In less than a decade (1991-2001), 63 rhinos were killed by young hooligan male elephants in the Hluhluwe-Umfolozi conservation park in South Africa. It seems that these maturing bull elephants were in musth (similar to the rut of deer) and they had high levels of sex and aggression on the brain. The musth is a normal part of the male maturation, but the killings were not.
A few reports said the thug elephants were killing and raping the rhinos, but that was journalistic hype. Of course, with humans we know there is “science” out there to prove that men have enough blood in their body to operate the brain and the penis, but not enough for both at the same time. Maybe the reporters assumed young bull elephants have the same tendencies.
Park rangers linked the young bulls’ violent behavior to the absence of older male elephants in the herd. The older bulls had recently been culled for population control. The side effects were unexpected. When the younger bulls began to mature, there was no dominant bull around to keep them in line. The young guys had no boundaries and no one to demonstrate acceptable male behavior.
The remedy was easier than you’d think. Older, mature bull elephants were simply brought into the herd. As mature bulls will do when they see a mess, they put things back into order. Since the intervention, the young bulls have not killed or raped any rhinos.
Here’s the rub.
Sons need their dads. Grandsons need their grandpas. Nephews need their uncles. And vice versa.
The presence of a nurturing man in a boy’s life is necessary. Without it, our cities will be overrun with boys who have little self control or concept of what is or isn’t right. They become thugs, hooligans, bullies, punks, and all around troublemakers.
When men see society slipping that way, then we know it’s time to get more involved in the life of a young man. Don’t just tell him what he’s doing wrong or what he should be doing. Be like the old bull elephant; show the young bulls how to live. But because of the bloodrush going to vital organs below the belt, you may have to explain a good bit along the way. Common sense isn’t so common to a young man in musth.
Rob Slotow,Dave Balfour, Owen Howison. Killing of black and white rhinoceroses by African elephants in Hluhluwe-Umfolozi Park, South Africa. University of Natal, Durban, South Africa. KwaZulu-Natal Wildlife, Hluhluwe Research Centre. 2001