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NYT: An Elephant Crackup?

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mcscajun Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Oct-08-06 09:25 AM
Original message
NYT: An Elephant Crackup?
Edited on Sun Oct-08-06 09:26 AM by mcscajun
No, this isn't about the Republicans. It's really about elephants, and about us, humanity. This is a chilling read, literally; my spine still is tingly as I post this - it's a must read - mind-expanding for those who know something of elephants, mind-blowing for those who don't. Please read beyond the excerpt I posted, because the most amazing information lies deep within the article, and is too extensive to be excerpted under copyright rules.

By CHARLES SIEBERT
Published: October 8, 2006

All across Africa, India and parts of Southeast Asia, from within and around whatever patches and corridors of their natural habitat remain, elephants have been striking out, destroying villages and crops, attacking and killing human beings. In fact, these attacks have become so commonplace that a whole new statistical category, known as Human-Elephant Conflict, or H.E.C., was created by elephant researchers in the mid-1990s to monitor the problem. In the Indian state Jharkhand near the western border of Bangladesh, 300 people were killed by elephants between 2000 and 2004. In the past 12 years, elephants have killed 605 people in Assam, a state in northeastern India, 239 of them since 2001; 265 elephants have died in that same period, the majority of them as a result of retaliation by angry villagers, who have used everything from poison-tipped arrows to laced food to exact their revenge. In Africa, reports of human-elephant conflicts appear almost daily, from Zambia to Tanzania, from Uganda to Sierra Leone, where 300 villagers evacuated their homes last year because of unprovoked elephant attacks.

Still, it is not only the increasing number of these incidents that is causing alarm but also the singular perversity for want of a less anthropocentric term of recent elephant aggression. Since the early 1990s, for example, young male elephants in Pilanesberg National Park and the Hluhluwe-Umfolozi Game Reserve in South Africa have been raping and killing rhinoceroses; this abnormal behavior, according to a 2001 study in the journal Pachyderm, has been reported in a number of reserves in the region. In July of last year, officials in Pilanesberg shot three young male elephants who were responsible for the killings of 63 rhinos, as well as attacks on people in safari vehicles. In Addo Elephant National Park, also in South Africa, up to 90 percent of male elephant deaths are now attributable to other male elephants, compared with a rate of 6 percent in more stable elephant communities.

In a coming book on this phenomenon, Gay Bradshaw, a psychologist at the environmental-sciences program at Oregon State University, notes that in India, where the elephant has long been regarded as a deity, a recent headline in a leading newspaper warned, To Avoid Confrontation, Dont Worship Elephants. Everybody pretty much agrees that the relationship between elephants and people has dramatically changed, Bradshaw told me recently. What we are seeing today is extraordinary. Where for centuries humans and elephants lived in relative peaceful coexistence, there is now hostility and violence. Now, I use the term violence because of the intentionality associated with it, both in the aggression of humans and, at times, the recently observed behavior of elephants.

For a number of biologists and ethologists who have spent their careers studying elephant behavior, the attacks have become so abnormal in both number and kind that they can no longer be attributed entirely to the customary factors. Typically, elephant researchers have cited, as a cause of aggression, the high levels of testosterone in newly matured male elephants or the competition for land and resources between elephants and humans. But in Elephant Breakdown, a 2005 essay in the journal Nature, Bradshaw and several colleagues argued that todays 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.

http://www.nytimes.com/2006/10/08/magazine/08elephant.h...


The article provides illuminating detail on these profoundly social animals, the intricate and sophisticated familial and hierarchical structure of elephant herd life, and how it impacts even hormonal development of younger elephants. The social structure of elephant life is breaking down due to human intervention, human destruction of habitat, poaching, and the effects of human war on humans.The elephants in fractured herds behave aberrantly, in many of the same ways as do captive elephants, and scientists from a number of fields are beginning to examine this new phenomenon. Gay Bradshaw in particular is combining traditional research into elephant behavior with insights about trauma drawn from human neuroscience. The article calls this new behavior not a collection of isolated incidents but a pervasive pachyderm dysfunction. Zoos are beginning to realize the inappropriateness of keeping elephants in their exhibits, and the Bronx Zoo is taking steps to phase out its elephant exhibit accordingly. This is a fascinating and important article.
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malaise Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Oct-08-06 09:35 AM
Response to Original message
1. The elephants are fighting back
Thank you elephants.
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Triana Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Oct-11-06 12:36 AM
Response to Reply #1
12. Exactly. They are fighting back and they have every right ...
...to do so. These are very intelligent, familial, and community-connected creatures and humans have been capturing, abusing, using, killing them, killing their habitat long enough. I ABSOLUTELY HATE the circus because they use animals like elephants that SHOULD HAVE BEEN LEFT ALONE IN THEIR NATURAL HABITAT and their natural habitat preserved and protected for them, rather than having been kidnapped and sold into slavery for a damned circus.

