A most beautiful elephant

Mark Deeble

Athena

In a meeting recently in London, I described a particular elephant as, “the most beautiful I’d ever seen” and when questioned further, added that she was “elegant”.

I surprised myself.

There were a few smiles around the table and the conversation moved on; I didn’t think too much about it. Then, last week, back in Tsavo I found myself describing her to a fellow pilot, in case he spotted her from the air. I used the same words and then, when he raised an eyebrow, quickly added, “her tusks are beautifully proportioned”.

It set me thinking about what constitutes beauty in an elephant.

Perhaps surprisingly, elephants differ in appearance throughout Africa. Populations of elephants are rather like those of humans; those that share a common ancestry share common features. Once you have your ‘eye in’ you can distinguish an elephant from Kenya from one from Botswana or Namibia.

Savannah elephants…

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