Tusk and Tail : Living Large with My Elephant Companion


The mere mention of elephants might bring images of majestic creatures trudging through the sprawling African savannah. These magnificent mammals, known for their immense size and intelligence, are commonly viewed from afar, either through the lenses of documentaries or the barriers of a zoo. However, my story with elephants is much closer to home—quite literally. Welcome to my larger-than-life journey with my elephant companion, Bantu.

How it All Began: My Journey Into the World of Elephants

Embarking on a path that led to Bantu wasn’t a part of my initial career plan. As a seasoned wildlife biologist, my journey had taken me across different terrains, working with an array of animal species. Yet, elephants were not on that list until a chance encounter steered my path toward them.

My colleague, recognizing my deep affinity for wildlife, presented me with an unusual request. There was an orphaned elephant calf, a victim of cruel poaching, that desperately needed a home. Could I be the one to provide that? My head was filled with logistical worries, but my heart whispered a resounding “yes”. The prospect of raising an elephant was daunting, but the thrill of the unknown beckoned. It was a leap of faith into a life-altering adventure.

Elephant Adoption: An Unusual, Rewarding Challenge

Welcoming Bantu into my fold wasn’t as straightforward as bringing home a fluffy kitten or a playful pup. Bantu, with his colossal size and specific dietary requirements, necessitated significant changes. I had to ensure that Bantu had enough room to roam, access to an elephant-appropriate diet, and opportunities for social interaction—essentials for his growth and well-being.

The list of necessary adjustments was intimidating, but the opportunity to nurture this magnificent creature was too enriching to pass up.

The process was akin to learning a new language, as I found myself delving into the intricacies of elephant behavior, diet, and social needs. I had to become well-versed in what to feed Bantu, how to keep him occupied, and understand the importance of socialization in his development. There were times when it seemed overwhelming, but each step, each new understanding of Bantu, further solidified our bond.

The reality of caring for an elephant in my home was indeed an immense challenge, but it was counterbalanced by the profound joy of watching Bantu grow. The way he would curiously explore his surroundings, the excitement in his eyes when he discovered a new food he liked, and his gentle, playful interactions made every hurdle worthwhile.

Although adopting an elephant is an unconventional path to embark on, the rewards—watching Bantu thrive, fostering a deep bond with him, and becoming a part of his incredible journey—made every single challenge worth it.

Life Adjustments: Making Room for an Elephant in My World

Adapting my life to accommodate Bantu was no small task. Elephants are inherently social beings that thrive on interaction, and Bantu craved the same. It began with transforming my backyard into an oasis suitable for a young elephant, a haven where he could move freely and explore his surroundings. Stacking up on fresh produce became a norm, with a shopping list dominated by fruits and vegetables Bantu relished.

To satisfy his innate need for exploration and interaction, I scheduled regular excursions to local nature reserves, a practice that soon became an integral part of our routine.

With Bantu’s arrival, my home underwent a drastic transformation – it wasn’t just my space anymore, it was also Bantu’s. The initial phase was filled with trial and error as I discovered the best ways to make Bantu comfortable and happy. It was a steep learning curve, but one that we both enjoyed as it strengthened our bond.

The adjustments were demanding, indeed, but Bantu’s comfort was paramount. As time passed, Bantu’s presence became less of an adjustment and more of a cherished part of my daily life. Embracing an elephant-sized lifestyle was challenging, yet rewarding in ways I could have never imagined.

Communicating with Bantu: Understanding Elephant Behavior

Establishing effective communication with Bantu was an integral part of our evolving relationship. Like many animal species, elephants possess a rich repertoire of social cues and signals, each holding a unique meaning. To truly connect with Bantu, it was necessary for me to grasp this intricate communication system.

Our language gradually took form, composed of a symphony of rumbles, an array of ear flaps, and a myriad of trunk touches. I spent countless hours observing Bantu, deciphering his behaviors, his reactions to different situations, and his ways of expressing various emotions.

A gentle flap of his ears could indicate contentment, while a swift rumble might hint at agitation. His trunk, an incredibly versatile tool, was used not only for eating and drinking but also for expressing affection.

Over time, I became fluent in this ‘elephantese’. I began to understand his mood swings, anticipate his needs, and respond accordingly. A touch of the trunk often meant he sought comfort, a particular rumble signaled his hunger, and a playful tossing of the head was an invitation for a game.

This newfound understanding allowed us to develop a deep, non-verbal bond. It was more than simple communication—it was a shared understanding, a mutual respect, a common language spoken by two species who, despite their differences, found common ground. Our dialogue transcended the barriers of species and language, binding us in an intimate and unique relationship.

