A Proboscis Par Excellence

photograph by Cheryl Merrill

photograph by Cheryl Merrill

 

Jabu’s trunk tip investigates my right boot.  Its scent swirls up two seven-foot-long nostrils – nostrils surrounded by nerves, arteries, veins and a staggering array of longitudinal and transverse muscles, the world’s biggest, longest and certainly most flexible olfactory organ.

A trunk is the most useful appendage that ever evolved.  Imagine having an arm in place of your nose, an arm long enough to reach to the top of a tree and pluck a single leaf from its crown.  Imagine having a nose that could rip, tear, excavate, whack, and blow bubbles.  You could steal with your nose, suck on it, or swat, poke and siphon with your nose.  You could take a shower, scratch your back, or whistle with it.  You could even arm wrestle with your nose.

The seven-foot septum that divides Jabu’s nostrils is made of muscle, not cartilage.  It becomes cartilage where his trunk attaches to his skull above his eyes.  Thick layers of skin and muscle protect his trunk.  It’s impossible for him to break his boneless nose, even when he uses it like a battering ram.

He picks up a wizened palm nut.

I ask Sandi, “How many of the fruits can he hold in his trunk?”

“Would you like a photo of that?”  She takes some of the fruit already on the ground and puts them one, by one in the tip of Jabu’s trunk.  “Jabu, good boy, Jabu, one more.”

Three, it turns out, but carefully placed so he can still breathe.

“Good, my boy, goooood. Okay Jabu!” Sandi tells him, and he spits out the fruits Whoooof! all at once.

Then he picks them up and gently tosses them, one by one, back to her.

6 responses

  1. Wonderful writing! I learned a whole lot, Cheryl.

  2. One of my earliest memories is going to the zoo with my mother and grandmother and being given some sort of bun to offer to an elephant. As the elephant’s trunk moved towards me, I screamed and dropped the bun.But that wasn’t a problem for the extraordinary creature; I watched with eyes like saucers as the trunk dipped over the fence and picked up the bun! I may have been scared by the trunk, but I have always loved those amazing creatures.

    1. Hopefully, you don’t scream anymore…

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