Hyenas and Baby Elephant

hyenas eat baby elephant alive

The photo (2002) of an elephant calf being eaten alive comes from wildlife photographer Michael Poliza. The photographer's comments are worth quoting:

"UPDATE: I have decided to make the image much smaller, to blur it and to take most of the color out of it. I am basically taking it out. This should not offend anyone anymore. I just dont want to risk to shock people that are unprepared. I hope you understand. 7 July 06 1830 UTC

First let me say how much I love nature and how many amazing and wonderful moments it has given me in the last years. I am an optimist and believe in the good, and I hope my portfolio proofs that...

Some time ago i posted a somewhat bloody image of a Hyena with a young Impala lamb in his jaws and asked you whether i should post this and even more brutally honest pictures about the "Survival of the fittest" and a clear majority of you said yes it should be shown.
This scene is probably the most shocking and emotionally difficult scene i have ever witnessed in nature. This young elephant got stuck in mud and was abondoned by his parents. Hyenas found it and started to eat it alive. The calf could obviously not move and the hyens started at the trunk and ate it and most of the head skin and meat, before we finally convinced a ranger to put the calf to sleep, obviously against all rules and regulations not to intervene. It suffered for many hours before it was finally released of his tragic fate.
We only found the elephant at a time when the trunk was already eaten and I could only "handle" to take a few photographs. At this stage it was already too late for the calf. But it did not let go.... About 2 hours later the elephant was still alive and at that time the hyenas had already eaten the eyes and skinned his skull completely. The calf kept fighting and continously called for help...

If you think this should not be shown, I am happy to take it off. But it is nature in its true honesty. The hyenas are just fighting for their own survival and feel no wrong doing..."

It is hard to imagine an experience more horrific than being eaten alive. Most of us would prefer not to imagine what it must feel like. Note that the photographer here had to persuade the park ranger to violate the park rules and put the baby elephant out of his misery.

By analogy, suppose it were lawful to visit Third World countries for photoshoots but illegal to "interfere" and help a stricken human baby. Is there a fundamental difference between "ethical" intervention to help humans and "sentimental" pleas to "interfere" and help non-humans? Should we encourage the preservation of life-forms such as the hyena in their current guise? Or do the value judgements underlying the "science" of conservation biology need to be re-examined?

* * *

Darwinian Life
Conservation Biology
The Abolitionist Project
Giant Killers: Lions as Macropredators
Finally: big cat kills uncensored and uncut
Snuff movies On TV: Lions eat elephant alive
Alternatives: cheetahs play affectionately with baby impala

Reprogramming Predators