I was recently reading the story of how an orphaned baby elephant was rescued in South Luangwa National park from certain death by a team of people who went as far as chartering a whole plane to fly it almost 600km to Lilayi Elephant nursery in Lusaka. The story was heartwarming to most people, but I began to wonder why we humans seem to often forget that life and death are part of nature’s way to keep a delicate balance that ensures the long-term survival of all life on earth.

Why do we interfere with the impending death of animals? We may feel sorry for the little elephant but we forget that there are many other life forms that would have benefitted from its death. Maybe there was a hyena with little young cubs that needed feeding and it was waiting for the baby elephant to die. Why is the elephant more deserving of our sympathy than the hyena cubs, or the vultures, or maggots that were waiting to feed on the little elephant’s corpse?

Don’t we realise that scavengers, maggots, fungi and bacteria are nature’s agents to recycle dead organic matter? When we save animals like this and spend huge amounts of money on them, we deprive other animals of food and there is an opportunity cost to the resources spent.

It seems that maybe we are getting too indoctrinated by animal lovers with these ideas of sympathy for wild animals that are part of a system where the fittest survive. That system I think should be left alone.

My kids like to watch “The Lion Guard” on Disney Junior channel. It is a spin-off from “The Lion King” hit cartoon movie and it chronicles the adventures of a team of animals led by Kion the son of Simba the king. In every other episode, Kion and crew are busy working hard to save zebras, impala and other antelope from the wiles of Janja the hyena and his crew or from natural calamities like floods and landslides.

This does not seem to make sense and it perpetuates this whole sympathy for nature that appears irrational and inconsistent to me since it is often the “cool” or “cute” animals at risk of death that we sympathise with. Hardly anyone sympathises with scavengers like vultures and hyenas who are just as important to the so-called “Circle of life” Kion keeps talking about in the series.

How does preventing animals from dying advance the Circle of Life? What would happen if all antelopes were saved from being eaten? They would eat a lot of the vegetation on earth and cause the death of many life forms that depend on plants.

Imagine there were no scavengers. We would have dead animal corpses littering the whole earth spreading deadly diseases to other animals and killing them, plus producing all sorts of stinking and potentially toxic gases and chemicals. Scavengers should also be given maximum chance to survive and propagate their species and thus keep the balance of nature without us interfering in their next meal.

In short, death should be allowed to take its course, even for cute, little, orphaned elephants. What do you think?


Flying a baby elephant- All in a days work for Proflight Zambia