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Crafty_Dog
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« on: November 06, 2006, 04:17:09 PM »

An Elephant Crackup?
 ?a..
By CHARLES SIEBERT
Published: October 8, 2006
'We're not going anywhere," my driver, Nelson Okello, whispered to me one
morning this past June, the two of us sitting in the front seat of a jeep
just after dawn in Queen Elizabeth National Park in southwestern Uganda. We'd
originally stopped to observe what appeared to be a lone bull elephant
grazing in a patch of tall savanna grasses off to our left. More than one
"rogue" crossed our path that morning - a young male elephant that has made
an overly strong power play against the dominant male of his herd and been
banished, sometimes permanently. This elephant, however, soon proved to be
not a rogue but part of a cast of at least 30. The ground vibrations
registered just before the emergence of the herd from the surrounding trees
and brush. We sat there watching the elephants cross the road before us,
seeming, for all their heft, so light on their feet, soundlessly plying the
wind-swept savanna grasses like land whales adrift above the floor of an
ancient, waterless sea.



Andres Serrano for The New York Times


Andres Serrano for The New York Times

Then, from behind a thicket of acacia trees directly off our front left
bumper, a huge female emerged - "the matriarch," Okello said softly. There
was a small calf beneath her, freely foraging and knocking about within the
secure cribbing of four massive legs. Acacia leaves are an elephant's
favorite food, and as the calf set to work on some low branches, the
matriarch stood guard, her vast back flank blocking the road, the rest of
the herd milling about in the brush a short distance away.

After 15 minutes or so, Okello started inching the jeep forward, revving the
engine, trying to make us sound as beastly as possible. The matriarch,
however, was having none of it, holding her ground, the fierce white of her
eyes as bright as that of her tusks. Although I pretty much knew the answer,
I asked Okello if he was considering trying to drive around. "No," he said,
raising an index finger for emphasis. "She'll charge. We should stay right
here."

I'd have considered it a wise policy even at a more peaceable juncture in
the course of human-elephant relations. In recent years, however, those
relations have become markedly more bellicose. Just two days before I
arrived, a woman was killed by an elephant in Kazinga, a fishing village
nearby. Two months earlier, a man was fatally gored by a young male elephant
at the northern edge of the park, near the village of Katwe. African
elephants use their long tusks to forage through dense jungle brush. They've
also been known to wield them, however, with the ceremonious flash and
precision of gladiators, pinning down a victim with one knee in order to
deliver the decisive thrust. Okello told me that a young Indian tourist was
killed in this fashion two years ago in Murchison Falls National Park, just
north of where we were.

These were not isolated incidents. All across Africa, India and parts of
Southeast Asia, from within and around whatever patches and corridors of
their natural habitat remain, elephants have been striking out, destroying
villages and crops, attacking and killing human beings. In fact, these
attacks have become so commonplace that a whole new statistical category,
known as Human-Elephant Conflict, or H.E.C., was created by elephant
researchers in the mid-1990's to monitor the problem. In the Indian state
Jharkhand near the western border of Bangladesh, 300 people were killed by
elephants between 2000 and 2004. In the past 12 years, elephants have killed
605 people in Assam, a state in northeastern India, 239 of them since 2001;
265 elephants have died in that same period, the majority of them as a
result of retaliation by angry villagers, who have used everything from
poison-tipped arrows to laced food to exact their revenge. In Africa,
reports of human-elephant conflicts appear almost daily, from Zambia to
Tanzania, from Uganda to Sierra Leone, where 300 villagers evacuated their
homes last year because of unprovoked elephant attacks.

Still, it is not only the increasing number of these incidents that is
causing alarm but also the singular perversity - for want of a less
anthropocentric term - of recent elephant aggression. Since the early 1990's,
for example, young male elephants in Pilanesberg National Park and the
Hluhluwe-Umfolozi Game Reserve in South Africa have been raping and killing
rhinoceroses; this abnormal behavior, according to a 2001 study in the
journal Pachyderm, has been reported in "a number of reserves" in the
region. In July of last year, officials in Pilanesberg shot three young male
elephants who were responsible for the killings of 63 rhinos, as well as
attacks on people in safari vehicles. In Addo Elephant National Park, also
in South Africa, up to 90 percent of male elephant deaths are now
attributable to other male elephants, compared with a rate of 6 percent in
more stable elephant communities.

In a coming book on this phenomenon, Gay Bradshaw, a psychologist at the
environmental-sciences program at Oregon State University, notes that in
India, where the elephant has long been regarded as a deity, a recent
headline in a leading newspaper warned, "To Avoid Confrontation, Don't
Worship Elephants." "Everybody pretty much agrees that the relationship
between elephants and people has dramatically changed," Bradshaw told me
recently. "What we are seeing today is extraordinary. Where for centuries
humans and elephants lived in relative peaceful coexistence, there is now
hostility and violence. Now, I use the term 'violence' because of the
intentionality associated with it, both in the aggression of humans and, at
times, the recently observed behavior of elephants."

