Broken Ear Club


By Jenna Parker, Ph.D. Researcher, Save the Elephants - Samburu

Date Published

Floppy-eared Frida of the Artists 2 family is an orphan who will always have a special place in my heart. Frida’s mother died during treatment for a bullet wound when she was only 6 years old. Perhaps it was her very broken left ear, draped against her face that first drew my attention. Or maybe it was how she kept company with another orphan in her family named Rothko. Best friends and never far apart, together they make quite the pair. International Save the Elephants intern Patrick Freeman dubbed them the “Broken Ear Club,” since Rothko’s right ear is broken. It is as though Frida and Rothko know that, when together, they have at least one good set of ears.

I was further drawn to Frida when one of the older female in her family Violet unexpectedly died of unknown natural causes. Violet left behind a 1-year-old male calf. In an act not often observed in elephants, Frida allowed Violet’s calf to nurse from her, even though I doubt she had any milk since she had not yet had a calf. She also tolerated Violet’s calf following her around everywhere; it was as though he was her own. Rothko stepped in to help much of the time too. The Broken Ear Club had accepted a third member.

Unfortunately, Violet’s calf disappeared after some time, but at the age of 13 Frida shortly gave birth to her own calf, filling the gap that was once occupied by Violet’s calf.  Rothko also had a calf, and Frida’s friendship with her was passed on to their female calves as though knit into their genes. When Rothko’s calf lies down for a rest, Frida’s calf ambles over to plop on top of her, and they sleep there in a pile beneath their floppy-eared mothers. They further chase and follow one another everywhere when the family is walking or feeding, exploring the world together in their newfound existence.

Just the other day, Frida was mud bathing next to our car, her calf next to her side, tripping over itself in the clumpy mud. Frida sucked up a trunkful of muddy water, before suddenly turning and spraying our car across its side. Fitting, that one of the Artists should shower our car in abstractly arranged dots. I loved those spots, and we avoided washing the car for days. They reminded us of good old Frida, the elephant who taught me that one does not have to be human to inspire. She recovered after her mother’s death at a very young age, and then grew into an elephant who cares about other individuals in a way that is apparent even to members of a different species.