What Men Can Learn From Elephants Episode 227, February 23, 2021
Scientist, author, and storyteller, Dr. Caitlin O’Connell, joins us to discuss male elephant society and what humans can learn about rituals from animals with lessons learned from her new book Wild Rituals.
“Oh my gosh! Elephants are so much like us; it is like looking in the mirror.” ~ Dr. Caitlin O’Connell
Dr. Caitlin O’Connell is not the typical researcher. She writes about her work with animals as fiction, non-fiction, and even in graphic novels. Her first love was frogs, which somehow led her to volunteer in game parks in Africa and then to study elephants. She says, “Once you study elephants, there’s no going back.” and that became her life’s work.
Caitlin shares that despite looking so physically different, elephants have very similar family structures as humans. They have family politics and male bonding much as we do. Young male humans and young male elephants both need mentors. Seeing such relationships in the wild can remind us how important it is for young males to have role models. Young males gain so much from mentorship, whether watching your mentor do certain things or teach you something. Cultural knowledge being passed on is extremely important.
It seems that male elephants may be more evolved than male humans in the way that they value deep relationships, community, mentors, and care for their elders. This episode is a fascinating look at a society you may have never thought of.
- (1:35) How did you first get interested in elephants?
- (2:37) Tell me about elephant communication.
- (4:12) Is there a language behind elephant’s vibrations?
- (4:55) What is so unique about elephant society that got you excited?
- (6:00) Is thing anything in particular male humans can learn from male elephants?
- (9:27) Are these behaviors unique to elephants?
- (10:53) Do the males create and stick with a family?
- (17:34 )What do you see as the best lessons humans can take from elephants?
- (23:09) The Elephant Don
- (26:48) Why are rituals important?
- (30:30) Are there any wild rituals that you would most like humans to take up?
- (34:07) All your studying is in the wild?
- (40:06) Tell me about your nonprofit, Utopia Scientific
- (41:33) Does it matter if elephants exist only in zoos and circuses?
- (43:57) What’s the best way for people to learn more about what you are up to?
“Elephants are unique in how male-driven their societies are. Male elephants live in these all-male societies.” ~ Dr. Caitlin O’Connell
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Photo courtesy of Caitlin O’Connell