For a number of biologists and ethologists who have spent their careers
studying elephant behavior, the attacks have become so abnormal in both
number and kind that they can no longer be attributed entirely to the
customary factors. Typically, elephant researchers have cited, as a cause of
aggression, the high levels of testosterone in newly matured male elephants
or the competition for land and resources between elephants and humans. But
in "Elephant Breakdown," a 2005 essay in the journal Nature, Bradshaw and
several colleagues argued that today's elephant populations are suffering
from a form of chronic stress, a kind of species-wide trauma. Decades of
poaching and culling and habitat loss, they claim, have so disrupted the
intricate web of familial and societal relations by which young elephants
have traditionally been raised in the wild, and by which established
elephant herds are governed, that what we are now witnessing is nothing less
than a precipitous collapse of elephant culture.

It has long been apparent that every large, land-based animal on this planet
is ultimately fighting a losing battle with humankind. And yet entirely
befitting of an animal with such a highly developed sensibility, a
deep-rooted sense of family and, yes, such a good long-term memory, the
elephant is not going out quietly. It is not leaving without making some
kind of statement, one to which scientists from a variety of disciplines,
including human psychology, are now beginning to pay close attention.



Once the matriarch and her calf were a comfortable distance from us that
morning, Okello and I made the 20-minute drive to Kyambura, a village at the
far southeastern edge of the park. Back in 2003, Kyambura was reportedly the
site of the very sort of sudden, unprovoked elephant attack I'd been hearing
about. According to an account of the event in the magazine New Scientist, a
number of huts and fields were trampled, and the townspeople were afraid to
venture out to surrounding villages, either by foot or on their bikes,
because elephants were regularly blocking the road and charging out at those
who tried to pass.


=================



Page 2 of Cool



Park officials from the Uganda Wildlife Authority with whom I tried to
discuss the incident were reluctant to talk about it or any of the recent
killings by elephants in the area. Eco-tourism is one of Uganda's major
sources of income, and the elephant and other wildlife stocks of Queen
Elizabeth National Park are only just now beginning to recover from years of
virtually unchecked poaching and habitat destruction. Tom Okello, the chief
game warden at the park (and no relation to my driver), and Margaret
Driciru, Queen Elizabeth's chief veterinarian, each told me that they weren't
aware of the attack in Kyambura. When I mentioned it to the executive
director of the wildlife authority, Moses Mapesa, upon my initial arrival in
the capital city, Kampala, he eventually admitted that it did happen, but he
claimed that it was not nearly as recent as reported. "That was 14 years
ago," he said. "We have seen aggressive behavior from elephants, but that's
a story of the past."

Kyambura did look, upon our arrival, much like every other small Ugandan
farming community I'd passed through on my visit. Lush fields of banana
trees, millet and maize framed a small town center of pastel-colored
single-story cement buildings with corrugated-tin roofs. People sat on
stoops out front in the available shade. Bicyclers bore preposterously
outsize loads of bananas, firewood and five-gallon water jugs on their
fenders and handlebars. Contrary to what I had read, the bicycle traffic
along the road in and out of Kyambura didn't seem impaired in the slightest.

But when Okello and I asked a shopkeeper named Ibrah Byamukama about
elephant attacks, he immediately nodded and pointed to a patch of maize and
millet fields just up the road, along the edges of the surrounding
Maramagambo Forest. He confirmed that a small group of elephants charged out
one morning two years earlier, trampled the fields and nearby gardens,
knocked down a few huts and then left. He then pointed to a long orange gash
in the earth between the planted fields and the forest: a 15-foot-deep,
25-foot-wide trench that had been dug by the wildlife authority around the
perimeter of Kyambura in an attempt to keep the elephants at bay. On the way
out of town, Okello and I took a closer look at the trench. It was filled
with stacks of thorny shrubs for good measure.

"The people are still worried," Byamukama said, shaking his head. "The
elephants are just becoming more destructive. I don't know why."

Three years ago, Gay Bradshaw, then working on her graduate degree in
psychology at the Pacifica Graduate Institute outside Santa Barbara, Calif.,
began wondering much the same thing: was the extraordinary behavior of
elephants in Africa and Asia signaling a breaking point? With the assistance
of several established African-elephant researchers, including Daphne
Sheldrick and Cynthia Moss, and with the help of Allan Schore, an expert on
human trauma disorders at the department of psychiatry and biobehavioral
sciences at U.C.L.A., Bradshaw sought to combine traditional research into
elephant behavior with insights about trauma drawn from human neuroscience.
Using the few remaining relatively stable elephant herds in places like
Amboseli National Park in Kenya, as control groups, Bradshaw and her
colleagues analyzed the far more fractious populations found in places like
Pilanesberg in South Africa and Queen Elizabeth National Park in Uganda.
What emerged was a portrait of pervasive pachyderm dysfunction.

