About 90% of elephants living in Mozambique’s Gorongosa National Park were slaughtered for their tusks by poachers during Mozambique's 15-year civil war that ended in 1992. The poachers then profited by selling the tusks to finance weapons. As a result, we're now seeing a growing population of elephants in the country born without tusks. Tuskless females, for instance, have jumped from 2%-4% of the population to around 33%.
According to National Geographic:
Hunting gave elephants that didn’t grow tusks a biological advantage in Gorongosa. Recent figures suggest that about a third of younger females—the generation born after the war ended in 1992—never developed tusks. Normally, tusklessness would occur only in about 2 to 4 percent of female African elephants.
Decades ago, some 4,000 elephants lived in Gorongosa, says Joyce Poole—an elephant behavior expert and National Geographic Explorer who studies the park’s pachyderms. But those numbers dwindled to triple digits following the civil war. New, as yet unpublished, research she’s compiled indicates that of the 200 known adult females, 51 percent of those that survived the war—animals 25 years or older—are tuskless. And 32 percent of the female elephants born since the war are tuskless.
Sadly, this isn't the only population of elephants losing their numbers – and their tusks – to poachers. In South Africa, "fully 98 percent of the 174 females in Addo Elephant National Park were reportedly tuskless in the early 2000s."
Used to defend themselves, as well as for digging, protecting their trunk, and helping them strip bark from trees in order to eat, tusks are enlarged incisor teeth that are essential to their daily well-being. Read the rest
You look like you could use a baby elephant video. Read the rest
Science writer Ed Yong has an amazing whodunit at The Atlantic on how genetic science can help stop elephant poaching. Read the rest
If you see an elephant on the road and do anything but breathe, you're gonna have a bad day. Read the rest
Stephen Kohn, a highpowered whistleblower lawyer (he repped both Linda Tripp and the UBS Leaks whistleblower) showed Wired his heretofore confidential SEC complaint against Facebook, which details the undercover sting operations undertaken by his clients to investigate Facebook's role as a platform for the illegal trade in the remains of endangered species, such as rhino horn, elephant tusks, and lion claws.
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A baby elephant is trapped in a ditch in Kerala, India until a group of people rescue it with an earth mover. Watch the magical moment when, after the baby elephant makes its way back to its family, who is waiting for it by a river, one of the adult elephants (its mother or father?) turns to the humans and twice gives them a thankful salute. Read the rest
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Moyo the baby elephant was saved From drowning when he was only four days old. His rescuers delivered him to Roxy, a woman who rehabilitates wild animals. As the baby elephant has grown, he has become something of a nuisance in the house. He grabs things off kitchen counters, knocks over plants, sticks spoons in his mouth, and pees on the floor. Roxy is very patient with Moyo.
The power of simple animation can be overwhelming. This film, I Will Always Remember You by Hugo Guinness, done for The David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust, is shattering.
The technique used by artist Hugo Guinness appears to be a tribute to Windsor McKay’s Gertie the Dinosaur, the first animated character (in 1914) generally credited as having a personality. It is used here not for whimsy, but artfully to devastating effect. So many emotions conveyed by so few lines.
Sometimes the simplest things are the most effective.
For a mere $50, you can foster a young elephant.
From The David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust:
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Every orphan of poaching once had a family. As Hugo Guinness’ moving animation shows, at our Nursery, we offer hope, a future and a second chance at life to victims of the ivory trade. This is their story.
#RememberMe - Please share this film far and wide! Survivors, like the orphan elephant in the film, have the opportunity to not only live, but to go on and start their own families back in the wild.
Want to be a part of their future? Foster an orphaned baby elephant in our care.
Our biggest thanks to acclaimed artist Hugo Guinness, Allegra Pilkington and Luisa Crosbie for creating such a powerful animation, with original music by Joe Trapanese and support from J. Crew.
There may be as few as 2400 Sumatran elephants still alive on the planet. One of their tame brethren, who worked with humans to protect wild ones from being killed, was killed on Friday--apparently for his tusks. Indonesian authorities today described the incident as a “murder and a theft,” and called for a criminal investigation. Read the rest
National Geographic reporter Bryan Christy commissioned two fake elephant tusks embedded with GPS, then planted them to track ivory smuggling routes from the Central African Republic into Sudan. Read the rest
Filmed at Kruger National Park in South Africa. [Video Link] Read the rest
A recent study investigated the impact of culling and relocation on elephant decision-making and cognition decades later. African elephants are highly intelligent and social creatures, and rely on their sophisticated communication skills to survive in the wild. How does the trauma of being separated from "loved ones" and their native terrain change how orphaned elephants think, and cope?
From a recent National Geographic article by Christy Ullrich Barcus: Read the rest
And if you don't know, now you know. Read the rest
Gopal Sharma: "Soldiers in Nepal are on the hunt for a wild elephant after it strayed into villages in the southern part of the Himalayan nation and killed four people in three months, officials said on Monday." [Telegraph] Read the rest
Imagine an apatosaurus with a long, elephant-like snout. Plenty of people have. That's because the nostril placement on sauropod dinosaurs is, in some ways, remarkably similar to that of trunked animals that live today. In both cases, the nostrils are large, and they're located up around what we'd call the forehead, kind of smack between the eyes.
On the one hand, this is one of those things that it's really hard to ever know for certain. We don't have preserved soft tissue, so when we make models of what dinosaurs might have looked like we're really going on clues from the bones and comparisons to living animals with similar bone structure. Because of that, it is somewhat reasonable to suggest that hey, maybe, sauropods really did look like grumpy diplodocus in the image above. It's fun to speculate.
But not all speculations are created equal. In a fascinating post at the Tetrapod Zoology blog, Darren Naish explains why a superficial similarity to trunked animals isn't enough to counteract the much-more prevalent evidence against sauropod trunks. One of the more interesting lines of evidence he points out is the fact that dinosaurs apparently lacked the facial which form the trunk in living animals. We know this partly because muscles leave their signature on bone, and Naish says there's no evidence sauropods had the right facial muscles. It's further bolstered by the fact that the animals most closely related to sauropods don't have those facial muscles, either.
Naish's piece reminds me of the last time we talked about sauropod biology here. Read the rest
AP: "An elephant named Shanthi at the Smithsonian's National Zoo is developing her musical talents by playing a harmonica with her trunk." Read the rest