Elephants That Witness Culling Remain Psychologically Scarred for Decades

Elephant_walking_ArMAs you’re probably aware, elephants are extremely intelligent creatures that develop deep social bonds within their herds. Researchers looking into the effects of herd culls have identified signs of PTSD among the calves who survive.

Via Discover Magazine:

Wildlife officials in South Africa have used culling to manage elephant populations since the 1960s. The environmental benefit is clear: too many of these huge, hungry animals could quickly eat, trample and uproot the vegetation in a fenced nature reserve. To prevent such habitat destruction, managers have historically rounded up the big beasts with a helicopter and had professional hunters on the ground kill some adults. The young elephants are then shipped to other parks.

Previous studies have shown that young elephants that live through such events grew up with a version of PTSD, delaying their development and making them unusually scared or aggressive. The elephants in this study had experienced even more extreme distress, however, as one of the researchers, Joyce Poole, told National Geographic,

“These calves watched as their mothers and other family members were killed and butchered. Because the people in charge of culls didn’t understand the long-term implications, didn’t understand they were dealing with intelligent, highly social animals, they, for convenience, tied the calves to their dead mothers while the butchering took place.”

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3 Comments on "Elephants That Witness Culling Remain Psychologically Scarred for Decades"

  1. Haystack | Nov 6, 2013 at 7:20 pm |

    I always wonder what it’s like to be an animal with that much intelligence, but without sophisticated language, opposable thumbs, or other familiar (to us) ways to apply it.

  2. oneironauticus | Nov 6, 2013 at 10:02 pm |

    We’re monsters.

  3. Monkey See Monkey Do | Nov 7, 2013 at 12:56 am |

    This is not really unique to elephants. Cows experience similar symptoms of trauma when witnessing their herd being tortured and killed in factory farming. Scientific studies looking at their physiology show they experience things like severe panic attacks and hysteria when witnessing it. They also suffer depression and post trauma disorder if they witness it but aren’t killed that day.

    Underneath the veil there is a world of suffering many are oblivious to.

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