Elephants, when left to their own devices, are profoundly social creatures.
A herd of them is, in essence, one incomprehensibly massive elephant: a
somewhat loosely bound and yet intricately interconnected, tensile organism.
Young elephants are raised within an extended, multitiered network of doting
female caregivers that includes the birth mother, grandmothers, aunts and
friends. These relations are maintained over a life span as long as 70
years. Studies of established herds have shown that young elephants stay
within 15 feet of their mothers for nearly all of their first eight years of
life, after which young females are socialized into the matriarchal network,
while young males go off for a time into an all-male social group before
coming back into the fold as mature adults.

When an elephant dies, its family members engage in intense mourning and
burial rituals, conducting weeklong vigils over the body, carefully covering
it with earth and brush, revisiting the bones for years afterward, caressing
the bones with their trunks, often taking turns rubbing their trunks along
the teeth of a skull's lower jaw, the way living elephants do in greeting.
If harm comes to a member of an elephant group, all the other elephants are
aware of it. This sense of cohesion is further enforced by the elaborate
communication system that elephants use. In close proximity they employ a
range of vocalizations, from low-frequency rumbles to higher-pitched screams
and trumpets, along with a variety of visual signals, from the waving of
their trunks to subtle anglings of the head, body, feet and tail. When
communicating over long distances - in order to pass along, for example,
news about imminent threats, a sudden change of plans or, of the utmost
importance to elephants, the death of a community member - they use patterns
of subsonic vibrations that are felt as far as several miles away by
exquisitely tuned sensors in the padding of their feet.


============



Page 3 of Cool



This fabric of elephant society, Bradshaw and her colleagues concluded, had
effectively been frayed by years of habitat loss and poaching, along with
systematic culling by government agencies to control elephant numbers and
translocations of herds to different habitats. The number of older
matriarchs and female caregivers (or "allomothers") had drastically fallen,
as had the number of elder bulls, who play a significant role in keeping
younger males in line. In parts of Zambia and Tanzania, a number of the
elephant groups studied contained no adult females whatsoever. In Uganda,
herds were often found to be "semipermanent aggregations," as a paper
written by Bradshaw describes them, with many females between the ages of 15
and 25 having no familial associations.

As a result of such social upheaval, calves are now being born to and raised
by ever younger and inexperienced mothers. Young orphaned elephants,
meanwhile, that have witnessed the death of a parent at the hands of
poachers are coming of age in the absence of the support system that defines
traditional elephant life. "The loss of elephants elders," Bradshaw told me,
"and the traumatic experience of witnessing the massacres of their family,
impairs normal brain and behavior development in young elephants."

What Bradshaw and her colleagues describe would seem to be an extreme form
of anthropocentric conjecture if the evidence that they've compiled from
various elephant resesarchers, even on the strictly observational level,
wasn't so compelling. The elephants of decimated herds, especially orphans
who've watched the death of their parents and elders from poaching and
culling, exhibit behavior typically associated with post-traumatic stress
disorder and other trauma-related disorders in humans: abnormal startle
response, unpredictable asocial behavior, inattentive mothering and
hyperaggression. Studies of the various assaults on the rhinos in South
Africa, meanwhile, have determined that the perpetrators were in all cases
adolescent males that had witnessed their families being shot down in
cullings. It was common for these elephants to have been tethered to the
bodies of their dead and dying relatives until they could be rounded up for
translocation to, as Bradshaw and Schore describe them, "locales lacking
traditional social hierarchy of older bulls and intact natal family
structures."

In fact, even the relatively few attempts that park officials have made to
restore parts of the social fabric of elephant society have lent substance
to the elephant-breakdown theory. When South African park rangers recently
introduced a number of older bull elephants into several destabilized
elephant herds in Pilanesburg and Addo, the wayward behavior - including
unusually premature hormonal changes among the adolescent elephants -
abated.

But according to Bradshaw and her colleagues, the various pieces of the
elephant-trauma puzzle really come together at the level of neuroscience, or
what might be called the physiology of psychology, by which scientists can
now map the marred neuronal fields, snapped synaptic bridges and crooked
chemical streams of an embattled psyche. Though most scientific knowledge of
trauma is still understood through research on human subjects, neural
studies of elephants are now under way. (The first functional M.R.I. scan of
an elephant brain, taken this year, revealed, perhaps not surprisingly, a
huge hippocampus, a seat of memory in the mammalian brain, as well as a
prominent structure in the limbic system, which processes emotions.) Allan
Schore, the U.C.L.A. psychologist and neuroscientist who for the past 15
years has focused his research on early human brain development and the
negative impact of trauma on it, recently wrote two articles with Bradshaw
on the stress-related neurobiological underpinnings of current abnormal
elephant behavior.

