Asian and African elephants, different food

This 2015 video is called African Elephants & Asiatic Elephants – The Differences.

From the University of Nottingham in England:

A big difference between Asian and African elephants is diet

August 30, 2017

New research has shown that there are significant differences between the Asian and the African forest elephant — and it isn’t just about size and the shape of their ears. It is about what they eat and how they affect forest ecosystems.

As megaherbivores and the largest of our land animals, elephants have a significant impact on their habitat. In Central Africa, forest elephants act as ecological filters by breaking tree saplings and stripping them of foliage. But we have much more to learn about the impact of elephants on Southeast Asian rainforests. And new research suggests that the Asian elephant is a daintier eater — preferring palms, grasses and bamboo to tree saplings.

Experts from the University of Nottingham Malaysia Campus and a team from the University of Florida have been taking a closer look at the foraging impacts of the Asian elephant, and they’ve been puzzled by some of the results. Their research, ‘Foraging Impacts of Asian Magafauna on Tropical Rainforest Structure and Biodiversity’ is published Wednesday 30 August 2017, in the scientific journal Biotropica.

The study was led by Professor John Terborgh, of the University of Florida, Gainesville, a pioneer and leading expert in tropical biology and conservation. The research took the team deep into Malaysia’s dense closed-canopy forests where thick vegetation normally precludes direct observation of elephants.

Using traditional forest sampling techniques the team looked at forest structure, composition, and diversity in two Malaysian forests — the Royal Belum State Park which is home to 14 of the world’s most threatened species including the Asian elephant; and Krau Wildlife Reserve, where elephants have not roamed since 1993. The results were compared with results from African forests.

In the two Malaysian rainforests, the team found clear differences in tree density, composition, and diversity. The density and diversity of tree saplings were higher in Krau where elephants are now absent. Palms, gingers, pandans and bamboos (monocots) were also more abundant. In Belum, however, monocots over a metre tall were virtually absent.

Dr Ahimsa Campos-Arceiz, from the School of Environment and Geographical Sciences, and Principal Investigator of the Management & Ecology of Malaysian Elephants (MEME), said: “Our initial expectations were that Asian elephants would have similar impacts to those described for African forest elephants in Gabon where John Terborgh and Lisa Davenport have conducted previous work. However, our results show that Asian elephants have an important impact on forest dynamics but these impacts seem to be very different from the ones produced by African forest elephants.”

The clearest difference was in monocot plants — palms, grasses, bamboo. These were found to be abundant where Asian elephants are scarce but rare where elephants are present. We also found some puzzling results in terms of tree scars — signs of elephant feeding — that suggest that elephants might not be eating tree saplings (small trees) as much as we assumed.

Dr Campos-Arceiz said: “Asian elephants seem to be more interested in monocot plants, especially palms. These results have very interesting and important implications in terms of elephant ecological impact. Maybe this is the reason why Asian elephants do not seem to modify forest the way African elephants do. And human-elephant conflict is greater in Malaysia because we are planting palms which are the very food elephants love to eat. We are currently continuing this work through direct observations of elephant feeding in Malaysian rainforests.”


Sri Lankan elephants saved from drowning

This video says about itself:

Sri Lanka NAVY rescues two elephants washed out to sea in Trincomalee

23 July 2017

A group of naval personnel attached to the Eastern Naval Command managed to rescue 2 elephants that were swept out to the sea, in between Round Island and Foul Point, Trincomalee this morning (July, 23).

The jumbos in troubled waters were first noticed by an Inshore Patrol Craft on routine sea patrol. Upon being alerted the Department of Wildlife in Trincomalee, a combined rescue mission was launched by the Navy and Wildlife officials to save these 2 wild elephants. Responding promptly to the situation, the Navy augmented the rescue mission by deploying 3 more Fast Attack Craft on patrol and a team of Navy Divers.

Accordingly, the mammoth effort of the rescue teams saw the two jumbos being carefully directed to the shore without causing any harm to the animals. Having safely guided the two elephants to the shore, they were subsequently released to the Foul Point jungle.

According to Dutch NOS TV, the boats arrived just in time, as the elephants had become tired and had a problem in staying above water.

And ten days earlier, this had happened:

13 July 2017

The Sri Lankan navy released dramatic footage of the moment it rescued a drowning elephant when the mammal was dragged out to sea by the current.

In saving these beautiful threatened Asian elephants, the Sri Lankan navy is doing a much better job than most navies in the world. Especially than the royal navy of Saudi Arabia, which blocks the ports of Yemen, causing many civilian deaths by famine and cholera, apart from the Saudi royal air force killing civilians again and again.

