A number of years ago there was a problem with the elephant herds on a game preserve in Africa. Because they were protected, the herds were growing to such a size that they were destroying the countryside and even farm crops in a search for food. The local experts decided that the way to control the size of the herds was to “cull” them; to kill the adult bull elephants so that they could not breed.
Elephant herds are matriarchal in nature, in other words the female and young elephants live in a herd under the leadership of the dominant female. Older males live by themselves until it is time to breed. When male elephants are born they live with the herd for protection until they are teenagers, at which time the dominant female kicks them out of the herd so they are not “bothering” the females. Typically, these young males then find an adult bull elephant to live with and learn how a male elephant lives life.
Unfortunately, they had killed off all the adult bull elephants. So, much like young males in our culture, with no male role models to teach them, these young pachyderms starting hanging around with each other and eventually formed a “gang” of teenage bull elephants. The results were similar to untrained and unrestrained young males in our culture in that the gang of teenage bull elephants started destroying crops, villages, even killing people.
A group of experts was called in and tried a variety of solutions with no success. Eventually someone suggested asking an old African chief what to do. He said, “Find an old bull elephant.” And so they found an old, old bull elephant and air lifted him by helicopter into the bush where they had last seen the gang of teenagers. He walked off and they did not see him for several weeks. One day, he came slowly walking out of the bush, and right behind him in single file were all the teenage bull elephants. They never had a problem with this herd again. Not because the old male was tough enough to fight the young males, but merely his presence as an older male taught them how a male lives life.
As my wise young friend Justin Farrell remarked, “Perhaps we don’t need more gun laws. Perhaps we need more elephants.”