This is an extract from “The once in future World” by JB McKinnan.
Which clearly points out just how very important the knowledge and
wisdom of old leaders in nature…
In the early 1980’s, the Elephant population was swelling in Kruger
National Park and while game managers decided to dart numbers of
adult elephants from the air, and then shoot them to death on the
ground. The killing often took place in plain view of juvenile
elephants which were then rounded up and sent to other parks and
reserves. with about 40 ending up a few hundred miles to the South
West in Pillansberg National Park.
More than a decade later, Field Biologists in Pilansberg noted what
they termed a novel situation emerging.
Elephants were, for the first time in history, killing White
Rhinoceros, which had been bred back from the brink of extinction.
Between 1992 and 1998, elephants were suspected of the deaths of 49
The culprits turned out to be the orphaned young males from Kruger.
The obvious conclusion to leap to would be that the elephants
berserk behaviour was routed in the trauma they had endured as
Ultimately, however, the investigation turned to question the
As they approach maturity, male elephants enter a rutting condition
known as must, during which testosterone floods their systems so
fiercely, that even their postures are changed. These males were
entering must much to young and staying in it too long.
One suspected Rhino killer was finally culled after remaining in
must for as many as 5 months. A length of time that would be
unusual for a male twice its age.
under more natural circumstances, that is in a elephant herd not
comprising of transplanted orphans, the adolescent must periods are
cut short by apparently withering encounters with larger older
After standing down to a dominant bull, the rush of hormones in the
younger mail stops. In some cases, in a matter of minutes.
As a test, 6 older mails were introduced to the Pilansberg herd and
the killing of Rhinoceros’s stopped.
The outbreak of elephantine violence was blamed on the lack of
Elephants are one of the few species in which the importance of
aging is slowly becoming acknowledged. During a 1993 drought in
Tanzania, the elephant clans lead by the oldest females suffered
far fewer deaths than those with younger matriarchs. The herds
needed leaders old enough to remember the distant water holes that
their own elders had led them to in droughts gone past.
To maintain a mental map of those life saving pools, requires the
presence through the centuries, not only of adult elephants, but
Sever drought strikes Tanzania only every 5 decades or so. An
elephants maximum lifespan is approximately 65 years.
Such impacts may not only be limited to big brained long lived
In the early 1990’s, the fisheries scientist, George Rose, recorded
for the first time the migration routes of Cod on the Grand Banks
of Newfoundland. The fish stock was failing dramatically.
Rose predicted the likely migratory path based on water
temperatures and sea bottom topography, and eco sonar proved his
forecast was largely correct.
The fish were there. He also made an observation he had not
expected. As with the elephants, the lost behemoth Cod disappeared
long ago. An Atlantic Cod over 200 lbs, has not been caught since
the 1890’s. Still it was the largest oldest fish that seized
Rose’s attention on the eco sonar read outs.
He could see them distinctly, individual black smudges at the head
of every school. Scouts his team called them. In most of the
schools, there were only a few of the leaders left.
Then in 1992, the Cod fishing industry collapsed completely. The
migration failed to happen. Rose said there were some Cod down
there but they were very small and only about 5 years old.
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Barry Blomkamp Nd. Bsc (UL)
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