Little boy discovers extinct elephant fossil

This video from the USA says about itself:

9-Year-Old Boy Literally Stumbled On A 1.2 Million-Year-Old Stegomastodon Skull

19 July 2017

A 9-year-old boy who was out hiking with his family last November accidentally discovered a rare prehistoric stegomastodon skull in New Mexico’s Las Cruces desert.

From National Geographic in the USA:

Boy Found Million-Year-Old Fossil by Tripping Over It

While walking through the desert near Las Cruces, New Mexico, a now 10-year-old boy stumbled over one of the state’s rarest finds.

Boy Trips While Hiking, Discovers Million-Year-Old Fossil

By Sarah Gibbens

PUBLISHED July 19, 2017

“There are more fossils than I’ll ever be able to count in New Mexico,” said Spencer Lucas, curator of paleontology at the New Mexico Museum of Natural History and Science.

Lucas was commenting on the recent excavation of a fossil found near the Las Cruces, New Mexico, desert last November.

While exploring the region’s Organ Mountains with his parents and two brothers, then 9-year-old Jude Sparks tripped over something protruding from the earth.

In an interview with El Paso ABC affiliate KVIA, Sparks told reporters he immediately revealed the find to his brother, Hunter.

“Hunter said it was just a big fat rotten cow. I didn’t know what it was. I just knew it wasn’t usual.”

The find was in fact not a big fat rotten cow but a stegomastodon, an ancient, primitive mammal that lived an estimated 1.2 million years ago. (Stegomastodons were early tuskers from the animal family Gomphotheres, a distant cousin of ancient mammoths and modern day elephants.)

Later that night, Jude’s parents reached out to New Mexico State University Professor Peter Houde, who they discovered from a previous interview he gave on similar subjects. Houde and the Sparks family returned to the discovery site, finding an entire skull.

After securing funding, finding volunteers, and coordinating when the dig would take place, the university team and the Sparks family returned to the site to excavate the remains. A week after careful excavation, the fragile pieces, which Houde described as “egg-shell thin” to National Geographic.

Houde hopes the fossil will eventually be available for exhibit.

The Fossil State

This isn’t the first time a stegomastodon has been found in New Mexico. In 2014, a bachelor party stumbled across a nearly intact fossil that was collected by the New Mexico Natural History Museum.

Coming across a stegomastodon fossil is considered a rare find. Lucas explained that fossils like those belonging to mammoths are relatively abundant in western portions of North America but for reasons not quite known, stegomastodons are less frequently found. According to Lucas, only a couple hundred have been found in the world.

One theory for why stegomastodons went extinct correlates to the arrival of mammoths.

Lucas’s theory is that the ancient animals couldn’t compete with mammoths. Both animals grazed on their surroundings, and could have competed for resources.

Houde theorized that climate change could have caused the animal’s demise.

“They existed during a time when it was wetter and cooler,” said Houde. “Las Cruces is now a desert.”

Researchers don’t know how many fossils lie buried in the desert, but if they’re to be found anywhere in America, the southwest is a likely location. The region’s naturally dry, rocky terrain create conditions needed to preserve bones for millions of years.

In interviews with local news, the Sparks family speculated that the recent rains in the area before the discovery might have helped to expose the fossil. Lucas agreed that this was well within the realm of possibility. He says that as rain erodes more sediment, discoveries are always possible.

“Erosion is a paleontologist’s best friend.”

Elephant evolution, new research

This is a 2015 Italian video on on the extinct elephant species Elephas antiquus, aka Palaeoloxodon antiquus.

A new theory on elephant evolution. Though not as as drastic as the recent theory advocating major changes in the dinosaur family tree.

From the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in the USA:

Genetic study shakes up the elephant family tree

June 6, 2017

Summary: New research reveals that a species of giant elephant that lived 1.5 million to 100,000 years ago — ranging across Eurasia before it went extinct — is more closely related to today’s African forest elephant than the forest elephant is to its nearest living relative, the African savanna elephant. Understanding elephant evolution is key to protecting present-day elephants from extinction, researchers say.

New research reveals that a species of giant elephant that lived 1.5 million to 100,000 years ago — ranging across Eurasia before it went extinct — is more closely related to today’s African forest elephant than the forest elephant is to its nearest living relative, the African savanna elephant.

The study challenges a long-held assumption among paleontologists that the extinct giant, Palaeoloxodon antiquus, was most closely related to the Asian elephant. The findings, reported in the journal eLife, also add to the evidence that today’s African elephants belong to two distinct species, not one, as was once assumed.

Understanding their genetic heritage is key to keeping today’s elephants from going extinct, said University of Illinois animal sciences professor Alfred Roca, a co-author of the new study. Roca led research in the early 2000s that provided the first genetic evidence that African elephants belonged to two distinct species. Subsequent studies have confirmed this, as does the new research.

