World’s Strangest

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A Celebration of Elephants

Every September 22nd, we celebrate Elephant Appreciation Day! To show our appreciation, here’s a look at some of the amazing things elephants do.

1. Play Soccer and Darts

(Image credit: Reuters/Sukree Sukplang)

An annual festival in Surin Province, Thailand celebrates elephants and all that they do. Highlights of the event include a soccer match, battles recreations, and an elephant dart competition!

2. Wash Cars

Elephants at Wildlife Safari in Winston, Oregon will wash your car for just $20, but be warned that the guarantee states they will not get it clean! However, the elephants have fun spraying water everywhere, and the money goes to support the zoo. See a video of the elephants in action.

3. Play Harmonica

(YouTube link)

This baby elephant at Phuket Island in Thailand enchants tourists with her dancing skills and harmonica music! She’s not the only harmonica-playing pachyderm. An elephant named Five at West Midlands Safari Park in England plays the harmonica every chance she gets, and an African elephant named Bubbles plays harmonica at Myrtle Beach Safari in South Carolina.

4. Facilitate Romance

An Asian elephant named Marcella lent a hand, or rather, a trunk when Oliver Thompson proposed to Emma Morgan at the Blackpool Zoo in England. Elephants are Morgan’s favorite animal, so Thompson made arrangements with the zoo staff for the couple to go inside the elephant enclosure as a special treat for her birthday. Morgan was thrilled with the opportunity, but she was ecstatic when Marcella approached her and handed her a ribbon -with an engagement ring attached! The ring was an inexpensive trinket from the gift shop, just in case the elephant wouldn’t part with it, but Thompson was ready with the real one. Oh, she said yes to the proposal.

5. Covert Theft

Just this year, and elephant was found to be the cause of the mysteriously disappearing hot tub water at the Etali Safari Lodge in South Africa. The tub was drained for days before a guest caught an elephant drinking it! The lodger snapped a photograph, which enabled staff to identify the elephant as one they knew named Troublesome. The solution to the problem was as easy as providing Troublesome with her own drinking water.

6. Talk

An elephant in Yongin, Korea named Kosik made worldwide headlines a few years ago when zookeepers announce the 16-year-old elephant had learned to talk! Kosik was not deliberatley trained to speak, but keepers heard recognizable words coming from his enclosure. The elephant was heard uttering the words “yes,” “no,” “lie down,” “sit down,” (in Korean) and some other phrases his handler had used. It is doubtful that Kosik understands the meaning of the words, but reproducing the sounds in itself is quite an accomplishment. See a Korean news report on Kosik. Another pachyderm who was reported to speak was Batyr, an elephant at the Karaganda Zoo in Kazakhstan, who was said to have had a vocabulary of about 20 Russian words. Batyr spent his entire life at the zoo without the companionship of any other elephant. He died in 1993 of an accidental drug overdose.

7. Get Hitched

This elephant wedding was staged by the Cole Brothers Circus on September 23rd, 1936. Little did they know that the date just before would someday be designated as Elephant Appreciation Day! See more pictures of the elephant wedding at SideShow World.

8. Play Basketball

(Image credit: Flickr user Alex Twose)

Elephants at the Island Safari Centre on Koh Samui, Thailand are taught to play basketball! The activity is purportedly to stimulate the elephants and keep them healthy, but it doesn’t hurt that elephant basketball games are a big hit with tourists. It takes only two or three months to train an elephant in ball-handling skills. The stars of the basketball program are nine-year-old Toktok and six-year-old Malie. No matter how good the elephants are at the slam-dunk, it is still up to their handlers to keep score.

9. Water Ski

(YouTube link)

If you visited Ponce DeLeon Springs Park in Florida in 1959 or 1960, you might have seen Queenie, the water-skiing elephant! Liz Dane adopted Queenie in 1953 and they grew up together. Read more about Queenie in this interview with Dane.

10. Paint

A group of elephants at the Maetaman Elephant Camp in Thailand have learned to paint. The amazing thing is that these are not abstract paintings, as most animals produce, but representative images! Sure, they are trained to do it, but whether they memorize a sequence of lines or paint what they see, it’s an amazing accomplishment. The elephant pictured is named Hong; you can see some of her works on her personal page. See video clips of Paya, Sela, Lucky, Boon Rod, Ging Gaow, and Lakshmi painting pictures at the Asian Elephant Art & Conservation Project. You can also see an extended video of the entire process in this post. Sales of elephant paintings support the elephant refuge.

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