October 2, 2007

Growing epidemic of criminal behavior among the wild

Human influence suspected in bizarre rampages by elephants, otters, and seagulls

When humans aren’t killing off other species, it seems that we are turning them into violent criminals.

Remember cute little Morgan the Sea Otter?

Abandoned as a pup, he was raised by naturalists at the Monterey Bay Aquarium and then released back into the wild. The motherless darling became a bizarre interspecies pedophiliac serial killer, terrorizing the Pacific coast. He raped dozens of baby seals, afterwards holding them underwater to drown them.

And how about those rogue elephants in India and Africa?

With their traditional, matrilineal culture destroyed by poachers and farmers, gangs of young males are terrorizing the countryside, raping and killing rhinoceroses, attacking villages, and goring humans to death in what appear to be premeditated assaults in which escape routes are blocked.

They don't wear red or blue colors, but their appearance is just as ominous. Hundreds of people have been killed in the widespread attacks. Scientists are describing this never-before-seen behavior as a species-wide emotional breakdown stemming from human interference.

Then there are the birds.

Right out of Hitchcock's horror thriller, "bird rage" has struck urban Great Britain. An 80-year-old man had a fatal heart attack after being swooped on by seagulls; a woman was rushed to the hospital with deep beak wounds to her head, and a pet dog was pecked to death. A preschool in Scotland even had to hire falconers armed with hawks to safeguard its children.

Against this ominous backdrop, it is no wonder that the story of a mere kleptomaniac has inspired so many chuckles across the blogosphere.

"Sam," a Seagull in Scotland, has stolen his way into celebrity status through his daily pilfering of cheese Doritos.

If you haven't yet seen the video, it's worth a look. Especially notice how he saunters in slowly, checking to see that the shopkeeper doesn't notice him, and then speeds up on the way out. If I was evaluating him in a forensic context, I'd take that as evidence that he is aware of his moral – if not legal - culpability.

Click on the thief's photo to see the video.