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Elephants?

 
Kirk Hutchison
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  I was thinking recently about permaculture and earthmoving equipment. It seems that hiring bulldozers is the only unsustainable thing that sepp holzer does. I then though "hey, what if you hitched a gigantic plow to a tame elephant?". Presto, sustainable bulldozer. I know they domesticate elephants in southern Asia. Perhaps they could be more fully domesticated, as cows have been?
 
                    
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Gonna get picky with word choice for a second.  I was under the impression that elephants are tamed, not domesticated.  Domestication happens when a wild animal is bred for generations by humans to have specific traits not found in the wild ancestor.  I don't think that we've changed elephants genetics that much in the course of taming and training them to do things.  Not saying it couldn't be done, although I've read that we've domesticated every domesticable candidate already.  But, back to the topic you really want to talk about...

Yes, elephants (and oxen also come to mind for places elephants wouldn't like to live) are very strong animals that could be used for earth moving.  But.....they'll never come with an attached bucket or front loader.    It's the scooping and lifting huge amounts of dirt at a time that make those machines so powerfully destructive or constructive, in my opinion. 
 
Joel Hollingsworth
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Elephants can be trained to lift with their tusks, using their trunks to hold the load against them. It's also not un-precedented to attach something to the end of the trunks as they are working, though traditionally this has been more for decoration or gore-prevention than to increase their capability.

I recently read a good review of The Windup Girl, a sci-fi novel where most technology is powered (indirectly) by elephants.

I've also read that elephants were crucial to several North American ecosystems in the time before humans lived here, and that Asian or African elephants might fill an important role here in the long term.
 
Kirk Hutchison
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marina phillips wrote:
Gonna get picky with word choice for a second.  I was under the impression that elephants are tamed, not domesticated. 


  Yes, you are correct. That is what I meant.
 
                    
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Elephants can be trained to lift with their tusks, using their trunks to hold the load against them. It's also not un-precedented to attach something to the end of the trunks as they are working


Oh neato, I hadn't thought of that.  I've always thought of animals more in terms of dragging stuff around behind them, but elephants have built in forks! 
 
Joel Hollingsworth
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Yeah, I wonder how much the design of forklifts was based on watching old-time oozie/longshoremen and wishing for a Western version of that capability.

Here they are logging:

Team of elephants logging in Thailand.
 
Jeff Mathias
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Location: Westport, CA Zone 8-9; Off grid on 20 acres of redwood forest and floodplain with a seasonal creek.
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Kirk Hutchison wrote:
  I was thinking recently about permaculture and earthmoving equipment. It seems that hiring bulldozers is the only unsustainable thing that Sepp Holzer does. I then though "hey, what if you hitched a gigantic plow to a tame elephant?". Presto, sustainable bulldozer. I know they domesticate elephants in southern Asia. Perhaps they could be more fully domesticated, as cows have been?


Hi Kirk,

Just thinking out loud here: But I do not see how a bulldozer is necessarily unsustainable (perhaps the current fuel source but that is relatively easily remedied),  nor do I see how elephants in the Austrian Alps could be considered as sustainable.

I love the creative thinking though!

Jeff


 
Kirk Hutchison
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Location: Los Angeles, CA
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justhavinfun wrote:
Hi Kirk,

Just thinking out loud here: But I do not see how a bulldozer is necessarily unsustainable (perhaps the current fuel source but that is relatively easily remedied),  nor do I see how elephants in the Austrian Alps could be considered as sustainable.

I love the creative thinking though!

Jeff


  Bulldozers are not necessarily unsustainable, but tend to be. Also, I wasn't just thinking of the Alps. Warmer regions would be ideal.
 
Kathleen Sanderson
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Speaking of animals with built-in forks...I have a friend who, with her husband, has a small commercial dairy farm.  Mostly they raise Ayrshires, but a few years ago they got some Dexters.  She tells a story about the original old Dexter cow.  They would let the milk cows in at milking time, and the old Dexter would go to the hay stack and use her horns to break the baling twine on some of the best hay (second cut), and then use her horns to fork a flake of the good hay out to each of the other cows.  Talk about smart!  My friend has quite a few stories about that old cow, wish I could remember more of them.

Kathleen
 
Joel Hollingsworth
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Wow...dexterous, indeed.

Elephants in the alps aren't unprecedented...I think by the time bulldozers become unavailable, human labor will be abundant enough to accomplish similar things (if more slowly).
 
Emerson White
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Joel Hollingsworth wrote:
Elephants in the alps aren't unprecedented


I think he lost something like 2/3rds of them on the way.

I suspect that cloned mammoths are near to hand, and would be able to make it in less tropical climes, probably more capable of surviving off less frequent meals. Plant some apple trees and some honey locust and I'd imagine some willow as well. What else would be needed? They would probably tear down all of your trees.
 
Emil Spoerri
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Mammoths would probably need a lot of mast tree crops in general, i recon especially black wallnut with lots of good forage trees like popular and willow, and probably at least like 20 acres per beast with established ancient old growth forest!
 
Emerson White
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Not ancient, well maybe ancient mast crops (did they eat black walnuts, or was it something else?) but if the trees are two big they can't eat them as easily. 50 year old forest is probably what you want, maybe even savanna soyour young trees are getting more light and producing more edible branches for winter.
 
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