Killing Baby Elephants

Son No. 1 directed me to CNN to read a story documenting the tactics of rogue debt collectors. Anyone who has lost their job and can’t pay their bills knows the relentless nature of the phone calls – it is truly awful. So I linked up to CNN to read the article only to be assaulted with the phrase “Ranger: Even baby elephants to die.

It got me.

I have a deep and abiding respect for elephants. About 7 years ago I picked up a book on the half price table at a local bookstore. It was cheap and I needed a read. The book, Barbara Gowdy’s The White Bone is about a family of elephants struggling to survive poachers and a killing drought. The narrator is one of the family and Gowdy invents a language to convey how the group experiences the world. Reading this story affected me deeply; their fear was visceral and awful. The loss and grief when one of the clan died, unbearable.

There is truth to Gowdy’s story. Elephants are self-aware. They live in a structured social order. They even grieve. So the reason for killing the baby elephants is to avoid trauma after their kin are killed. Sounds a lot like murder to me. Animal rights activists assert the culling is really killing for ivory. My heart hurts as I ponder my action or acquiescence in this matter.

I ask you to visit Gregory Colbert’s Ashes and Snow virtual exhibit. The photographs of elephants and people are not a trick of the camera, rather actual interactions. Things about the natural world all too often float on the periphery of our existence – I am asking that you take a few minutes to think about not only the natural world, but also our interaction and place within it.


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