I have personal experience to connect to these strong emotions now.




Back to Nepal.

We arrived at our lodge in Chitwan and checked in. After dinner and a sunset walk, we were left to our own devices. Most people opted to huddle around the main lodge and suck up the internet. Instead of grappling with this loose connection, I decided to shower and call it an early night.

I got into bed and began scratching the day’s events down in my journal and listened to the Nepalese night outside my hut. The sounds were all normal except for one… shuffling and rustling of leaves, and if I dared guess, the chewing of said leaves. Part of me was tired and just wanted to go to sleep. The other part of me channeled my most curious and inspiring travel friend, Kathy. I asked myself, “What would Kathy do?”… without question, she would go investigate. Her story of venturing onto an Easter Island beach alone, in the middle of the night, with nothing but the moonlight to guide her inspired me. It was on that beach, in the darkness, that a rustling brought an animal to her, and she had an encounter with a wild, island horse.

I got out of bed and went to the sound.

My sandalled feet skimmed over the dewy grass, and the outline of a huge beast under a tall grass roof appeared. It was an elephant munching away at her dinner. That alone set my heart to flight. I could have stood there and watched her for hours, stood in her presence and soaked up her ancient and gentle energy. It was only moments of these thoughts before I noticed at her feet, a tiny little baby elephant. I almost shrieked.

The baby marched toward me, trunk forward, reaching and feeling. I stuck out my hand, and she grabbed hold, pulling and tugging at her new friend. I giggled in delight, and a rush of potent happiness hit my veins as I realized I hadn’t felt such joy in months. All sadness I might have known in recent history was overwhelmed by the presence of this little spirit and was washed away immediately, without fight.

Like that, we played for a while – a gentle game of tug-o-war and curiosity. The baby grabbed at my wrists and the clothing I wore and tried to bring me into her pen.

The next morning, I woke up before sunrise, and we played together again.







That night, after dinner, I returned to play with my new friend once more. The friendship was constant and unchanging. She was reliable.

On our last day, we packed up and readied to leave. I ventured over to the little elephant pad to say goodbye, but the elephants were not there. I presume they were out for a walk in an open field somewhere. My initial reaction was disappointment that I wouldn’t get to say goodbye, but my next thought was relief. I would have had a hard time knowingly tearing myself away from this beautiful animal and the happiness I felt near her… just like when I turned around to see Huck looking at me one last time from the window of Rachel’s home. Goodbyes – with animals or with humans – are never easy. And, if you continue to read these animal stories, you will see that I’m not kidding about these hard goodbyes…

Not a day goes by that I don’t think about this little guy, and I stubbornly hold onto the feeling that she gave me. The intensity of the emotion fades with time, but I remember how I felt, for a few brief days, happier than I can remember in a long time, all thanks to a baby elephant.


Are you an animal lover too? Have you ever played with a baby elephant? Tell me about your animal stories in the comments! And while we’re at it, please like my Facebook page, and don’t forget to follow me on twitter and Instagram too!

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