"We know that these mechanisms cut across species," Schore told me. "In the
first years of humans as well as elephants, development of the emotional
brain is impacted by these attachment mechanisms, by the interaction that
the infant has with the primary caregiver, especially the mother. When these
early experiences go in a positive way, it leads to greater resilience in
things like affect regulation, stress regulation, social communication and
empathy. But when these early experiences go awry in cases of abuse and
neglect, there is a literal thinning down of the essential circuits in the
brain, especially in the emotion-processing areas."
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Crafty_Dog
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« Reply #1 on: November 06, 2006, 04:18:51 PM »

(Page 4 of Cool

For Bradshaw, these continuities between human and elephant brains resonate
far outside the field of neuroscience. "Elephants are suffering and behaving
in the same ways that we recognize in ourselves as a result of violence,"
she told me. "Elephant behavior is entirely congruent with what we know
about humans and other mammals. Except perhaps for a few specific features,
brain organization and early development of elephants and humans are
extremely similar. That's not news. What is news is when you start asking,
What does this mean beyond the science? How do we respond to the fact that
we are causing other species like elephants to psychologically break down?
In a way, it's not so much a cognitive or imaginative leap anymore as it is
a political one."



Eve Abe says that in her mind, she made that leap before she ever left her
mother's womb. An animal ethologist and wildlife-management consultant now
based in London, Abe (pronounced AH-bay) grew up in northern Uganda. After
several years of studying elephants in Queen Elizabeth National Park, where
decades of poaching had drastically reduced the herds, Abe received her
doctorate at Cambridge University in 1994 for work detailing the parallels
she saw between the plight of Uganda's orphaned male elephants and the young
male orphans of her own people, the Acholi, whose families and villages have
been decimated by years of civil war. It's work she proudly proclaims to be
not only "the ultimate act of anthropomorphism" but also what she was
destined to do.

"My very first encounter with an elephant was a fetal one," Abe told me in
June in London as the two of us sipped tea at a cafe in Paddington Station.
I was given Abe's contact numbers earlier in the spring by Bradshaw, who is
currently working with Abe to build a community center in Uganda to help
both elephants and humans in their recovery from violence. For more than a
month before my departure from New York, I had been trying without luck to
arrange with the British Home Office for Abe, who is still waiting for
permanent residence status in England, to travel with me to Uganda as my
guide through Queen Elizabeth National Park without fear of her being denied
re-entry to England. She was to accompany me that day right up to the
departure gate at Heathrow, the two of us hoping (in vain, as it turned out)
for a last-minute call that would have given her leave to use the ticket I
was holding for her in my bag.

"My dad was a conservationist and a teacher," explained Abe, a tall, elegant
woman with a trilling, nearly girlish voice. "He was always out in the
parks. One of my aunts tells this story about us passing through Murchison
park one day. My dad was driving. My uncle was in the front seat. In the
back were my aunt and my mom, who was very pregnant with me. They suddenly
came upon this huge herd of elephants on the road, and the elephants just
stopped. So my dad stopped. He knew about animals. The elephants just stood
there, then they started walking around the car, and looking into the car.
Finally, they walked off. But my father didn't start the car then. He waited
there. After an hour or more, a huge female came back out onto the road,
right in front of the car. It reared up and trumpeted so loudly, then
followed the rest of the herd back into the bush. A few days later, when my
mom got home, I was born."

Abe began her studies in Queen Elizabeth National Park in 1982, as an
undergraduate at Makerere University in Kampala, shortly after she and her
family, who'd been living for years as refugees in Kenya to escape the
brutal violence in Uganda under the dictatorship of Idi Amin, returned home
in the wake of Amin's ouster in 1979. Abe told me that when she first
arrived at the park, there were fewer than 150 elephants remaining from an
original population of nearly 4,000. The bulk of the decimation occurred
during the war with Tanzania that led to Amin's overthrow: soldiers from
both armies grabbed all the ivory they could get their hands on - and did so
with such cravenness that the word "poaching" seems woefully inadequate.
"Normally when you say 'poaching,' " Abe said, "you think of people shooting
one or two and going off. But this was war. They'd just throw hand grenades
at the elephants, bring whole families down and cut out the ivory. I call
that mass destruction."

The last elephant survivors of Queen Elizabeth National Park, Abe said,
never left one another's side. They kept in a tight bunch, moving as one.
Only one elderly female remained; Abe estimated her to be at least 62. It
was this matriarch who first gathered the survivors together from their
various hideouts on the park's forested fringes and then led them back out
as one group into open savanna. Until her death in the early 90's, the old
female held the group together, the population all the while slowly
beginning to rebound. In her yet-to-be-completed memoir, "My Elephants and
My People," Abe writes of the prominence of the matriarch in Acholi society;
she named the park's matriarchal elephant savior Lady Irene, after her own
mother. "It took that core group of survivors in the park about five or six
years," Abe told me, "before I started seeing whole new family units emerge
and begin to split off and go their own way."

