Elephants on the Edge: What Animals Teach Us about Humanity
G. A. Bradshaw
Drawing on accounts from India to Africa and California to Tennessee, and on research in neuroscience, psychology, and animal behavior, G. A. Bradshaw explores the minds, emotions, and lives of elephants. Wars, starvation, mass culls, poaching, and habitat loss have reduced elephant numbers from more than ten million to a few hundred thousand, leaving orphans bereft of the elders who would normally mentor them. As a consequence, traumatized elephants have become aggressive against people, other animals, and even one another; their behavior is comparable to that of humans who have experienced genocide, other types of violence, and social collapse. By exploring the elephant mind and experience in the wild and in captivity, Bradshaw bears witness to the breakdown of ancient elephant cultures.
All is not lost. People are working to save elephants by rescuing orphaned infants and rehabilitating adult zoo and circus elephants, using the same principles psychologists apply in treating humans who have survived trauma. Bradshaw urges us to support these and other models of elephant recovery and to solve pressing social and environmental crises affecting all animals, human or not.
97. 45. Lifton, Nazi Doctors, 12. 46. Randy Malamud, personal communication, January 5, 2009. 47. Interim Hearing. 48. Kathy Lynn Gray, “New Executive Director Takes Helm at Zoo,” Columbus Dispatch, July 6, 2008, http://dispatch.com/live/content/local_news/stories/2008 /07/06/newzooguy.html?sid=101. 49. “Activists Hope Dallas Zoo Elephant Gets New Home For B’Day,” January 2, 2009, http://www.nbcdfw.com/news/local/Activist-Group-Hopes-Jenny-The -Elephant-Gets-New-Home-For-Her-Birthday-.html.
schools her staff so that “the elephants know that we are there listening, seeing, and responsive. For example, we are there when Barbara wants to drink out of the hose. It’s her right to choose not to drink out of the trough. We are their servants. People in the [elephant] industry call it ‘spoiling’ and [say that] banging on the water trough is not acceptable. But we celebrate when someone bangs on the trough. They should be allowed to demand.”35 However, the Sanctuary’s “passive control” must
page 114. Foreword Elephant breakdown, the subject herein, disturbs me. It says my own was inevitable. Recall Nietzsche’s crackup, triggered by the sight of a tradesman flogging a horse, and you begin to understand what I’m talking about. We are all susceptible. Descartes in dressing gown before his hearth, demolishing, as if brick by brick, his rational mind—one of the more famous crackups of history. The cloak of composure we wear carries its own unraveling—the bit of thread lying exposed.
in the captive industry, but says: “I’ve known people in this business for thirty years. I know they love elephants. What I have had to learn to understand is you can love someone in a very dysfunctional way.”20 Buckley is among a growing list of individuals (Ray Ryan, the late Les Schobert, and Pat Derby are some others) who changed their lives for love of a different kind. They left the industry, aware that they would suffer the consequences financially, professionally, and socially, to become
overshadow or caricature the named and unnamed individuals who were part of that particular cultural necrosis. As time passed and the Shoah became a universal reference, the Nazi doctors shed their mortal banality and grew into bigger-than-life archetypes of quintessential evil and wrongdoing, inexcusable trespassers on inviolable ethical ground. However, historical remove and mythical quality tend to dissociate the horror of the past from the present. Sitting only as close as the pages of a