Elephants, Zebras, and Reclaiming Old Trails

In the excellent book ‘On Trails: An Exploration’ by Robert Moor he wonders aloud about the paths beneath our feet. How do they form? Why do some get used more than others while others fade?

He investigates ants and highways and long-lost Cherokee trails in the rural South.

But on page 97 and 98 he talks about elephants and zebras and it made me think of culture making in general and Primal Derma in particular and I wanted to tell you about it.

The story, in short, is that an ecologist put GPS collars on zebras Botswana’s Okavango Delta to track their grazing patterns. It was thought that zebras didn’t really travel far from the delta. But at the onset of the rainy season the zebras disappeared and the researchers thought they must have been eaten by lions but six months later the zebras were tracked halfway across the country to nibble on the new grass of Makgadikgadi salt pan.

The ecologist found out that there used to be a large zebra migration but it ended in 1968 when the Botswana government put up miles of fences essentially ending the migratory route until 2004 when the fences were taken down. The fences were up for thirty-six years and zebras only live for about twelve years or so. There is great evidence that migration routes are taught and learned. No living zebra could have known about the salt pan hundreds of miles away – how to get there or what would be there. There was no grassy runway that marked the path, just Kalahari scrubland virtually the whole way. The zebras have been doing better as a population due to this restoration.

But why or how could the zebras have taken such a gamble?

The ecologist has done her research and is confident that the zebras followed the long lived and long memoried elephants. She speculates that ‘when the fence went down…some elephants remembered the old historical pathway that they used to take.’

We get cut off from old paths all the time and consider that the little space that we are confined to is what our lives are made of. But when a fence comes down it is not certain that you’ll suddenly bust out and run on your new found space clicking your heels together along the way.

Luckily the old mercies have it that not everyone forgets at the same time and in the case of the zebras they have a deeper re-made memory of the place they live and are from.

Primal Derma might be a bit of a whiff of an old scent on our path of reclaiming some old ground and some old ways. Thanks for walking with us and may you keep following greater paths that have been trod upon long before us.

And if you are in need of some tallow for your skin – PrimalDerma.com is always ready!

Talk soon enough


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