I'm never surprised to hear that a circus elephant attacked people. Frankly - people deserve it. Their attacking other species is probably just part of their fighting back.

Why can't we humans leave these poor creatures alone and let them live in peace and stop destroying them, their families, and their homes?
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Coexist Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Oct-08-06 09:36 AM
Response to Original message
2. the comparison to war orphans is very interesting.
and the way the elephants mourn their dead has always made me wonder what the heck we DON'T know about these animals. Then final two paragraphs:

<snip>
"Even as were forcing them out, it seems, the elephants are going out of their way to put us, the keepers, in an ever more discomfiting place, challenging us to preserve someplace for them, the ones who in many ways seem to regard the matter of life and death more devoutly than we. In fact, elephant culture could be considered the precursor of our own, the first permanent human settlements having sprung up around the desire of wandering tribes to stay by the graves of their dead. The city of the dead, as Lewis Mumford once wrote, antedates the city of the living.

When a group of villagers from Katwe went out to reclaim the mans body for his familys funeral rites, the elephants refused to budge. Human remains, a number of researchers have observed, are the only other ones that elephants will treat as they do their own. In the end, the villagers resorted to a tactic that has long been etched in the elephants collective memory, firing volleys of gunfire into the air at close range, finally scaring the mourning herd away. "

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mcscajun Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Oct-08-06 09:39 AM
Response to Reply #2
3. The respect they show for human remains is incredible,
much more than, historically, we've shown for theirs.
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Coexist Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Oct-08-06 09:41 AM
Response to Reply #3
4. I was in an early Florida antique store recently
and they had an elephant foot-stool.

It was grotesque. I can't imagine people wanting one in their home.
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mcscajun Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Oct-08-06 09:45 AM
Response to Reply #4
5. YUCK!
That goes beyond tasteless into ghoulish.
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mcscajun Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Oct-08-06 11:44 AM
Response to Original message
6. Kickin' for the true elephants
not those political types.

:kick:
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mcscajun Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Oct-09-06 08:22 AM
Response to Original message
7. Kickin' for the elephants...
:kick:
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Atman Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Oct-09-06 08:25 AM
Response to Original message
8. They're pissed of about their link to the Republican Party
They want out of their contract. They claim the party should switch to the Hyena or Vulture as their new mascots. Or perhaps, a fat old pervert white man.
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Solly Mack Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Oct-09-06 08:33 AM
Response to Original message
9. Wow. Not a good wow
Man has done to elephants what man has done to varying groups of people and their cultures

I'm in awe of the implications...the shocked kind of awe

Still reading....
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Solly Mack Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Oct-09-06 11:42 AM
Response to Reply #9
10. kick
worth reading
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windbreeze Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Oct-11-06 12:28 AM
Response to Original message
11. Yes, this is about humanity...
There being too much of it, that is...which will destroy the planet and humanity right along with it...we cannot survive w/o animals/plants/insects...

I just read today about a whole village in Alaska that has to be moved, because melting Artic Ice (global warming)is encroaching upon their island...just as the polar bears are disappearing for the same reason....why is it, some don't seem to understand how serious this is becoming?

We know elephants are very social animals, why wouldn't they be impacted by war, death, starvation, no place to live, and breaking up their families for whatever reason...wouldn't we be? I am glad to see people are working to help these poor animals...I hope it's enough...

IF we don't start taking care of this planet soon...we will find, we are expendable too...
wb
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shanti Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Oct-11-06 01:15 AM
Response to Original message
13. elephants raping rhinoceroses??
wtf?
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AlienGirl Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Oct-11-06 01:52 AM
Response to Original message
14. This article has had me very disconcerted since I read it
First off, it reminds me too much of this story.

Second, because elephants have apparently accepted humans as equals and humans have yet to reciprocate.

Elephants have very complex rituals surrounding the bodies and bones of dead elephants. If I were seeing this same behavior from a human culture whose ways I did not know, no one would fault me for suspecting that the remembrance of the dead plays an important role in their religious life, and that they may have some sort of ancestor-worship or believe that dead kin are not lost so long as they are remembered.

And elephants will treat human bones and elephant bones alike, with the same dignity and respect. If I were seeing this same behavior from a human culture whose ways I did not know, I would assume they felt a deep kinship to the animals whose bones they revered as their own; I'd assume that they believed the animals to have souls and participate in an afterlife.

Elephants treat our bones as sacred, just as they do their own.

Meanwhile, humans make ivory out of elephants.

Tucker
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shanti Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Oct-11-06 11:44 AM
Response to Original message
15. kicking
for the morning crowd :kick:
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