Babar, that deceptive and misleading cartoon. Most television and media indicate elephants to be these big, yet incredibly gentle, creatures. I used to have a small fascination with elephants, but never a fear of them, up until December 2000 during a trip to India.

Visiting mainly Mumbai and Pune, two highly industrial and urbanized centers, I wasn't able to see too many of these grandiose creatures. Most of the elephants I saw were the idolized statues of the Hindu diety Ganesh in the many streetside alters and painted on the sides of buildings and walls. However, on a side trip to the south of India, to Mangalore, not to be confused with Bangalore, I was able to see some of these animals up close. A little too close for comfort.

At a small wildlife and nature park near a coconut grove, I was able to go up close to three elephants. The first was a full grown animal about 18 feet tall and weighing, well, a lot. There were two others, both not fully grown. One was a baby elephant, only about 5 feet tall. How wrong I was to think this animal was harmless.

My sister and I would go up to this elephant, and hold our arms out. The elephant would then raise its trunk to meet our finger tips. It was very cool. When trying to get a picture of this, the elephant suddenly wrapped its trunk around my leg and attempted to toss me into the air. Being thrown into a state of shock, and becoming the laughing stock of the elephant trainers and my family, is really quite traumatizing.

The moral of the story is, be careful around elephants. It's easy to forget that they weigh several tons, and can completely maul you with very little effort.