In 1986, Abe's family was forced to flee the country again. Violence against
Uganda's people and elephants never completely abated after Amin's regime
collapsed, and it drastically worsened in the course of the full-fledged war
that developed between government forces and the rebel Lord's Resistance
Army. For years, that army's leader, Joseph Kony, routinely "recruited" from
Acholi villages, killing the parents of young males before their eyes, or
sometimes having them do the killings themselves, before pressing them into
service as child soldiers. The Lord's Resistance Army has by now been
largely defeated, but Kony, who is wanted by the International Criminal
Court for numerous crimes against humanity, has hidden with what remains of
his army in the mountains of Murchison Falls National Park, and more
recently in Garamba National Park in northern Congo, where poaching by the
Lord's Resistance Army has continued to orphan more elephants.

"I started looking again at what has happened among the Acholi and the
elephants," Abe told me. "I saw that it is an absolute coincidence between
the two. You know we used to have villages. We still don't have villages.
There are over 200 displaced people's camps in present-day northern Uganda.
Everybody lives now within these camps, and there are no more elders. The
elders were systematically eliminated. The first batch of elimination was
during Amin's time, and that set the stage for the later destruction of
northern Uganda. We are among the lucky few, because my mom and dad managed
to escape. But the families there are just broken. I know many of them.
Displaced people are living in our home now. My mother said let them have
it. All these kids who have grown up with their parents killed - no fathers,
no mothers, only children looking after them. They don't go to schools. They
have no schools, no hospitals. No infrastructure. They form these roaming,
violent, destructive bands. It's the same thing that happens with the
elephants. Just like the male war orphans, they are wild, completely lost."



===========

Page 5 of Cool



On the ride from Paddington that afternoon out to Heathrow, where I would
catch a flight to Uganda, Abe told me that the parallel between the plight
of Ugandans and their elephants was in many ways too close for her to see at
first. It was only after she moved to London that she had what was, in a
sense, her first full, adult recognition of the entwinement between human
and elephant that she says she long ago felt in her mother's womb.

"I remember when I first was working on my doctorate," she said. "I
mentioned that I was doing this parallel once to a prominent scientist in
Kenya. He looked amazed. He said, 'How come nobody has made this connection
before?' I told him because it hadn't happened this way to anyone else's
tribe before. To me it's something I see so clearly. Most people are scared
of showing that kind of anthropomorphism. But coming from me it doesn't
sound like I'm inventing something. It's there. People know it's there. Some
might think that the way I describe the elephant attacks makes the animals
look like people. But people are animals."



Shortly after my return from Uganda, I went to visit the Elephant Sanctuary
in Tennessee, a 2,700-acre rehabilitation center and retirement facility
situated in the state's verdant, low-rolling southern hill country. The
sanctuary is a kind of asylum for some of the more emotionally and
psychologically disturbed former zoo and circus elephants in the United
States - cases so bad that the people who profited from them were eager to
let them go. Given that elephants in the wild are now exhibiting aberrant
behaviors that were long observed in captive elephants, it perhaps follows
that a positive working model for how to ameliorate the effects of elephant
breakdown can be found in captivity.

Of the 19 current residents of the sanctuary, perhaps the biggest hard-luck
story was that of a 40-year-old, five-ton Asian elephant named Misty.
Originally captured as a calf in India in 1966, Misty spent her first decade
in captivity with a number of American circuses and finally ended up in the
early 80's at a wild-animal attraction known as Lion Country Safari in
Irvine, Calif. It was there, on the afternoon of July 25, 1983, that Misty,
one of four performing elephants at Lion Country Safari that summer, somehow
managed to break free of her chains and began madly dashing about the park,
looking to make an escape. When one of the park's zoologists tried to corner
and contain her, Misty killed him with one swipe of her trunk.

There are, in the long, checkered history of human-elephant relations,
countless stories of lethal elephantine assaults, and almost invariably of
some gruesomely outsize, animalistic form of retribution exacted by us. It
was in the very state of Tennessee, back in September 1916, that another
five-ton Asian circus elephant, Mary, was impounded by a local sheriff for
the killing of a young hotel janitor who'd been hired to mind Mary during a
stopover in the northeast Tennessee town of Kingsport. The janitor had
apparently taken Mary for a swim at a local pond, where, according to
witnesses, he poked her behind the left ear with a metal hook just as she
was reaching for a piece of floating watermelon rind. Enraged, Mary turned,
swiftly snatched him up with her trunk, dashed him against a refreshment
stand and then smashed his head with her foot.

With cries from the townspeople to "Kill the elephant!" and threats from
nearby town leaders to bar the circus if "Murderous Mary," as newspapers
quickly dubbed her, remained a part of the show, the circus's owner, Charlie
Sparks, knew he had to do something to appease the public's blood lust and
save his business. Among the penalties he is said to have contemplated was
electrocution, a ghastly precedent for which had been set 13 years earlier,
on the grounds of the nearly completed Luna Park in Coney Island. A longtime
circus elephant named Topsy, who'd killed three trainers in as many years -
the last one after he tried to feed her a lighted cigarette - would become
the largest and most prominent victim of Thomas Edison, the father of
direct-current electricity, who had publicly electrocuted a number of
animals at that time using his rival George Westinghouse's alternating
current, in hopes of discrediting it as being too dangerous.