Communicating with Bantu wasn’t just about understanding his behaviors, it was about building a bridge of understanding and empathy, a bond that only grew stronger with each trunk touch, ear flap, and rumble.

The Joys and Challenges of Living with an Elephant

Co-existing with Bantu in my everyday life was a journey punctuated by moments of sheer delight and periods of challenge. His playful antics brought a unique kind of joy, whether he was wallowing gleefully in a mud bath or sleeping peacefully, his enormous form gently rising and falling with each breath. These were the times when my heart would swell with affection for Bantu, knowing that I had provided him with a safe and happy environment.

However, the joy was equally balanced by a set of demanding tasks. Bantu’s enormous size came with responsibilities, like ensuring he was getting enough exercise and maintaining his diet, which was no small task considering an elephant’s voracious appetite. The need for constant stimulation was another challenge as Bantu, like all elephants, is intelligent and needs mental engagement.

These challenges were sometimes arduous, but they were an essential part of my journey with Bantu. As each day unfolded, I gained a deeper understanding of his needs and behaviors, and in doing so, found a deeper appreciation for his species. Every challenge was a lesson, and every joy was a reward, contributing to an enriching life lived side by side with my elephant companion.

How Bantu Changed My Perspective on Conservation

Before Bantu entered my life, the concept of conservation, while important, remained largely an abstract notion. However, sharing my everyday life with this gentle giant has brought the harsh realities of wildlife threats to the forefront. Seeing Bantu thrive in the safety of his newfound home, I became painfully aware of the thousands of elephants not as fortunate. The unsettling truth is, countless elephants fall victim to poaching and habitat degradation each year.

Having Bantu by my side underscored the grim reality that each lost elephant is not merely a number or statistic. They are unique, sentient beings, brimming with personality, intelligence, and emotion, much like Bantu. His journey from an orphaned calf to a thriving, joyful elephant illuminated the distinct individuality each elephant possesses. This realization made the loss inflicted by human actions more tangible and, therefore, more heart-wrenching.

Witnessing Bantu’s curiosity, intelligence, and capacity for affection, I felt a renewed urgency for conservation efforts. It’s not about preserving an abstract concept of a species but protecting and respecting individuals with their own narratives, quirks, and contributions to the world. This new perspective cemented my resolve to advocate for wildlife conservation. After all, the world would be a much poorer place without the likes of Bantu. Their survival is not just a cause; it’s a necessity.

Living with Bantu has thus become a powerful call to action. It’s a daily reminder that conservation is not a distant issue but an immediate, pressing concern that deserves our wholehearted commitment. Every time I look into Bantu’s expressive eyes, I am reminded of why we must fight for these remarkable creatures – to ensure their stories continue to unfold in the safety and freedom they deserve.

Lessons from Bantu: What My Elephant Companion Has Taught Me

In our extraordinary journey together, Bantu has been more than just a companion; he’s been a mentor, imparting lessons of resilience, compassion, and humility. From his early days of adapting to a new environment, Bantu’s remarkable resilience in the face of adversity was palpable. He embodied the essence of endurance, reminding me that resilience isn’t about merely bouncing back—it’s about forging ahead despite obstacles.

Bantu’s lessons didn’t end there. His imposing size and strength belied an underlying gentleness that was both disarming and enlightening. Here was a creature that could easily assert dominance, yet chose empathy over power, nurturing over intimidation. This juxtaposition served as a gentle reminder that true power lies in kindness and respect.

But perhaps the most significant lesson from Bantu was one of humility. Despite his size and physical prowess, Bantu was deeply dependent on me for his well-being—a reliance that was humbling. His trust in me, despite his traumatic past, taught me the transformative power of patience, love, and unwavering care. This mutual dependency was a poignant reminder of our interconnectedness with nature and wildlife.

In the grand scheme of life, Bantu, with his indomitable spirit, his gentle power, and his humble dependency, has imparted life lessons that extend far beyond our unique companionship. These lessons, encapsulated in his everyday behavior, his interactions, and his reliance, have made a lasting imprint on my life, shaping my perspectives and guiding my actions. In Bantu, I found not just an elephant companion, but a living, breathing manual on life’s most profound lessons.


Sharing my life with Bantu has been an extraordinary, enlightening, and utterly transformative experience. The bond we’ve forged has led me on a journey into the fascinating world of elephants, underscoring the critical importance of their protection and the integral role wildlife plays in our ecosystem.

Bantu’s journey from a vulnerable orphan to a thriving, joyful creature has left an indelible mark on my heart, sparking a profound appreciation for his species. With each day, as Bantu grows and flourishes, so does my admiration and love for these astonishing animals. To put it simply, Bantu is much more than an elephant in my backyard—he’s become an irreplaceable friend, an unparalleled teacher, and an endless source of inspiration in my life.

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