Song of the Orphan Elephant

In Kenya there is a wonderful lady, who has spent more than half a century rescuing and looking after orphaned elephants and other animals. Her name is Dame Daphne Sheldrick and in February 2012 she published her life story in a book called “An African Love Story”. There was some fanfare in the London Sunday newspapers at the time and I happened to read a well written piece in the Sunday Telegraph about her and her work with orphaned elephants.

It sometimes takes an exceptional human being to make one realise how savage we are as a species and frankly how unworthy we are as the dominant inhabitants of this planet. So often we ignore the obvious, that there is intelligence in animals, kindness, love and order in the societies they try hard to create for themselves despite the cruel intrusions we make into their lives and habitat.

The story of an elephant, left orphaned and found by the dead body of its mother, ravaged for her ivory tusks, moved me to tears. 

And I thought if he could express himself like us, what would he say?

I have less right to live than you
Beneath wide Heaven’s floor and Earth’s blue sky
No shame in that, you know it’s true
So many reasons why we have to die

But curse the shot that broke her frame
Acceptance of our lot brings little joy
With anger, sadness, searing pain
In closing eyes she left an orphaned boy

I have less right to walk than you
In yellow fields of shrub midst trees of green
It’s just a fact you know it too
Please no tears for me and what might have been

But curse white horn that means so much
To those that kill and tear it from her face
Not even is a mother’s touch
Worth the brightest day alone in this place

I have less right to grieve than you
Yet grieving seems to be a part of me
So many once but now so few
Long memories of how it used to be.

But curse the help that comes so late
When she is gone and I am left alone
This orphan’s care is now my fate
Not the open savannah of my home

I have less right to dream than you
Though dreaming is for me the only way
To brace myself and make it through
The loneliness of yet another day

But curse the dreams that man has brought
So cruelly to a world of gentlest love
Scream; scream against the sadness they have wrought
Which we could not have dreamed of

I have less right to love than you
Our species cannot show how deep we feel
Though loving less is hard to do
Understanding of love’s loss is just as real

But curse the love you show to me
Kindness does not mitigate your race
Strength and wisdom should make you see
It’s your duty to help us share this space

I have less right to cry than you
So crying here I lay my head to die
And now I see small specks of blue
Between heaven’s wide floor and Earth’s grey sky


From that place elephants tears fall
Rain crossing rainbows colours all along
While thunder roars the mother’s call
In answer to her dying orphan’s song.

A.J.Young – March 2012