Dear Straight Dope:
Obviously Tom Silva, curator of mammals and elephant trainer at the Rio Grande Zoo in Albuquerque, New Mexico, only has experience with Asian elephants when he says, "Elephants cannot jump." I say this because it is generally well known that African elephants can jump.
In fact the "Elephant Jumping Festival" will be held next month in Nairobi. This is an annual event that is well attended although maybe not well publicized in the states. There are various categories according to type of jump (height vs distance) as well as categories by sex and weight of the participant.
As usual the dominant pre-event commotion revolves around suspected doping and how to contain it. The problem seems to be how to obtain a urine sample. When a anabolic steroid enhanced bull elephant lets go all you can hear from the white jacketed testers is, "Not me! You hold the bottle."
And of course there are always the remarks about those crazed pygmies with the freshly honed spears that seem to be behind the winning entries. As one spectator put it, "You would jump too if that midget tickled your jewels with a spear." There is a poorly documented instance where a Volkswagen beetle was seen to jump over a fence when a myopic pygmy mistook it for an elephant, but this has not been confirmed.
It has been suggested that some Asian elephants should be brought in as observers just to see what their brethren can do. Who knows? With a little pygmy help they may learn to jump too.
That's all for now. See you in Nairobi on the 15th.
Guyler Magruder, Singapore
SDStaff Jillgat replies:
Sure, Dad. Whatever you say.
SDStaff Jillgat, Straight Dope Science Advisory Board
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