Monday, June 19, 2017

Elephants and Orphans

* This blog post was written by my husband, Ryan.

20 years ago South African wildlife parks were successfully bringing animals back from near extinction. However, along with the growing population of endangered species like the White Rhinoceros, the Pilanesberg Park had a serious problem.  The Rhinoceros were now thriving, but 10% of the total population had been brutally and maliciously killed.  

The motive of the murders was unclear.  The ivory horns of the Rhinoceros, a popular treasure among poachers, remained untouched.  This wasn't the classic case of human greed needlessly killing an animal for profit.  After setting up surveillance cameras to monitor the park, the culprits were quite unexpected.  It turned out that young male elephants were responsible for these vicious attacks.  

So what happened?  


In another South African park, Kruger National Park, endangered elephants were being protected and nurtured back to a healthier population.  The program was so successful that now these elephants were outgrowing the park.  A plan was created to relocate some of these elephants to another wildlife refuge.  As you can imagine transporting elephants is not an easy task.  The elephants to be relocated were set in a special harness and transported via helicopter.  This was a fine plan for transporting young and female elephants.  However, the male elephants were too large to transport in this way.  They made the decision to transport the young and female elephants and leave the huge male elephants behind.  

The transported elephants found their new home in Pilanesberg Park where the White Rhinoceros population was growing strong.  It wasn’t but a short time later that the Rhinoceros in the park were found dead, violently killed.  

The young male elephants that were transplanted from Kruger Park were found to have created gangs that were viciously attacking the Rhinoceros as well as other animals in the park.  What officials had discovered and concluded is that the young male elephants lacked the leadership of older male elephants to model appropriate behavior. The young male elephants needed the older male-figures to keep them in line, model the right kinds of behavior, and establish the right way to conduct themselves.  Without this, they turned rogue and extremely violent.   

To test this theory they transported some of the adult male elephants into Kruger Park, and in a short period of time, the aggressive behaviors stopped completely.  More than a mere coincidence.     

Without a male role model, these young male elephants left the herd, formed gangs with other young males, and took to violent behavior.  They didn't have anyone to set an example for what was appropriate.  There was no one there to put them back in their place.  No one was there to curb their natural, but unacceptable impulses.  While the intentions of the people who designed this program meant well, they created a generation of orphaned elephants without adult males to teach them how to live in their community.  

Talking about elephants sometimes catches our attention more effectively than talking about people.  We feel a lot of fatigue when we read about other kinds of injustice.  We hear statistics about our fellow humans and then casually turn the channel, keep on scrolling, or think how terrible that is, and then wonder what's for dinner.  But the truth is the role that fathers play in raising their children have similar effects as these elephants.

In fact, did you know when a father is active and involved in their children's life they are significantly less likely to:

  • abuse drugs and alcohol
  • become sexually active as teenagers
  • be violent
  • end up in jail
  • suffer from depression
  • experience anxiety
  • live in poverty

When a father is active and involved in their children's life they don't just deter them from dangerous and destructive behaviors, but promote positive outcomes too.  These include outcomes that will make a child much more likely to:

  • form positive social relationships
  • perform at a higher level academically
  • experience emotional and psychological health throughout their entire life
  • make healthy lifestyle decisions
  • have higher levels of confidence and self-control
  • make better long term decisions
  • form healthy families of their own as adults

This Father’s Day I want to encourage all fathers, whether biological, adoptive or otherwise, to get involved with the children in your life.  Spend time with them, play with them, teach them, correct them, and provide for them.  Show them how to treat their siblings, their neighbors, and people they meet for the first time.  Model how to be caring, respectful, and kind.  Show them how to work hard, achieve their goals, and follow their dreams.  Give them a chance to explore the world around them while knowing they will continue to be supported even when they fail.  Give them a chance to love and be loved in return. Children don't just like the attention of a father, they need it.  Their biochemistry responds to a caring and loving male figure.  Their lives are shaped by the men who will take responsibility and lead them to a successful life.  

In August we are bringing home the newest addition to our family.  We are adopting a beautiful baby girl from China.  We are excited to introduce her to her brothers and sister.  We are blessed to call her our daughter.  

But, we need you.  We are adopting from an orphanage that has cared for her these past 13 months of her life, meeting her needs as best as they can.  But an orphanage is no place for children.  Kids belong with a family.

As part of the adoption process we need to raise $7000-$8000 for a donation to the orphanage.  This is for vital supplies, clean water, food, and other basic needs of these orphans.  Every dollar we raise is helping the boys and girls who have been living at the orphanage to continue on until they too can be adopted into a family of their own.

Maybe you also feel that you could do more to help orphans.  We would love to talk with you if you're considering adoption or other ways you can make an impact.  My wife and I want to see a world where every orphan bed is empty, and every child experiences a loving family to lead and love them for all of their life.

If you'd like to give, please visit our fundraising page.  Your gift is literally changing the life of our daughter as well as her "brothers and sisters" that continue to wait:

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