Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Elephant Societal Breakdown due to Humans

Elephants are raping and killing rhinoceroses; attacking villages with intelligence by blocking escape routes and pinning down humans before goring them to death; and are displaying psychological traits previously only observed in people.

This is a sad sad state of affairs. Researchers are thinking of this as a sort of emergent species-wide emotional breakdown resulting from human interference over long periods of time and the consequent destruction of important social bonds for the elephants.

The article requires a login but I am posting some of the text below.

These attacks have become so commonplace that a new statistical category, known as Human-Elephant Conflict, or H.E.C., was created by elephant researchers in the mid-1990’s to monitor the problem. In the Indian state of 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.

Elephants, when left to their own devices, are profoundly social creatures. A herd of them is, in essence, one incomprehensibly massive elephant: a somewhat loosely bound and yet intricately interconnected, tensile organism. Young elephants are raised within an extended, multitiered network of doting female caregivers that includes the birth mother, grandmothers, aunts and friends. These relations are maintained over a life span as long as 70 years. Studies of established herds have shown that young elephants stay within 15 feet of their mothers for nearly all of their first eight years of life, after which young females are socialized into the matriarchal network, while young males go off for a time into an all-male social group before coming back into the fold as mature adults.
What appears to be happening, due to humans encroaching on territory and the killing of many elephants is that male elephants who normally spend the first 8 years of life with their mothers are left parentless. They form gangs with other motherless young males and then proceed to go on rampages of rape, theft and killing.

If this sounds familiar don't be surprised. Humans are animals too. Unfortunately we aren't satisfied with just destroying ourselves.
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