I realised after a few days in Auckland (fabulous double-harboured city, by the way, with a west coast within a few km of the east coast, in fact about 1 km at the narrowest point) that there is a surprising fixation on elephants.
I’m trying to picture without success a herd or two of elephants roaming the Coromandel Peninsula. In fact, the biggest specimen of moving wild-life I recall was a bluebottle fly. I heard bird calls, and saw some lunatic drivers on TV, but in real life… nothing that a rolled up newspaper couldn’t handle.
My first Auckland elephant was an Indian elephant called Rajah at the Auckland War Memorial Museum. Rajah was a huge surprise, as I was pottering around the display of Maori artefacts at the time.
It seems that Rajah was imported in 1930 as a ‘tame’ elephant to be used for giving rides to visitors to the Auckland Zoo, but Rajah thought very little of this idea. In fact, he was so unimpressed with the idea that he had to executed by a keeper as he became more and more dangerous 😦 After 7 months of stuffing, he was presented to the museum for public display, but even they couldn’t find a use for him until recently. Oh, Rajah, if only you had been left in the jungle.
Within 10 steps of Rajah was his tiny cousin, among a display of early 20th century NZ childhood memories. This little elephant was evidently much-loved, in contrast to Rajah. His trunk was almost loved right off, I see.
In the same museum was a little award made to Sir Edmund Hillary, NOT for climbing Mt Everest. I forget what he did to earn this – as you can imagine, it was rather less memorable than the big climb.
Outside the museum, one of the local banks has a display of ellie-banks (as opposed to piggy-banks) to remind us in light of the Christchurch earthquakes to save and take out insurance for unforeseen disasters. Though it beats me how one could not see the Christchurch earthquakes coming – once I read about the unstable tectonic plates that cause one of NZ’s islands to be steadily moving beneath Australia while the other moves on top, I saw an earthquake in every leaf flutter or stomach rumble. Hooray for the apparent stability of Melbourne.
Note to elephants wishing to emigrate to New Zealand – trunks seem particularly vulnerable in this climate.
Finally, an African elephant and her calf made it to Auckland. Here is the work of Zimbabwean sculptor Morgen Runyanga.
Somehow, I never saw a kiwi. Perhaps I’ll have to go back to Africa for that. Good old Kiwi Shoe Polish, I miss you.