Elephants are majestic creaturies. Currently, the African bush elephant, African forest elephant, and Asian elephant are the three species recognized. They are among the smartest creatures in the world, with their intelligence even being compared with that of primates. In addition to their mental capabilities, elephants have also been known to exhibit self-awareness and profound empathy for their own kind.
Unfortunately, elephants are greatly at risk, both due to habitat loss as a result of climate change and from poachers who seek to illegally trade their ivory tusks. Save the Elephant Day, taking place annually on April 16, is an international movement to secure elephants’ future and sustain the species.
To mark this occasion, we’re taking a look back to celebrate some of the most famous (and infamous) elephants ever.
Abul-Abbas was an Asian elephant who was given as a gift to the emperor Charlemagne by the fifth Abbasid Caliph, Harun al-Rashid. Charlemagne even took Abul-Abbas to his war with the Danes in 804.
He was one of the elephants to be remembered by name, as both it and events from his life were recorded in the Carolingian Annales regni Francorum.
Black Diamond was one of many captive elephants killed for having a temper. An Indian elephant who was owned by the Al G. Barnes Circus, he was thought to be the largest captive elephant of his kind at the time. He killed several people and was eventually shot to death in 1929 after going on a rampage that resulted in the death of his long-time former trainer’s employer.
Echo was an African bush elephant matriarch who was known as the “most studied elephant in the world.” Ethologist Cynthia Moss studied Echo for over three decades — she was the first subject of the Amboseli Elephant Research Project, which was the longest-running study of any land mammal.
Fanny was a female Asian elephant born in the wild who spent most of her life in Slater Park Zoo, a small facility in Pawtucket, Rhode Island. She was previously a circus elephant with the Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus, and while at the Slater Park Zoo, she became a symbol of the city of Pawtucket. A fiberglass sculpture of her was even erected in 2007.
Gajarajan Guruvayur Keshavan
Keshavan is arguably the most famous and beloved temple elephant in India. The elephant, who died in 1976, was known for his particularly devout religious behavior. The day of his death is still celebrated annually by those in Guruvauyur.