Nature Blog Network Future Earth: Red rag to a bull (elephant)

Thursday, 17 January 2008

Red rag to a bull (elephant)

Buried within "The Revengeful Elephant" on UKTV's Channel 5 this week (part of the "Nature Shock" series that tends to focus on shock rather than nature) was a fascinating insight. Young, traumatised male elephants that had been translocated into a small South African park had grown up without the benefit of a normal social structure, rules and role models. Firstly, in the absence of older bull elephants, they came into musth years earlier than normal. Secondly, full of testosterone but lacking in experience, they rushed around molesting anything that moved (in this case rhinos) and killing them as an outlet for frustration. This was well documented by the resident scientists, as was the solution - adding some mature bulls to the mix.

As we are forced globally into increasingly active management of wildlife within decreasing habitats, this is just one of the cautionary tales we can grasp from southern Africa. But this is also an alarm for our own species on the consequences of social disintegration, to add to those already beeping in megacities around the world.

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