By Dave Andrusko
Here’s hoping none of the women in my family read this post. They are all animal lovers and two of them are moms.
You may have seen the story on the Internet. For some unknown reason a mother elephant stomped on her new born calf.
Thinking/hoping this was an accident, zookeepers at the Shendiaoshan Wild Animal Nature Reserve, in Rongcheng, Shandong province, treated him for injuries, and two hours later returned the baby to his mother.
To their horror the mother elephant attacked little Zhuangzhuang again, forcing them to remove him once more. If that weren’t sad enough, what happened next is even more heart-breaking
A zoo keeper explained to Central European News, “The calf was very upset and he was crying for five hours before he could be consoled. He couldn’t bear to be parted from his mother and it was his mother who was trying to kill him.” He was, in a word, inconsolable.
The picture of the weeping baby elephant about tears your heart out. If you are of a certain age, your understanding of elephant behavior was formed by watching “Dumbo” with both mother and baby traumatized when they were forcible separated. Not terribly sophisticated, to be sure, but it sent a message about the mother/child bond that many of us never forgot.
The good news is that the keeper who saved Zhuangzhuang adopted him. “They have made a good bond,” said a spokesman for the zoo.
I don’t want to overdo the parallel to human culture—attempted (as opposed to “successful”) infanticide. But the emotions this story evoke remind us how even in an era of 1.2 million abortions a year and sanctioned euthanasia of children in the Netherlands, we are stunned when a mother of any kind rejects her baby.
Why? There are many levels to any possible explanation. Here are just two.
The baby—born or unborn—is totally helpless, totally dependent on the kindness not of strangers but of her own kin. Abortion or infanticide is a rejection of the most fundamental, foundational principle of human culture: we take care of our defenseless children against all comers.
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Some place deep in our hearts we know that it is unthinkable that we would be the aggressor. That knowledge may be the ultimate still small voice this side of heaven.
Also there are a few things that we fear most as children and which, in a real way, we never grow out of. Near the top of that list is the fear of abandonment.
When we—mothers or fathers—lethally abandon our little ones, we are making concrete what we may have only fantasized about in our imaginations. But it is only worse because we are not the ones being left, figuratively speaking, by the side of road. The ones we have deemed disposable are our own flesh and blood—innocent and utterly at our whim.
And when we do, we may weep not for five hours but for the rest of our lives.