Ethics and Elephants

Ethics and Elephants


A friend who is involved in the management of wild life related a story about elephants killing rhinoceri at game reserve in South Africa. This is a very expensive problem and not considered normal behaviour. They called in the elephant expert and it turned out that when relocated the elephants to the game reserve, the elephants they had selected were all the equivalent of teenagers. The expert’s solution was simple. Elephant society is a matriarchal one so what was missing was a matriarch or a Granny elephant to provide discipline and bring the other elephants back into line. The appropriate elephant was sent for and the problem was resolved. This seems to be evidence of a complex social dynamic involving learned behaviour. This is something we in Australia associate with marine mammals like humpback whales.

An elephant’s life expectancy is on a par with humans.

The biggest threat to the survival of elephants as a species is competition for resources by humans.

Anything that keeps the human population in check like malaria, bilharzia (blood fluke), AIDS and trypanosomiasis (sleeping sickness) turns out to be a good thing for elephants.

While tourism is a significant employer of people in Africa most of the profit is captured by the ruling elite and overseas enterprises with the average person seeing little or no benefit and if living in close proximity with elephants who have no concept of ownership of lovely green maize, sugar cane or water melon, elephants are even a negative.

The dilemma is how do we balance humans and elephants?


2 Responses

  1. “The dilemma is how do we balance humans and elephants?”

    Many a circus has tried to answer this question.:)

  2. I enjoyed reading your blog entry re the elephants. I have blogged about this myself and after a trip to Africa and witnessing the elephants’ aggression first hand am now involved in helping raise funds for their survival. It’s not an easy problem to solve, this imbalance between man and elephant, but hopefully we will find ways and do our part to keep the species alive and well. And breaking up their families is the first thing we must quit doing or, as your blog points out, havoc rules!

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