Elephants on the Edge: What Animals Teach Us about Humanity
G. A. Bradshaw
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Drawing on accounts from India to Africa and California to Tennessee, and on research in neuroscience, psychology, and animal behavior, G. A. Bradshaw explores the minds, emotions, and lives of elephants. Wars, starvation, mass culls, poaching, and habitat loss have reduced elephant numbers from more than ten million to a few hundred thousand, leaving orphans bereft of the elders who would normally mentor them. As a consequence, traumatized elephants have become aggressive against people, other animals, and even one another; their behavior is comparable to that of humans who have experienced genocide, other types of violence, and social collapse. By exploring the elephant mind and experience in the wild and in captivity, Bradshaw bears witness to the breakdown of ancient elephant cultures.
All is not lost. People are working to save elephants by rescuing orphaned infants and rehabilitating adult zoo and circus elephants, using the same principles psychologists apply in treating humans who have survived trauma. Bradshaw urges us to support these and other models of elephant recovery and to solve pressing social and environmental crises affecting all animals, human or not.
proceeded to drape her with branches and leaves until she was completely covered. When her son discovered her in the morning, they both realized that the elephants had presumed her dead and were burying her as they do with humans whom they have killed. Others have also observed elephants covering their own dead with branches and dirt.22 Like us, elephants perceive the emotions and anticipation of others and extend their empathy to companions who are injured or ailing. Grieving and mourning
Chauvet, Cosquer, Gargas, Pech-Merle, Cougnac. Subterranean halls whose walls rippled with bison, horses, oxen, lions. On the other side of the equator herds of eland, kudu, and springbok thunder by on open-air boulders in Namibia and Botswana. In Australia’s Arnhem Land marsupial and man dream the same dream. Ever since Lucy the Australopithecine, mankind has known that the coin of consciousness bears—must bear—two sides. Otherwise there is no viable or sane currency on earth. Except for
by inappropriate diet: 40 Death after heart attack: 15 Death caused by electrocution: 3 Death after explosion of an explosive device in the elephant’s mouth: 3 Death by drowning in a water tank: 234 “Considered an asset in the past,” the elephant “is now becoming a liability.” Armed with torches, clubs, and sometimes guns, vigilantes hunt down local elephants. Nor does the elephant’s traditional status as deity carry any weight. Pastel renderings of Ganesha on the walls of Calcutta and Delhi
members ascribe human qualities to elephants and declare that this kinship brings the two species close together. “They’ll grieve just like people will. They’re incredibly intelligent animals,” said Houston Zoo director Rick Barongi, commenting on the other zoo elephants’ behavior following Dottie’s death.19 There are even zoos that have erected memorial sites. Evoking something of what Tina Turner sings, “What’s love got to do with it?” Carol Buckley acknowledges the love expressed by workers
dramatic evidence of internal conflict between the selves. After Wirths surrendered, a British officer approached and shook his hand, saying that he now knew what it was like to shake the hand of a man who had sent four million to their deaths. Within days, Wirths was dead, a suicide.31 Lifton’s work is remarkable, if only for its unrelenting sense of presence. There is not one phrase in which he relaxes his attention and falls into academic remove. Despite clinical analysis, theory does not