There is a fascinating article about elephant culture in the New York Times today.
“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.”
“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.” – Gay Bradshaw, as quoted.
“Decades of poaching and culling and habitat loss … 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 … the elephant is not going out quietly. It is not leaving without making some kind of statement…”
I can just feel the book lurking between the lines of this article – a Michner-esque story of a family line set in the forests of India, chronicling the times and lives of tribe of elephants against the backdrop of their homeland as it is slowly changed by the encroachment of humans. Draw a little on Kipling, a little on Michner, think about the stories of other native peoples and how they’ve dealt with foreign colonizers…. It could be an amazing book.