Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Creatures of Great Consequence

Long ago, a friend turned me on to a book “When Elephants Weep”, and we began discussing the seemingly “human” traits that are found in our animal friends. Not only have elephants been seen emitting tears in time of “sadness”, but they also have documentable mourning rituals when one of their herd dies.

They form matriarchal family groups, wherein mothers, aunts, sisters and grandmothers share the physical care and handling of calves. When the herd grows too big for the surrounding resources to provide for, a younger female will take a portion of the herd and depart, starting a different branch of the family, within new territory. However, even years later, they have the ability to recognize those ‘related’ herds.

Like humans, they have a vast amount of brain growth from infancy to adulthood, meaning that they have a much increased capacity for learning, and many behaviors are conditioned, not instinctual.

In short, they are thinking, feeling, sentient creatures, with many similarities to our kind.

Thus it disturbs me when I hear that ‘elephant rage’ is significantly on the rise, because I cannot help but wonder if we have taught them how to hate, and in some way encouraged their urge to kill.

Elephant Rage is a growing phenomenon, which seems in some ways to mirror the 100th Monkey theory of collective unconsciousness. Herds that have previously lived in harmony with their surroundings are now stampeding villages and fields, killing at will, and stopping once there is a body count. Some scientists believe that this is due to years of human cruelty and greed, and that the animals are suffering from PTSD (the first time that mental disorder has been diagnosed in an animal other than a human).

Additionally, I found an article that says this:
”If an orphaned baby elephant or several orphaned young are left to fend for themselves, as they grow up, they have no older members to keep their hormones in check and to teach them how to be an elephant, so they gang up and act on their unrestrained aggressiveness.”

So can we then assume that we are inappropriate teachers & caretakers? Is it just genetic design that keeps us from providing what is needed? Or could it be that we set a bad example?

A herd of rogue elephants ran amok in India's northeastern state of Assam, trampling five people to death and destroying dozens of houses. Police believe the herd could have been upset by a train killing a baby elephant a few days ago.

Locals say the animals have developed a taste for locally-brewed rice beer and may have been drunk.

We’ve utilized this honorable beast for years, as pack animal, transportation, weapon of war, even as executioner. We hunt and butcher them for ivory. We invade their territories with our unrestrained and growing population. Could it be our blatant disregard for their (lack of a better word) humanity has led them to rebel, rage, and respond in ways we would otherwise associate with the negative side of ourselves?

Are we, the self-acclaimed dominant species of this planet not responsible for the care of all Earth’s other creatures? Certainly there are those that would call me overly-emotional and irresponsible to my own species because I sit here in defense of the elephants. In truth, this isn’t even to defend their actions, as much as it is for to think and wonder… with the increasing number of natural disasters, and more global news about monkey and elephant attacks, I can’t help but speculate that the sins of the fathers are coming back to haunt the children, and that our years of unrestrained abuse of the planet and her resources are now beginning to bite us in our collective ass.

IF everything happens in cycles, then perhaps this is all par for the course. I’ve been here such a relatively short time. Perhaps what seems to me a new and disturbing trend is really just a portion of some evolutionary bio-rhythm. But I’d be lying if I didn’t say it affects me, on a deeper level than I want it to. It creeps into dreams and whispers in my ear sad tales of dark times to come.

Is the “dawning of the age of Aquarius” really a step forward? Or will we plunge off the edge of our flat earth, discovering too late that when we thought ourselves enlightened, we were really only at that teenage “think you know everything” stage?

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