Director’s Blog: What we can learn from the elephants

Recently I read an article on the BBC News website about a research team that monitored the reactions of herds of African elephants when they heard the sound of lions roaring. The report stated that “Groups of animals with older female leaders, or matriarchs, very quickly organised themselves into a defensive “bunch” when they heard a male lion.”

According to the study, matriarchs can differentiate between the roar of the male

lion and the female. According to Dr. McComb, it is the male lion that poses the greatest threat to elephants. He says, “[Male lions] can be successful in bringing down a calf even when alone. Female lions are unlikely to attack unless they are in a large group.”

The study also shows that younger female elephants do not react the same as the older matriarchs. Dr. McCombs explains the strange finding. He says, “We think it’s because they hadn’t had sufficient exposure to that threat; lions don’t [attack elephants] that often.” However with years of experience the mature female elephants were learned to distinguish the roar of the male lions from the female, even though according to Dr. McComb “The differences are very subtle, it’s very difficult for us to tell them apart.” However, for the sake of the herd these female elephants learned to distinguish the roars.

At the end of the article Dr. McComb added that the study had demonstrated the need to conserve and protect these older animals. “These older individuals clearly have a vital role in how well elephants function in their social groups,” He says.

The Village of Hope has long known the value of mature women when it comes to the care of Africa’s vulnerable children. Placing orphans in a home setting with a house mother is something we have been doing from the beginning. Experienced mothers know the dangers the children face. They are able to sense real danger and gather her chicks under her protective wings. Vulnerable children face many dangers and it takes a well experienced mother to sense the danger and warn the child. We have among our house mothers those that are young and with limited experience, but they learn from the more senior and experienced house mothers. We also invest in training programs for the mothers. It is not long until they learn to

House Mothers from VOH-Kitwe

sense where the real danger to their children comes from.

So just like the mature matriarchs of the elephant herds, the house mothers of Village of Hope play a vital role in the well being of the children we care for. We are grateful for the many dedicated women who care for the children we care for at our

various villages.

Until next time,

Sergio Bersaglio

Executive Director – Villages of Hope-Africa

Link to the story on BBC:


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