Wednesday, September 7

Not Enough Bull Elephants

(This is not a scientific paper. Specific details may be remembered wrongly by the author. The metaphor remains mostly factual; the premise remains the same.)

Elephants are matriarchal. While the genus has been erased from much of the world, evolution has bestowed its benefits on two species, the African and the Asian. This is a story of the African.

Elephants are excellent mothers. The lead female of the herd learned from her mother, and her mother’s mother, absorbing lessons and passing them down to those who succeed her. Where is water? Where is the best feeding ground at this time of year? Which males are friend, and which are to be avoided? Above all, know your sisters, aunts, cousins, and know the strength is the herd.

Males are different. After a certain age, they are expelled from the herd. They are not good parents. They are unpredictable. They are a random element which the herd cannot afford.

But the herd needs them all the same. Like all mammals, without the male, the species ceases to exist. It is a delicate balance the eons have rewarded. Female/male. Territory/resource. Strong/weak. Gamble/offspring.

Somewhere in Africa, it doesn’t matter exactly where, elephants were in trouble. The ivory trade, or macho big game “hunters,” or environmental devastation had wiped out the big bulls. None were left but the core of elephantine culture, the female herds. When the young males showed signs of aggression and maturity, they were kicked out. As it should be.

But something weird happened. The young males were thugs. They went into musth, the natural state of heightened testosterone and territoriality, at a much younger age. They harassed the herds. They took control of the watering holes, chasing everyone away, including their mothers and sisters. They pushed trees over in their anger, removing valuable and necessary food sources. They pummeled youngsters, tried to rape females. The herds were suffering. And so were the males. The politics, traditions, culture, accepted ways of behavior, or the elephant equivalents, were being destroyed.

In desperation, the humans, who had so screwed everything up, grasped at any possible solution. Recognizing there were no adult males, humans decided to introduce them. Two large, mature bulls were transported and let free into this miasma of pachyderm misery.

That’s when a miracle happened. The young males stopped their musth. The patriarchs confronted the younger thugs, chastised them, pushed them, let them know that the elder owned this place, this water hole, these trees, these females. Prove yourself, they seemed to say, and you might inherit all that you desire. It was tough love, and the younger males responded. Gone was the harassment of herds, the coveting of resources. The big bulls taught the younger how to behave.

The elephant population regained some of its past glory. Matriarchs followed the ancient trails without fear. Babies were born and grew without violence. Males continued their sparring and aggression, but now it was expressed in healthy ways.

I live in the United States.

And there aren’t enough Bull Elephants.


Squishi said...

uh HUH.......

KOM said...

Now all that we have to do is transplant a whole heck of a lot of fathers. We keep them in zoos somewhere, right? No? Crap.

jazz bird said...

Amen! ( or is that "A-bull"?)

Bebti said...

Personally, I think there's too much bull here already...