Sparks ultimately decided to have Mary hanged and shipped her by train to
the nearby town of Erwin, Tenn., where more than 2,500 people gathered at
the local rail yard for her execution. Dozens of children are said to have
run off screaming in terror when the chain that was suspended from a huge
industrial crane snapped, leaving Mary writhing on the ground with a broken
hip. A local rail worker promptly clambered up Mary's bulk and secured a
heavier chain for a second, successful hoisting.

==========
Page 6 of Cool


Misty's fate in the early 80's, by contrast, seems a triumph of modern
humanism. Banished, after the Lion Safari killing, to the Hawthorn
Corporation, a company in Illinois that trains and leases elephants and
tigers to circuses, she would continue to lash out at a number of her
trainers over the years. But when Hawthorn was convicted of numerous
violations of the Animal Welfare Act in 2003, the company agreed to
relinquish custody of Misty to the Elephant Sanctuary. She was loaded onto a
trailer transport on the morning of Nov. 17, 2004, and even then managed to
get away with one final shot at the last in her long line of captors.

"The details are kind of sketchy," Carol Buckley, a founder of the Elephant
Sanctuary, said to me one afternoon in July, the two of us pulling up on her
all-terrain four-wheeler to a large grassy enclosure where an extremely
docile and contented-looking Misty, trunk high, ears flapping, waited to
greet us. "Hawthorn's owner was trying to get her to stretch out so he could
remove her leg chains before loading her on the trailer. At one point he
prodded her with a bull hook, and she just knocked him down with a swipe of
her trunk. But we've seen none of that since she's been here. She's as sweet
as can be. You'd never know that this elephant killed anybody."

In the course of her nearly two years at the Elephant Sanctuary - much of it
spent in quarantine while undergoing daily treatment for tuberculosis -
Misty has also been in therapy, as in psychotherapy. Wild-caught elephants
often witness as young calves the slaughter of their parents, just about the
only way, shy of a far more costly tranquilization procedure, to wrest a
calf from elephant parents, especially the mothers. The young captives are
then dispatched to a foreign environment to work either as performers or
laborers, all the while being kept in relative confinement and isolation, a
kind of living death for an animal as socially developed and dependent as we
now know elephants to be.

And yet just as we now understand that elephants hurt like us, we're
learning that they can heal like us as well. Indeed, Misty has become a
testament to the Elephant Sanctuary's signature "passive control" system, a
therapy tailored in many ways along the lines of those used to treat human
sufferers of post-traumatic stress disorder. Passive control, as a sanctuary
newsletter describes it, depends upon "knowledge of how elephants process
information and respond to stress" as well as specific knowledge of each
elephant's past response to stress. Under this so-called nondominance
system, there is no discipline, retaliation or withholding of food, water
and treats, which are all common tactics of elephant trainers. Great pains
are taken, meanwhile, to afford the elephants both a sense of safety and
freedom of choice - two mainstays of human trauma therapy - as well as
continual social interaction.

Upon her arrival at the Elephant Sanctuary, Misty seemed to sense straight
off the different vibe of her new home. When Scott Blais of the sanctuary
went to free Misty's still-chained leg a mere day after she'd arrived, she
stood peaceably by, practically offering her leg up to him. Over her many
months of quarantine, meanwhile, with only humans acting as a kind of
surrogate elephant family, she has consistently gone through the daily
rigors of her tuberculosis treatments - involving two caregivers, a team of
veterinarians and the use of a restraining chute in which harnesses are
secured about her chest and tail - without any coaxing or pressure. "We'll
shower her with praise in the barn afterwards," Buckley told me as Misty
stood by, chomping on a mouthful of hay, "and she actually purrs with
pleasure. The whole barn vibrates."

Of course, Misty's road to recovery - when viewed in light of her history
and that of all the other captive elephants, past and present - is as
harrowing as it is heartening. She and the others have suffered, we now
understand, not simply because of us, but because they are, by and large,
us. If as recently as the end of the Vietnam War people were still balking
at the idea that a soldier, for example, could be physically disabled by a
psychological harm - the idea, in other words, that the mind is not an
entity apart from the body and therefore just as woundable as any limb - we
now find ourselves having to make an equally profound and, for many, even
more difficult leap: that a fellow creature as ostensibly unlike us in every
way as an elephant is as precisely and intricately woundable as we are. And
while such knowledge naturally places an added burden upon us, the keepers,
that burden is now being greatly compounded by the fact that sudden violent
outbursts like Misty's can no longer be dismissed as the inevitable isolated
revolts of a restless few against the constraints and abuses of captivity.

