The Dangers of Pack Mentality


In a recent tragedy at the Pittsburgh Zoo and Aquarium, a two-year-old child died after falling in an African painted dogs exhibit. While it remains possible that the boy's death can be attributed to his eleven-foot fall, after hitting the ground, the African painted dogs mauled the boy. Despite the near immediate response of zoo officials, the boy was savagely attacked before he could be rescued, and many of the dogs had to be tranquilized with the most savage being shot to death. According to a report on the even published in the Pittsburgh Post Gazette, experts are claiming that the attack was so immediate and so vicious because of the pack mentality that exists among African painted dogs. As the article failed to elaborate, I was left wondering what exactly is "pack mentality" and why did it result in such an act of violence?

african painted dogs.jpeg                                                      (Image credit of CNN)

 When referring to African wild dogs, the more credible African Wildlife Foundation defines pack mentality in terms of hunting habits. African painted dogs very efficiently address threats together, hunt in packs, and share kills with one another. Every member of the pack relies on one another for survival. Unfortunately when the boy fell into the otherwise segregated environment of the dogs, the dogs probably saw him as a threat or prey. According to a report by NBC, after his fall, several dogs immediately attacked the boy and the attack continued until there was a total of seven dogs mauling the boy. Due to pack mentality, an otherwise passive group of dogs turned into deadly force.

These dogs illustrated that even when born into captivity as the African dogs were, as state in the NBC report, some animals retain their natural instincts.  One change in the dogs' habitat resulted in a gruesome attack. Though it is not clear that the attack was the sole cause of the boy's death, it was certainly brutal. If pack mentality can result in such brutality, what other dangers does it pose? Should zoos take more precaution in how animals are grouped together for exhibits? 



This is absolutely horrible and makes me want to cry. It reminds me of an SVU episode I saw a couple of weeks ago where wild animals were being sold and locked in cages. It makes me wonder about the zoos, and even the people who think that keeping a wild animal locked away in such a small space. How could that be safe for anyone? I remember talking to a zoo keeper once about the cheeta they had in captivity and asking her about whether she'd ever been inside. She said that they were not allowed anywhere near the animals or they could be killed. I personally think its wrong to keep animals locked up like that, I'm sure there are many more incidents like it that are not as publicized. It's just sad. Maybe I'll write my next blog about it.

As a person who comes from Pittsburgh where this event happened, it is so sad to hear. However, i I don't know how true this pack mentality is because they are wild animals. They might have truly just went to their instincts and acted upon the fact that a foreign animal came into their territory or for potential food. I looked up the story and found on the internet (website given below) that these dogs are hunting dogs. This means its very possible that these dogs just went back to their natural instincts.,0,2086553.story

First of all, I LOVE LAW AND ORDER SVU! Second, I agree animals are not meant to be locked up in exhibits. It's not their natural habitat regardless of zoo's efforts to create one. The fact that there are bars on all four sides of them defeats any attempt to create a natural habitat. I think this could cause the animals to become hostile. Even if they are born into captivity I'm sure their instincts tell them this isn't the wild or their "natural comfort zone." Think about when anyone is taken out of their comfort zone - your defenses go up. This zoo animal in Pittsburgh was probably acting out of defense. I googled animals in captivity and this article showed up...

Another zoo attack took place in 2007 at the San Francisco Zoo. A Siberian Tiger mauled and killed a 17 year old boy and seriously injured two others. This wasn't the tiger's first attack either, the year before she attacked a zoo keeper. A director of the Columbus Zoo stated "if you go across a barrier at a NASCAR race and go on the track, you get hurt." This is a harsh and unrelated statement. Wild animals are not cars. As much as humans would like to and try to control wild animals in the end they have a mind of their own.

For some reason this blog made me think about our recent class discussion about animals being gay and the link to that of humans. Pack mentality definitely exists among humans as well, and it is a sad and potentially dangerous thing. Pack mentality and mob mentality are basically the same thing, it is defined Here as the unique behaviors that emerge due to large groups. It happens to animals, and it happens to us. Rioting is a prime example of this. We lose sight of our individuality and accountability because we are a member of the herd or the pack. This also ties in with our need to fit in- which is why the more passive dogs joined in the attack the boy.
There are several psychological studies about pack mentality and the power of the situation. The famous Zimbardo Prison Studies come to mind for me, where college students were assigned to be guards or prisoners and began to take their roles extremely seriously - they became a part of the pack, the had power and even more importantly, they had anonymity. Here is an article that gives a quick summary of trying to understand pack mentality in all species.

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