Remember hearing about the rebellious teenage elephant gang in Africa? What can we learn from them?
Teenage insubordination…Elephant style
Well, no, they’re not really “mutants” and they weren’t Ninja’s. At least I don’t think they were Ninja’s, it just sounded good! A while back Game Rangers in South Africa’s Pilanesberg Park had a problem. This 150,00 acre park had been one of the few places where the White Rhino had been flourishing, that is, until something started killing them. In one year, over twenty White Rhinos were found dead with deep puncture wounds in their bodies!
The perplexed park rangers began checking off possible culprits as they conducted their investigation. The horns of the rhinos had not been harvested, so they knew it wasn’t the work of poachers. They decided to set up hidden cameras around the park to find the culprit, what they discovered, shocked them!
The reckless killers turned out to be young male elephants. One “teen-age” elephant basically turned the elephant herd into a “gang” and he became the leader. The cameras showed these elephants harassing the rhinos and even charging at multiple vehicles filled with tourists! This kind behavior is very rare among elephants, so something was obviously wrong. The park’s initial solution was to kill some of the elephants, however, the first execution didn’t go very well. The mortally wounded elephant turned on the professional hunter who had shot him and killed him. These elephants were clearly out of control. Maybe some of them did have Ninja skills after all!
The elephants that were left after the initial killing were still too small to kill rhinos, but the behavior had already been planted and it was clear that they would continue these actions as they grew. The park didn’t want to kill all of the remaining trouble-makers (there were still about 87 elephants!), so they began looking for other ways to fix the problem.
I know, education, right! We just reeducate the elephants so that they see the world differently. There’s only one problem, how do you get rebellious teenage elephants to sit in class all day. That’s right, you don’t! That’d be impossible.
So, they tried disciplining the elephants, intervening when they were bothering the other animals. Didn’t work. They killed more of the elephants that were acting up! Worked, but is that really the results that you want? Everything else they tried failed miserably. Let’s go back to the classroom idea! In a way, yes, that was the answer! They needed a teacher. Hang on.
After continued study of the elephants on the humans part they finally figured it out. The elephants that were picking on the rhinos were suffering from an excess of testosterone. All of these young males were orphans that had been relocated without adults. Essentially, they were rambunctious, hormone filled young males without an adult male to keep them in check. They were living lives based on their “feelings!”
Boy, do we see that in our culture today! Did you watch the Olympics recently? I saw video of hordes of young men running around and stealing anything and everything they could from the people who were visiting.
The final solution that the Park Rangers at Kruger National Park came up with is profound. They brought in a “teacher.” The teacher just happened to be large, bull elephants. And these adult male got the young boys “minds right” so to speak.
And guess what, it worked! The bigger, older elephants established a new hierarchy, in part by sparring with the younger elephants to discourage them from being sexually active. That meant less testosterone, which meant they mellowed out! Since the big bulls arrived, not one rhino has been killed.
The New York Times published a surprisingly similar story, just a short time ago. This article was about Chinese educators who are desperately trying to recruit more male teachers to lead and set examples for the younger boys. Study after study shows us that the absence of a father negatively affects young males and females. God has designed a certain order through which people, and nature, thrive. Our Creator knows what is best for us, if this order is disrupted, or changed, well, some “Rhinos” may die.
As Gomer Pyle used to say, “Surprise! Surprise! Surprise!” God’s plan for the family actually works!
Fathers, may I please challenge you to take seriously the privilege you’ve been given in your children. There is only one thing that you can take with you to heaven. It’s NOT your job title, your bank account or your toys. By the way, any “toy” you would want to take with you to heaven would be totally lame when you get there. God has things that are so much more amazing in store for us that we could never imagine.
Your wife should already be going there. The one thing that you can take is your child. I pray that you are spending time, training them in the fear and admonition of the Lord!
P.S. – I have a talk called, “Dad’s: It’s Time!” that may encourage you. In addition, if you use a Mac computer, iPhone or iPad take a look at a series we put together to help you lead lessons with your children. It’s called, “22:6”. We pray these encourage you.