Job Description: Elephant rehabilitation specialist. Must be comfortable working and living with pachyderms, especially young elephants. Job requires constant 24×7 interaction, including sleeping in close quarters with emotionally traumatized animals. Excellent benefits, including full paid medical.
Do you want that job? Can you bed down in the same stall with an elephant prone to night terrors? There are those who do, and they love their work. That is if non-verbal cues and looks of joy mean anything.
During the long week of entertaining our children after the historic Halloween weekend snow storm that rocked Connecticut back into the days before Edison, we ventured down to the Norwalk Maritime Aquarium, a gem of a facility that includes an IMAX theatre. After tears of terror at a 3D movie at Disney in the spring, I didn’t know what to expect from my seven and five year olds, but we took a chance and got tickets to see Born to be Wild. The 2011 movie, featuring narration by Morgan Freeman, depicts the work of Daphne Sheldrick and Dr. Birute Mary Galdikas. Both oversee facilities that rescue young animals from near certain death after their mothers have been killed. For us, the promise of a six story high movie screen filled with baby elephants and orangutans was enough to get us there, but it delivered much more.
It is clear that Dr. Galdikas and Ms. Sheldrick, who work with orangutans in Borneo and elephants in Kenya, respectively, love their work. They have been doing it for decades and have had amazing success, rehabilitating these animals and successfully integrating them back into the wild. What impressed me, at least as much as these women and their work, was the total engagement of the people who serve in the facilities, some living with and sleeping with terror stricken animals. One statement by Ms. Sheldrick that I will paraphrase sticks with me: “Elephants have remarkable memories, and what they remember is terrible.”
If you take the time to see the movie – and I recommend that you do – you will witness people doing what they love. One would have to love the work to sleep in the same stall as an elephant, being there throughout the night to provide comfort and risking injury and death in the process. I wonder how many of us are so dedicated to our work that we would face serious risk to get it done. Am I as dedicated to my work as these Kenyans are to theirs? Drop 10 bucks and 40 minutes of your time and see this movie. My guess is that you will be informed and inspired in more ways than one.