Tonight we watched a documentary about the similarities between an orphanage for orangutans in Borneo and an orphanage for elephants in Kenya. The film, entitled Born to Be Wild, showed in intimate detail how similar the needs and behaviors of the young of these two species of mammals are to our own young. They need loving attention and play. Baby elephants will die if they are not happy and they are more comfortable sleeping with others than sleeping alone. They love to play, as do orangutans, and they learn through play.
I remember seeing an exhibit on genetics with my daughters at the Pacific Science Center a few years ago and learning what a tiny percentage of DNA differentiates one species of mammal from another. It’s no wonder that elephants experience empathy as much as we do. We have so much in common with our mammalian cousins and yet these orphanages were for young animals who lost their mothers through human actions: poaching elephant tusks and cutting down rainforests. What will it take for us to understand our connectedness to these “planetmates” of ours?
Unfortunately, there will be nobody to take in our children if we make our own habitat unlivable. If we are to avoid that fate, I think a good, first step, would be to begin rebuilding with the empathy, not just for our own species, but for all of our planetmates and the common habitat which we all share.
No matter how much we have separated ourselves from nature with our cars and asphalt roads, our homes and creature comforts, and our electronic entertainment, we cannot escape the truth that the air we breathe, the water we drink and the food we eat all come from our shared planet Earth and our health is inextricably tied to the health of our planet and indeed, of our planetmates as well.
Watch Born to Be Wild if you can, but please, at least take a step to rebuild. Our entire race and planet depends on all of us.