Replying to LO29191 --
Alfred Rheeder <firstname.lastname@example.org> writes with respect to
the saying "When elephants fight, the grass suffers."
>In South Africa we are very familiar with the saying:
>"When elephants fight, the grass suffers". Not only do we
>often use the saying as a metaphor describing the tragedy
>of the commons, but the phenomena can be easily observed
>I am of the opinion that the "catergorical identity" of the
>aying is important. Where does this saying come from?
>When did people start to observe this phenomena? Did
>the phenomena always exist? Why does this phenomena
>This phenomena started to manifest when humans with
>superior technology, destructively interfered with the
>environment of the elephants in such a way and to such
>an extent that the natural migratory routes were "destroyed"
>and "disturbed". The migration of elephants is crucial for
>the harmonious existence of not only the elephants but
>other species as well. This harmony was destroyed by us.
>Can we learn from this?
You have made a profound distinction here. I would not have thought of it
as I should have done because I have several days of elephant observation
on my marking stick.
I remember that at the Pilanesberg game park six young bulls were
introduced. The park, although large, had too little tree vegetation to
sustain breeding herd of elephants. The bulls were caught in herds
(females and young) from a different park. As they got mature and
occasionally came into "musk", lacking the learning of elephant society,
they became sexually abusive to rhinoceros and also rogue killers. The
solution was to introduce mature bulls knowing the rules of bulls in
elephant society. This taught us that humans cannot meddle as they like
I managed to find a 1876 document on elephants. Already then it mentions
specifically that elephants become unruly (anarchy) when humankind
encroaches upon their territory. It also mentions that some 100 000
elephants in Africa are killed annually for their tusks. It questions when
elephants will become extinct since the gestation period is 21 months and
a cow has a calf only every four years. Today this question is in the
process of getting answered.
In Zimbabwe, for example, having had the third largest population of
elephants left over in Africa, their numbers have become decimated over
the last couple of years for their meat and their tusks. Only the herds of
Botswana and South Africa will remain as long as their large game parks
remain. In other countries further north like Tanzania and Kenya, their
numbers have also decimated, but more as a result of parks which cannot
sustain the growth of trees for food and with their migrating routes being
I have to mention the desert elephant of Kaokoland, Namibia, often
venturing downwards to the even more drier parts of Damaraland. They are
still the species Elephas Africanus, but they have adapted to longer legs
and bigger feet. I have once tried to follow a herd after encountering it
on one of my desert expeditions in Damaraland, but found that after half a
day that I was no match even to the young calves. Afterwards I estimated
with the aid of maps that they had to cover some 200 km in two days to get
back to a water source in Kaokoland. These elephants seek up the desert
Damaraland with its much less human population to escape form human
encroachment in Kaokoland.
My dear brother Conrad is an ardent student of plants of the plant genera
Encephalartos and Clivia. They usually grow in dense mountainous
vegetation with a high rainfall. He told me how he occasionally stumbled
on an ancient elephant trail going through the forest over a mountain
series. Obviously, since the coming of humankind, these paths became
deserted of elephants. But they can still be travelled because it takes an
elephant or two to uproot a tree 1 metre (3 feet) in diameter and 25
metres (80 feet) high. Most convincingly is the polished rocks on such a
trail. With two tons per leg in weight a rock cannot resist in becoming
polished to a high gloss.
Based upon my own observations and my questioning of others having had
experiences with elephants, I think that they are very sensitive to
openness ("paradigm-transfer") and spareness ("quantity-limit"), two of
the 7Es (seven essentialities of creativity). They seem to be more
adaptable to impairing in the other six 7Es. For example, when the trees
become too few in a region because of their eating habits, they will move
to a different region.
Elephants are much more prone to diseases than other mammals. Once one of
them dies of a disease, the herd (cows and females) as well as bulls
hovering in the vincinity will move to a different region. They seem to
know that a difference in altitude as well as a difference in rainfall
will bring relief. By doing so, they come in contact with elephants of
different genetical stock -- otherness ("quality-variety"). But by
curtailing their migrations, their inbreeding rapidly increases their
susceptibility to diseases.
Dear Alfred and other fellow learners, can you imagine what goes on in the
brain of elephants when humans do not respect their social dynamics? Who
leads an anarchy among elephants? Elephants? No, humans who do not respect
the rules of elephant behaviour. Who leads an anarchy among humans?
Elephants? No, humans who do not respect the rules of human behaviour.
What exactly do elephants and humans want to accomplish with their
I have never seen a single elephant wanting to become powerful through
corporative behaviour. Perhaps they are too ignorant to understand the
power of profiteering. But perhaps they are rather wise not to undermine
the sustainability of their ecology. They will not root up tree after tree
for fodder, but skip several trees so as to leave more than enough for
posteriority. Only when preventing to do this, their conduct turns into an
William Shakespeare once observed wisely (if I remember him
"The elephants have joints, but not for courtesy,
His legs are for necessity, but not for flexure."
Elephants breath oxygen, but not for the purpose of living. They
uproot trees, but not for becoming rich. They travel to many regions,
but not for the purpose of establishing empires. So why do they
need to roam their continent? In their big skulls there seems to be
brains which answer this question. Why cannot we do it too?
With care and best wishes
At de Lange <email@example.com> Snailmail: A M de Lange Gold Fields Computer Centre Faculty of Science - University of Pretoria Pretoria 0001 - Rep of South Africa
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