Why Elephants Are As Ritualistic and Violent As the Mafia
It’s all about power, dominance, reverence, brutality and—above all—family.
Every summer, Caitlin O’Connell, author of Elephant Don: The Politics of a Pachyderm Posse, packs her bags and travels to northern Namibia to study a group of male elephants. What she witnesses as the males jockey for power and position around a water hole is both shocking and heart-warming: violent conflicts, tender scenes of affection. But, above all, the elephants show her the importance of family and ritual behavior.
Talking from her home in San Diego, she explains what a smelly T-shirt contest can teach us about elephants, why it is no easier being a teenage elephant than a human one, what she did when she discovered a deadly, black mamba snake behind a canvas wall at the camp, and why