Tuesday, 23 April 2013

Bull elephants who rape, the breakdown of relationships & boys lost on an island

Channel 5 (UK Television) are currently hosting a series entitled Nature Shock.  Yesterday evening the documentary focussed on killer elephants, particularly bulls (malewho areraping and killing female elephants in India’s Periyar Wildlife Sanctuary.  These bulls were originally thought to be overly sexed whilst going through their period of musth (pronounced must) – we would commonly or colloquially refer to this as “being on heat”.  This leads to a natural rise in testosterone levels which usually correlates with aggressive behaviour(even in humans).  The key question here is, if most (if not all) male species undergo this period of intense sexual desire (I know the feeling!!) then why don’t most male species rape their female counterparts?  In fact, the only other known case was in a game reserve in South Africa, where these bulls were even raping female rhinoceroses because they too were big and grey like the female elephants (talk about mistaken identity).  The answer was completely unexpectedthe lack of male role models!  Yip, an absence of fathers and father figures.  These sanctuaries experienced great loss due to poachers who killed off the older male elephants, leaving the young male calves without any guidance.  The usual, expected ratio of male to female elephants is 1:6; after the poachers had left Periyar it dropped to 1:120 - a major implication for the social organisation and hierarchy of the elephant population in India.

So how does this relate to us as humans, and can we extrapolate the findings of animal research to human behaviour?  Personally, I think the answer is a simple “yes”.  Without the appropriate role models, children will potentially grow up governed by instinctual, innate drives which are often drives governed by principles of immediate gratification irrespective of the social or moral consequences.  This is known in the world of psychology as the ID, a structure coined by Sigmund Freud when explaining his theory of the mind (I’ll explore more of this in my next blog).  This idea is beautifully portrayed in Golding’s Lord of the Flies.

I recognise that there are many shortfalls to this explanation, a key one being a lack of scientific evidence, but one merely has to look around at society to see the impact of shattered relationships and children growing up without the right kind of support, to see how this theory is so tangibly validated.  Don’t get me wrong, I don’t know how single parents cope and I have a new-found respect for them since having my daughter, but the restructuring of the nuclear family has to have some or other impact on the social organisation of human beingsRelationships are hard because they are not self-sustaining, but like anything, persisting for the sake of our young ones will often result in the desired outcome.  Many of us are unlucky in love or have to undergo relationships where the word “love” is completely warped into some self-gaining, selfish hold on another which is far from ideal for the little ones involved.  I have no experience of this and do not qualify to explore it beyond mere opinion, but I do recognise the importance of a father who is present and engaged with his little person.

To watch the episode, clink on the link:

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