Revenge of the Elephants?
There's an article in the New York Times about elephant violence against humans and other animals like rhinos. Here's a quote:But in “Elephant Breakdown,” a 2005 essay in the journal Nature, Bradshaw and several colleagues argued that today’s elephant populations are suffering from a form of chronic stress, a kind of species-wide trauma. Decades of poaching and culling and habitat loss, they claim, have so disrupted the intricate web of familial and societal relations by which young elephants have traditionally been raised in the wild, and by which established elephant herds are governed, that what we are now witnessing is nothing less than a precipitous collapse of elephant culture.It has long been apparent that every large, land-based animal on this planet is ultimately fighting a losing battle with humankind. And yet entirely befitting of an animal with such a highly developed sensibility, a deep-rooted sense of family and, yes, such a good long-term memory, the elephant is not going out quietly.
It makes me think about some of the Mad Max movies, where a culture of violence develops in a post-apocolyptic future. In this case, though, the elephants have a target: humans. We brought about their nightmare society, so they are taking it out on us. Makes you think a bit about "sentient life," society, and intelligence. Perhaps humans are not the most intelligent species on this planet, but the most prolific of a group of sentient species including elephants and dolphins. Of course, this may be pushing things a bit, but there seems to be more than many people are willing to admit to the behavior of "intelligent animals."Two years ago, Bradshaw wrote a paper for the journal Society and Animals, focusing on the work of the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust in Kenya, a sanctuary for orphaned and traumatized wild elephants — more or less the wilderness-based complement to Carol Buckley’s trauma therapy at the Elephant Sanctuary in Tennessee. The trust’s human caregivers essentially serve as surrogate mothers to young orphan elephants, gradually restoring their psychological and emotional well being to the point at which they can be reintroduced into existing wild herds. The human “allomothers” stay by their adopted young orphans’ sides, even sleeping with them at night in stables. The caregivers make sure, however, to rotate from one elephant to the next so that the orphans grow fond of all the keepers. Otherwise an elephant would form such a strong bond with one keeper that whenever he or she was absent, that elephant would grieve as if over the loss of another family member, often becoming physically ill itself.
I think there is plenty of evidence that elephants are intelligent, have emotions, and many other human traits. Perhaps what we need to do is develop the science fiction tool, the "universal translator," to learn to talk to the elephants. But until then, we need to do what we can to provide political stability in lands where elephants live, provide assistance to organizations helping elephants in the wild, and reduce the pressure people exert on elephants and elephant habitats. Its the right thing to do.http://www.nytimes.com/2006/10/08/magazine/08elephant.html?pagewanted=1&_r=1