Saturday, August 11, 2007

Unity is Strength

Lions versus crocodiles versus buffalo. This eight-minute YouTube video has been viewed more than 11,000,000 times in just three months, and it is truly extraordinary:

"Battle at Kruger"

In the comments box, 'PriTommy' asks some very good questions:
"would any ethologists like to explain the buffalo's behaviour? how can one buffalo tell the others, nearly a hundred, in such a short time to act together? Why would other buffalo parents [be] willing to save the other's cub?"


  1. collectivist survival behavior, common in the natural world, has apparently been sufficiently stifled in the human social environment to make the last question conceivable. from my (and perhaps the buffalo's) perspective, why would they not??

  2. Exactly. But decades of propaganda have trained too many people to regard even complex social animals (including themselves) as, essentially, 'selfish genes'.

    It's still a good question, though: How, without language, was the information communicated and the decision made? And it was a decision. You can see very clearly the buffalos' ambivalence and fear as they get within fighting-distance of those lions. "Will we? Won't we?" "Who's going first?" "You go gettim, I'm right behind you."

    It reminded me exactly of gang-fights in the primary-school playground. Yet say this, make the analogy (which is an accurate one), and someone is bound to sniff disdainfully: "But that's anthropomorphism..." And god forbid we're found guilty of that. Animals must not be granted emotions, such as grief or indignation, let alone virtues, such as courage or loyalty. Because that might force us to think about how we treat them.