BIG BROTHERS FOR ELEPHANTS

By MOXIE

In South Africa's Pilanesberg National Park, 20 white rhinos turned up dead in a year. Officials believed that at least 10 were killed by elephants, and elephants were among the suspects in at least five other cases. Why would these animals, gentle and social by nature, gore rhinos?

The answer seems to have to do with "saving" them by relocating them--and depriving them of mother figures (to say nothing of father figures) in the process. The theory is that some of the young males have turned into "juvenile delinquents" who become aggressive during must.

Instead of killing off these "hoodlums," park rangers are trying another solution: a Big Brother program. They're bringing in some older bulls to see if they can bring the male adolescents into line.

But is this attempt at social engineering really the solution? When young elephants first arrived at the park, they behaved strangeley, wandering around on their own instead of in a herd. So the park got two older females, who quickly restored order. Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan (NY) has always said that violence in a society is directly related to an absence of marriage, the thought being that the female restrains the male's aggression simply by virtue of the pair-bond.

Moxie awaits word on the success of the Big Brother program in South Africa, and will report on the results when they are known.


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