August 9, 2012

The case of marauding bands of aggressive juvenile male elephants

The case of the marauding bands of aggressive juvenile male elephants,  In the Absence of Fathers:  A Story of Elephants and Men

Some years ago, officials at the Kruger National Park and game reserve in South Africa were faced with a growing elephant problem. The population of African elephants, once  endangered, had grown larger than the park could sustain. So measures had to be taken to thin the ranks. A plan was devised to relocate some of the elephants to other African game reserves. Being enormous creatures, elephants are not easily transported.  So a special harness was created to air-lift the elephants and fly them out of the park using helicopters.

The helicopters were up to the task, but, as it turned out, the harness wasn’t. It could handle the juvenile and adult female elephants, but not the huge African bull elephants. A quick solution had to be found, so a decision was made to leave the much larger bulls at Kruger and relocate only some of the female elephants and juvenile males.

At the new location,  rangers began finding dead white rhinoceros, an endangered species, that had been killed violently not with guns but by marauding bands of aggressive young male elephants.

What had been missing from the relocated herd was the presence of the large dominant bulls that remained at Kruger. In natural circumstances, the adult bulls provide modeling behaviors for younger elephants, keeping them in line.
__

To test the theory, the rangers constructed a bigger and stronger harness, then flew in some of the older bulls left behind at Kruger. Within weeks, the bizarre and violent behavior of the juvenile elephants stopped completely. The older bulls let them know that their behaviors were not elephant-like at all. In a short time, the younger elephants were following the older and more dominant bulls around while learning how to be elephants.
Posted by Jill Fallon at August 9, 2012 10:02 AM | Permalink