September 16, 2012
The presence of an elder can be very powerful, and not only in human interactions. About 20 years ago there was a group of elephants that conservationists wanted to move. They didn’t have the ability to move the larger, older adults. The people in charge of moving the animals made a tough dissension. They thought their best option was to kill the parents and other family of the small young elephants. These little ones were traumatized by witnessing their parents being killed and then moved to a new location with no family.
These elephants grew up to be very aggressive. Park rangers noticed that elephants were killing rhinos. In the height of the violence they killed 36 rhino in one year. It is not unheard of for elephants to kill rhinos every once in a while, but these numbers were astounding! For many years people were very confused about how to stop the killings.
It turns out the solution was very simple.When older bull elephants were introduced, the violence stopped. It seems the bulls’ presence gave the younger elephants a model and an understanding of where they fit in. The behavior patterns of young elephants returned to normal under their influence.
Modern culture often seems to ignore or discount the benefits of cross generational interaction. As this example of the elephants indicates, the presence and perspective of elders may be one way to help create a more peaceful planet.