 ===========
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Crafty_Dog
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« Reply #2 on: November 06, 2006, 04:20:07 PM »

They have no future without us. The question we are now forced to grapple
with is whether we would mind a future without them, among the more mindful
creatures on this earth and, in many ways, the most devoted. Indeed, the
manner of the elephants' continued keeping, their restoration and
conservation, both in civil confines and what's left of wild ones, is now
drawing the attention of everyone from naturalists to neuroscientists. Too
much about elephants, in the end - their desires and devotions, their
vulnerability and tremendous resilience - reminds us of ourselves to dismiss
out of hand this revolt they're currently staging against their own
dismissal. And while our concern may ultimately be rooted in that most human
of impulses - the preservation of our own self-image - the great paradox
about this particular moment in our history with elephants is that saving
them will require finally getting past ourselves; it will demand the
ultimate act of deep, interspecies empathy.

On a more immediate, practical level, as Gay Bradshaw sees it, this involves
taking what has been learned about elephant society, psychology and emotion
and inculcating that knowledge into the conservation schemes of researchers
and park rangers. This includes doing things like expanding elephant habitat
to what it used to be historically and avoiding the use of culling and
translocations as conservation tools. "If we want elephants around,"
Bradshaw told me, "then what we need to do is simple: learn how to live with
elephants. In other words, in addition to conservation, we need to educate
people how to live with wild animals like humans used to do, and to create
conditions whereby people can live on their land and live with elephants
without it being this life-and-death situation."

The other part of our newly emerging compact with elephants, however, is far
more difficult to codify. It requires nothing less than a fundamental shift
in the way we look at animals and, by extension, ourselves. It requires what
Bradshaw somewhat whimsically refers to as a new "trans-species psyche," a
commitment to move beyond an anthropocentric frame of reference and, in
effect, be elephants. Two years ago, Bradshaw wrote a paper for the journal
Society and Animals, focusing on the work of the David Sheldrick Wildlife
Trust in Kenya, a sanctuary for orphaned and traumatized wild elephants -
more or less the wilderness-based complement to Carol Buckley's trauma
therapy at the Elephant Sanctuary in Tennessee. The trust's human caregivers
essentially serve as surrogate mothers to young orphan elephants, gradually
restoring their psychological and emotional well being to the point at which
they can be reintroduced into existing wild herds. The human "allomothers"
stay by their adopted young orphans' sides, even sleeping with them at night
in stables. The caregivers make sure, however, to rotate from one elephant
to the next so that the orphans grow fond of all the keepers. Otherwise an
elephant would form such a strong bond with one keeper that whenever he or
she was absent, that elephant would grieve as if over the loss of another
family member, often becoming physically ill itself.

To date, the Sheldrick Trust has successfully rehabilitated more than 60
elephants and reintroduced them into wild herds. A number of them have
periodically returned to the sanctuary with their own wild-born calves in
order to reunite with their human allomothers and to introduce their
offspring to what - out on this uncharted frontier of the new "trans-species
psyche" - is now being recognized, at least by the elephants, it seems, as a
whole new subspecies: the human allograndmother. "Traditionally, nature has
served as a source of healing for humans," Bradshaw told me. "Now humans can
participate actively in the healing of both themselves and nonhuman animals.
The trust and the sanctuary are the beginnings of a mutually benefiting
interspecies culture."



On my way back to New York via London, I contacted Felicity de Zulueta, a
psychiatrist at Maudsley Hospital in London who treats victims of extreme
trauma, among them former child soldiers from the Lord's Resistance Army. De
Zulueta, an acquaintance of Eve Abe's, grew up in Uganda in the early 1960's
on the outskirts of Queen Elizabeth National Park, near where her father, a
malaria doctor, had set up camp as part of a malaria-eradication program.
For a time she had her own elephant, orphaned by poaching, that local
villagers had given to her father, who brought it home to the family garage,
where it immediately bonded with an orphan antelope and dog already residing
there.

===========





"He was doing fine," de Zulueta told me of the pet elephant. "My mother was
loving it and feeding it, and then my parents realized, How can we keep this
elephant that is going to grow bigger than the garage? So they gave it to
who they thought were the experts. They sent him to the Entebbe Zoo, and
although they gave him all the right food and everything, he was a lonely
little elephant, and he died. He had no attachment."

For de Zulueta, the parallel that Abe draws between the plight of war
orphans, human and elephant, is painfully apt, yet also provides some cause
for hope, given the often startling capacity of both animals for recovery.
She told me that one Ugandan war orphan she is currently treating lost all
the members of his family except for two older brothers. Remarkably, one of
those brothers, while serving in the Ugandan Army, rescued the younger
sibling from the Lord's Resistance Army; the older brother's unit had
captured the rebel battalion in which his younger brother had been forced to
fight.

