Pachyderm Punks

South Africa recently faced a puzzling and gruesome series of killings. Government officials soon discovered who was behind the vicious attacks: adolescent males. For months these vicious punks terrorized South Africa. They killed their neighbors with long, sharp objects—then demonstrated no remorse for their actions. Experts concluded that they killed not because they were depraved but because, as children, they had been deprived. It turned out that all of the young punks were orphans. Oh, and there's one more relevant fact in this bizarre story: The killers were elephants. This story of the pachyderm punks has remarkable parallels to human society. The elephant problem had its roots in an effort to increase the pachyderm population in South Africa nearly 20 years ago. Park rangers in Kruger National Park slaughtered aging elephants and then transported some 600 orphaned males to parks throughout the country. These orphans were raised with no exposure to adult elephants or the social structure that defines elephant life. The culling operation helped preserve a threatened species, but as Time magazine put it, the "relocation was also a major experiment in social engineering—and like so many such experiments, it has had unexpected consequences."


As soon as the transplanted males hit adolescence, dead rhinos began turning up. Park rangers eventually discovered that young male elephants were goring the rhinos to death with their tusks. The rangers called in zoologists to explain the phenomenon. The problem, they concluded, was that the elephants had grown up without the attention of caring adults. Their social attachments were weak, and without parents and other adult males to keep them in line, the elephants never developed restraints on their behavior. The result was homicidal violence. The park rangers' response was simple—and brilliant. They decided to bring in some foster fathers—40-year-old male elephants—to keep the adolescents in line. I hope America's social engineers will pay attention to the story of the pachyderm punks. The factors that created the tusked desperadoes in South Africa are the same factors that have helped create human predators in our own inner cities. A report by Patrick Fagan of the Heritage Foundation found that family breakdown is the primary indicator of crime. Weak social attachments and the lack of male role models—especially fathers—is creating a generation of young predators who kill without remorse. The irony is that South African park rangers have figured out what is apparently lost on American elites. A few years ago researcher Shere Hite celebrated the breakdown of the family, calling it "a good thing." In place of fathers Hite envisions a Brave New World of "female child-rearing partnerships" and "networks of friends." But Hite's child-rearing plan is doomed to fail. It’s a law of nature that unsocialized young males, with or without tusks, are dangerous. That’s why God created the family. Families are the first and best way to socialize the young—and the job requires both mothers and fathers. So when you hear people say that America's elephantine divorce and illegitimacy rates are nothing to worry about, tell them the story of those pachyderm punks in South Africa. The story—to steal from Kipling—of How the Elephant Got Its Role Model.


Chuck Colson


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