The Fear in Underground Elephants

There is a substance elephants need. When an elephant can’t find it in the foods they eat they find ways to get it. The animal’s fear of humans is making it hard for these pachyderms to venture to their architectural wonder in search of – salt. These animals are referred to Underground Elephants because, in ways we can’t fully understand, multiple generations of these majestic creatures have slaved away in complete privacy to develop caverns that take them deep underground in search of salt.

The Salt Equation

Farmers and Ranchers can tell you that their animals need a block of salt in order to thrive. You will see cows licking salt blocks if you visit a ranch because salt is vital to their welfare. Elephants have a similar need, but they can’t often find enough salt in the foods they eat so they have to find it elsewhere. Since salt blocks are not just lying around the Underground Elephants found their own way to meet the need.

What They Did

It is believed that these elephants located in Kenya have been excavating an existing cave at the base of Mt. Eglon for more than a thousand years. Each new generation learns from their predecessor how to descend into the cave and what to do to retrieve the salt from the back walls of the cavern.

Why the Elephants Fear

There was a time when this elephant herd numbered close to 1,000. During a singular event a group of hunters descended on them as the elephants sought to enter the cave and reduced their numbers by 90%. This event has led to a more reclusive herd and one that will only enter the cave under the cover of darkness – and away from human eyes.

Who’s Ian Redmond?

Ian Redmond is a scientist who has taken the role of elephant therapist if you will. He is taking a long-term approach to helping these elephants regain the trust of humans. He continues to spend time with the herd and has even learned a type of communications technique used by the herd.

Redmond is not necessarily trying to gain the elephants trust in order to film their adventures because the BBC has already filmed their descent into the cave by remote cameras. Redmond is trying to reestablish a connection of trust between the fearful elephants and humans.


This story is a unique picture at generational fear. The gruesome  death experienced by their predecessors somehow lives on in the hesitance of the modern day herd. I don’t know that animals can reason in the same way humans can, but there seems to be some connection that causes this ongoing distrust of humans that colors how the herd works to retrieve the salt.

The lesson perhaps for humans is that we too can have fears that are passed on from one generation to the next. This is a cycle that can be broken, yet for many there may actually be a fear of breaking away from the fear. That may seem strange, but for some it may be possible to embrace a known fear than to leave it in favor of something they are unsure of.

In all our lives we need someone like an Ian Redmond who is willing to help us regain trust in order to displace fear.

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