Recently on FB, one of my college friend’s associates was abusing the younger Trumps for hunting elephants. He described elephants as intelligent and affectionate creatures, and stated that the idea of people hunting them made him weep.
This fellow was a typical example of the deracinated and emasculated urban male, who draws his understanding of the natural world from sentimental, anthropomorphizing nature programs in the mode of Disney. People like this think meat grows on supermarket shelves and that elderly wild animals retire to live on pensions in nursing homes.
The reality is that big game animals, particularly elephants, are commonly in direct competition with African natives for living space. Elephants, additionally, constitute huge potential windfall sources of meat and ivory and inevitably attract poachers. African countries take care to protect and preserve wild elephants in a world in which wealthy foreign sportsmen, like the Trumps, come to hunt, providing lots of local employment for safari staff at a cost of thousands of dollars per diem and fork over $25K or more for elephant license fees. It’s the hunters who provide both the incentive and the financing for game conservation.
As to the affectionate character of elephants, like a lot of other animals, elephants are known to kill the offspring of competing males, and sometimes simply to become rogue killers. My college friend’s New York associate obviously never read Sir Samuel Baker and has no idea that elephants have been known to turn maneater….
There was a notorious rogue elephant at Dolana about 30 years ago whose ferocity was so extreme that he took complete possession of a certain part of the country adjoining the lake. He had killed eight or nine persons, and his whole object in existence appeared to be the waylaying and destruction of the natives. He was of enormous size, and was well known by a peculiar flesh-colored forehead.
In those days there were no firearms in this part of the country; therefore there was no protection for either life or property from this monster, who would invade the paddy fields at night and actually pull down the watchhouses, regardless of the blazing fires which were lighted on the hearth of sand on the summit; these he used to scatter about and extinguish. He had killed several natives in this manner, involving them in the common ruin with their watchhouses. The terror created by this elephant was so extreme that the natives deserted the neighborhood that he infested.
Many months passed away without his being either seen or heard of. The people began to hope that he had died from the effect of poisoned arrows, which had frequently been shot at him from the watchhouses in high trees. By degrees the terror of his name had lost its power, and he ceased to be thought of.
It was in the cool of the evening, about an hour before sunset, that about 20 of the women from the village were upon the grassy borders of the lake, engaged in sorting and tying into bundles the rushes that they had been gathering during the day for making mats. They were on the point of starting homeward with their loads when the sudden trumpet of an elephant was heard, and to their horror they saw the well-known rogue, with the unmistakable mark upon his forehead, coming down in full charge upon them. The ground was perfectly open; there were no trees for some hundred yards, except the jungle from which he was advancing at a frightful speed.
An indiscriminate flight of course took place, and a race of terror commenced. In a few seconds the monster was among them, and, seizing a young girl in his trunk, he held her high in the air and halted, as though uncertain how to dispose of his helpless victim. The girl, meanwhile, was vainly shrieking for assistance, and the petrified troop of women, having gained the shelter of some jungle, gazed panic-stricken upon the impending fate of their companion.
To their horror, the elephant slowly lowered her in his trunk till near the ground, when he gradually again raised her, and, bringing her head into his mouth, a report was heard like the crack of a whipâ€”it was the sudden crushing of her skull. Tearing the head off by the neck, he devoured it and, placing his forefoot upon the body, tore the arms and legs from their sockets with his trunk, devouring every portion of her.