Skip to main content

The lion and the wildebeest

Birds flock, fish school, bees swarm, but social being is more than simply sticking together.  Social groups enable specialisation and a sharing of abilities, and enhances ability, learning and creating new tricks. The more a group works together, the more effective they become as a team.  Chimpanzees learn from each other how to use stones to crack nuts, or sticks to get termites.  All around us we see cooperation and learning in nature.  Nature is inherently creative. 

Pulling together becomes a rallying cry during a crisis.  We have heard it throughout the coronavirus pandemic.  "We are all in this together", a mantra that encourages people to adopt a common strategy. In an era of 'self-interest' and 'survival of the fittest,'  and 'selfish gene', we lose sight of the obvious conclusion from the evidence all around us.   Sticking together is more often the better approach.  This is valid for the lion as it is also for the wildebeest. 

 We don't all have or need the same levels of ability.  In that sense, the extent to which genes might be involved, we share such genes as a community.  This is what we really mean when we refer to a 'gene pool'.  It is odd that we made such a fuss about 'selfish genes', yet failed to realise that, on the contrary, 'genes' are social too - they can't work without being so.  

The checks and balances in ecosystems depend more on cooperation than on a simplistic notion of aggregate individualistic behaviour, or self-interest. Teamwork is the glue that holds the ecosystem together. 

So it is with the relationship between lions and wildebeest.  Putting aside humans, predators do not, as a rule, overexploit their prey.  The behaviour of both lions and wildebeest is dynamically interactive.  

Ecologists studying their behaviour found that when wildebeest aggregated in clumps (close groups), the lions were less likely to catch them, resulting in a lower consumption rate for each lion than when the wildebeest lived as individuals.   When both lions and wildebeest act as a group, the kill rate falls.  But the lions don't go hungry; lions working together will share a kill.  

A Pride can be as many as 30 lions living together, hunting as a team, and sharing.  When food is scarce, the pride gets smaller.  Within a pride, there is a division of roles.  The males will protect the pride and its young.  They will often be seen separated from the pride, but this is because they are defending the territorial boundary of the group.  They communicate by their roar, which can be heard over long distances.  Females are the primary hunters.  They bring down their prey working as a team, in constant silent communication with each other, fanning out to surround their target.  After the hunt, all the lions in the pride share the meal.  Cooperation works. 




Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Ian Duncan-Smith says he wants to make those on benefits 'better people'!

By any account, the government's austerity strategy is utilitarian. It justifies its approach by the presumed potential ends. It's objective is to cut the deficit, but it has also adopted another objective which is specifically targeted. It seeks to drive people off benefits and 'back to work'.  The two together are toxic to the poorest in society. Those least able to cope are the most affected by the cuts in benefits and the loss of services. It is the coupling of these two strategic aims that make their policies ethically questionable. For, by combining the two, slashing the value of benefits to make budget savings while also changing the benefits system, the highest burden falls on a specific group, those dependent on benefits. For the greater good of the majority, a minority group, those on benefits, are being sacrificed; sacrificed on the altar of austerity. And they are being sacrificed in part so that others may be spared. Utilitarian ethics considers the ba

Prioritising people in nursing care.

There has been in recent years concern that care in the NHS has not been sufficiently 'patient centred', or responsive to the needs of the patient on a case basis. It has been felt in care that it as been the patient who has had to adapt to the regime of care, rather than the other way around. Putting patients at the centre of care means being responsive to their needs and supporting them through the process of health care delivery.  Patients should not become identikit sausages in a production line. The nurses body, the Nursing and Midwifery Council has responded to this challenge with a revised code of practice reflection get changes in health and social care since the previous code was published in 2008. The Code describes the professional standards of practice and behaviour for nurses and midwives. Four themes describe what nurses and midwives are expected to do: prioritise people practise effectively preserve safety, and promote professionalism and trust. The

When Finance Drives Destruction

Tackling climate change means stopping the funding of rainforest destruction, says a significant study commissioned by the World Wildlife Fund.  The UK's financial services have provided directly over £8.7 billion to 167 different traders, processors, and buyers of forest-risk commodities (cocoa, rubber, timber, soy, beef, palm oil, pulp & paper) from 2013 to 2021.   With direct and indirect investment,  the figure rises to a staggering £200 bn.  Whilst not all that investment is in destructive projects,  the study concludes there is little transparency on the risk.  Finance is the oil in the economic machine.  But it also drives decisions. We all know the importance of money. We borrow to invest. So much depends on it, such as company pensions.  Do we really know what our pension pots are doing? We invest for the future. But what kind of future? Is all investment good?  Much investment is bad. Investment drives the nature of our economy. It drives our decisions as individuals,