Sunday, 22 September 2013

Elephant No. 20: Balloon Animals

About a week ago, my friend Heather Wilcox sent me a link to a Tricky Twister video on how to make a balloon elephant. I made balloon elephants in my original Elephant a Day blog, but this one looked interesting, so I thought I'd try it again.

The first challenge was finding long, skinny balloons. I live in a city of nearly a million people, but it took me the better part of two hours to find what I needed. All the party suppliers in town were virtually out of these kinds of balloons, and discount stores from Dollarama to WalMart don't carry them anymore.

I found one party stockist who had a few colours in stock, but only one white balloon, so I snatched it up along with some interesting colours. But one white balloon wasn't going to make more than one set of tusks, so I combed through the bags of "A Quarter Pound of Balloons!" at a couple of discount stores, and found bags that had skinny white balloons lurking in their depths.

Clutching my dozen or so balloons, I started with the video Heather had sent me.

Here's what I ended up with. Mine looks a bit like a dachshund with big ears and a really long nose, but at least it was easy to make.

Since I hadn't traumatized myself by bursting a lot of balloons on the first one, I tried an elephant from the Twister Sisters, this time using two balloons. Shockingly, I didn't burst any balloons this time, either. This one called for magic marker eyes, which I don't normally like, but the eyes looked really weird without it.

Emboldened by these first two successes—and it's not really a good idea to let me get too emboldened—I tried this super-fancy three-balloon elephant by Thelma.  This one was really hard, and I burst two of the balloons—one after it was all locked in to the rest—so I had to change the body a bit. Making balloon animals was beginning to be much less enchanting.

However, I'd already seen a really interesting elephant by Dean the Balloonatic, and was determined to try it. Unfortunately, I ended up bursting so many balloons that I had to eventually give up. I did manage to get both the head and the body made separately, but when I tried to join head to body in my final attempt, the head exploded. As you may imagine, I exploded as well.

At this point, I'd had enough, but I tried still one more by Buster Balloon that looked relatively easy, since I wanted to finish on a good note. I figured that it was a bit like riding a horse: if you or the horse gets into trouble, it's always best to finish on a good note so that neither of you remains vaguely traumatized. I quite enjoyed making this one, and could even make it again from memory.

I liked it so much, in fact, that I made another one.

It strikes me that making balloon animals is a lot like making origami, but with inflated rubber. While I love the look of origami, I loathe making it. My brain just doesn't function in a logical enough fashion to follow engineering-type instructions. This is probably why I quickly toss the instructions for everything I assemble.

That being said, I can easily crank out elephants like one or two of these, and may even use them one day for an elephant-themed party.


Elephant Lore of the Day
When fully grown, elephants are more or less beyond the reach of any predator other than a human being. But that doesn't keep some of the bolder predators from trying.

In Namibia's Etosha National Park, Swiss photographer Mark Müller caught the action as a leopard—with eyes too big for its stomach, as my grandmother used to say—stalked a herd of 15 elephants at a waterhole.

Lurking around the edges of the waterhole, the leopard began inching its way towards the herd. Zebras and other animals had already fled the waterhole, so the leopard may have been stalking a baby elephant or two. Eventually the leopard walked boldly to the edge of the water, through clusters of giraffes and elephants.

Perhaps surprised by the big cat's moxie, the elephants began encircling the leopard in order to intimidate it. Suitably cowed, the leopard began to walk away, then paused, as if having second thoughts.

Apparently one of the elephants thought the leopard needed to be taught a lesson. Filling its trunk with water, it blasted at the foolish creature, scaring it back into the bush. To read the full story, click here.

Elephant blasts leopard with water in Etosha National Park, Namibia.
Photo: ©Mark Vincent Müller/Caters News

To Support Elephant Welfare
Boon Lott's Elephant Sanctuary (Thailand)
Wildlife SOS (India) 
The Elephant Sanctuary (Tennessee)

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