The two brothers eventually made their way to London, and for the past two
years, the younger brother has been going through a gradual process of
recovery in the care of Maudsley Hospital. Much of the rehabilitation,
according to de Zulueta, especially in the early stages, relies on the basic
human trauma therapy principles now being applied to elephants: providing
decent living quarters, establishing a sense of safety and of attachment to
a larger community and allowing freedom of choice. After that have come the
more complex treatments tailored to the human brain's particular cognitive
capacities: things like reliving the original traumatic experience and being
taught to modulate feelings through early detection of hyperarousal and
through breathing techniques. And the healing of trauma, as de Zulueta
describes it, turns out to have physical correlatives in the brain just as
its wounding does.

"What I say is, we find bypass," she explained. "We bypass the wounded areas
using various techniques. Some of the wounds are not healable. Their scars
remain. But there is hope because the brain is an enormous computer, and you
can learn to bypass its wounds by finding different methods of approaching
life. Of course there may be moments when something happens and the old
wound becomes unbearable. Still, people do recover. The boy I've been
telling you about is 18 now, and he has survived very well in terms of his
emotional health and capacities. He's a lovely, lovely man. And he's a poet.
He writes beautiful poetry."



On the afternoon in July that I left the Elephant Sanctuary in Tennessee,
Carol Buckley and Scott Blais seemed in particularly good spirits. Misty was
only weeks away from the end of her quarantine, and she would soon be able
to socialize with some of her old cohorts from the Hawthorn Corporation:
eight female Asians that had been given over to the sanctuary. I would meet
the lot of them that day, driving from one to the next on the back of
Buckley's four-wheeler across the sanctuary's savanna-like stretches.
Buckley and Blais refer to them collectively as the Divas.

Buckley and Blais told me that they got word not long ago of a significant
breakthrough in a campaign of theirs to get elephants out of entertainment
and zoos: the Bronx Zoo, one of the oldest and most formidable zoos in the
country, had announced that upon the death of the zoo's three current
elephant inhabitants, Patty, Maxine and Happy, it would phase out its
elephant exhibit on social-behavioral grounds - an acknowledgment of a new
awareness of the elephant's very particular sensibility and needs. "They're
really taking the lead," Buckley told me. "Zoos don't want to concede the
inappropriateness of keeping elephants in such confines. But if we as a
society determine that an animal like this suffers in captivity, if the
information shows us that they do, hey, we are the stewards. You'd think we'd
want to do the right thing."

Four days later, I received an e-mail message from Gay Bradshaw, who
consults with Buckley and Blais on their various stress-therapy strategies.
She wrote that one of the sanctuary's elephants, an Asian named Winkie, had
just killed a 36-year-old female assistant caretaker and critically injured
the male caretaker who'd tried to save her.

People who work with animals on a daily basis can tell you all kinds of
stories about their distinct personalities and natures. I'd gotten, in fact,
an elaborate breakdown from Buckley and Blais on the various elephants at
the sanctuary and their sociopolitical maneuverings within the sanctuary's
distinct elephant culture, and I went to my notebook to get a fix again on
Winkie. A 40-year-old, 7,600-pound female from Burma, she came to the
sanctuary in 2000 from the Henry Vilas Zoo in Madison, Wisc., where she had
a reputation for lashing out at keepers. When Winkie first arrived at the
sanctuary, Buckley told me, she used to jump merely upon being touched and
then would wait for a confrontation. But when it never came, she slowly
calmed down. "Has never lashed out at primary keepers," my last note on
Winkie reads, "but has at secondary ones."

Bradshaw's e-mail message concludes: "A stunning illustration of trauma in
elephants. The indelible etching."

I thought back to a moment in Queen Elizabeth National Park this past June.
As Nelson Okello and I sat waiting for the matriarch and her calf to pass,
he mentioned to me an odd little detail about the killing two months earlier
of the man from the village of Katwe, something that, the more I thought
about it, seemed to capture this particularly fraught moment we've arrived
at with the elephants. Okello said that after the man's killing, the
elephant herd buried him as it would one of its own, carefully covering the
body with earth and brush and then standing vigil over it.

Even as we're forcing them out, it seems, the elephants are going out of
their way to put us, the keepers, in an ever more discomfiting place,
challenging us to preserve someplace for them, the ones who in many ways
seem to regard the matter of life and death more devoutly than we. In fact,
elephant culture could be considered the precursor of our own, the first
permanent human settlements having sprung up around the desire of wandering
tribes to stay by the graves of their dead. "The city of the dead," as Lewis
Mumford once wrote, "antedates the city of the living."

When a group of villagers from Katwe went out to reclaim the man's body for
his family's funeral rites, the elephants refused to budge. Human remains, a
number of researchers have observed, are the only other ones that elephants
will treat as they do their own. In the end, the villagers resorted to a
tactic that has long been etched in the elephant's collective memory, firing
volleys of gunfire into the air at close range, finally scaring the mourning
herd away.

END
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