Friday, February 15, 2008

Elephant and teenage pregnancy

Mother & child elephants in Kruger Park, South Africa

Full grown elephant in Kruger Park, South Africa

Boistrous young elephant near Lokuthua Lodges, Zimbabwe

The BBC reported that the pregnancy of a nine-year-old elephant in Sydney Zoo has sparked a row.

“Animal rights groups say the elephant, Thong Dee, is too young to fall pregnant, and that the zoo is "irresponsible" in letting it happen.

This was the equivalent of allowing your 12-year-old daughter to become pregnant."

In England, three sisters who gave birth at 12, 14 and 16 hit the headlines in 2005.

In The Cockroach Catcher, I touched on my personal experience of delivering a young girl:

“……From early on in my medical student days I had developed the knack of delivering babies without much need for cutting the perineum. I probably would have enjoyed a career in Obstetrics except in those days Obstetrics was always combined with gynaecology, which of course meant oncology and some rather heroic surgical operations for pelvic spread of tumours. But the crunch really came when I had to deliver the baby of an eleven year old mother. Yes, eleven. It was a smooth event but the complex case situation of the uncle abusing her and so on probably sowed some seeds for my eventual move into child psychiatry……”

In earlier times, many royalties married and had children at age twelve. Nowadays, 12-year-old girls are thought to be too young to be pregnant not because they are physically immature, but because they are regarded as mentally "immature" and people think they shouldn't have children until they have had an education and have an income/whatever - that doesn't really apply to elephants.

Perhaps the government should stop thinking about running the country like a zoo.

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