“We’ve had really good genetic evidence since the year 2001 that forest and savanna elephants in Africa are two different species, but it’s been very difficult to convince conservation agencies that that’s the case,” Roca said. “With the new genetic evidence from Palaeoloxodon, it becomes almost impossible to argue that the elephants now living in Africa belong to a single species.”

For the new analysis, scientists looked at two lines of evidence from African and Asian elephants, woolly mammoths and P. antiquus. They analyzed mitochondrial DNA, which is passed only from mothers to their offspring, and nuclear DNA, which is a blend of paternal and maternal genes.

The researchers relied on the most sensitive laboratory techniques to extract and amplify the DNA in P. antiquus bones from two sites in Germany — among the first DNA successfully collected from such ancient bones from a temperate climate.

“Up until now, genetic research on bones that are hundreds of thousands of years old has almost exclusively relied on fossils collected in permafrost,” said Matthias Meyer, a researcher from the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology and first author of the paper. “It is encouraging to see that recent advances in laboratory methods are now enabling us to recover very old DNA sequences also from warmer places, where DNA degrades at a much faster rate.”

The mitochondrial analysis revealed that a shared ancestor of P. antiquus and the African forest elephant lived sometime between 1.5 million and 3.5 million years ago. Their closest shared ancestor with the African savanna elephant lived between 3.9 and 7 million years ago.

The nuclear DNA told the same story, the researchers report.

“From the study of bone morphology, people thought Palaeoloxodon was closer to the Asian elephant. But from the molecular data, we found they are much closer to the African forest elephant,” said research scientist Yasuko Ishida, who led the mitochondrial sequencing of modern elephants with Roca.

“Palaeoloxodon antiquus is a sister to the African forest elephant; it is not a sister to the Asian elephant or the African savanna elephant,” Roca said.

“Paleogenomics has already revolutionized our view of human evolution, and now the same is happening for other mammalian groups,” said study co-author Michael Hofreiter from the University of Potsdam, an expert on evolutionary genomics. “I am sure elephants are only the first step and in the future, we will see surprises with regard to the evolution of other species as well.”

Understanding the genetic heritage of elephants is vital to protecting the living remnant populations in Africa and beyond, Roca said.

“More than two-thirds of the remaining forest elephants in Africa have been killed over the last 15 years or so,” Roca said. “Forest elephants are among the most endangered elephant populations on the planet. Some conservation agencies don’t recognize African forest elephants as a distinct species, and these animals’ conservation needs have been neglected.”

See also here.

British Conservatives endanger elephants

This video says about itself:

7 April 2008

Watch this moving video as the wild herd stumbles across an elephant carcass and ceremoniously touch the bones, as if grieving for their loss.

From the BBC.

By Peter Frost in Britain:

Another elephant in the Tory room

Friday 2nd June 2017

PETER FROST has an unusual ally in Prince William in warning that government policy on ivory trading could prove fatal for one of Africa’s endangered species

THERESA MAY has made more U-turns than the clown’s car in Billy Smart’s circus. And she has dropped promised policies and buried others too.

So many, in fact, that you might have missed her abandonment of Tory promises to ban the sale of ivory in Britain. One person who hasn’t is the second-in-line heir to the throne, William Windsor.

Along with conservation groups, environmental campaigners, politicians and celebrities, he has said that the reversal in policy would lead to the illegal killing of thousands of elephants, and urged the government to implement a total ban on all ivory trade.

The Conservative manifesto at the last general election vowed that a Tory government, if elected, would press for a total ban on ivory sales. After the election, May and Environment Secretary Andrea Leadsom seemed to be ready to put the policy into law.

Then, as with so many Tory promises from May and her gang, it simply disappeared. There is no mention of the ban in the Tory 2017 manifesto.

Sneakily, May, Leadsom and the Tories have decided to abandon their previous commitment to introducing a total ban on the ivory trade in Britain. They have done it after heavy lobbying from wealthy London antiques traders who have been pressing the Prime Minister hard to drop the ban.

The most powerful antique traders association is the British Antique Dealers’ Association. It’s president is Lady Victoria Borwick, Tory MP for Kensington and long-term pal and ally of May.

On average, an elephant is killed every 15 minutes for its ivory and their population has fallen by almost a third in Africa since 2007. As I have warned in these pages before, the African elephant population is hurtling towards extinction in the wild.

By far the biggest threat comes from poaching for ivory for the illegal trade in objects and artefacts collected by those with far more money than either good taste or environmental responsibility.

Interestingly, this ivory policy reversal puts May and her Tories in direct conflict with Windsor, who has been a vocal supporter of a total ban on ivory sales. The Prince is patron of Tusk, one of the charities that have linked ivory sales in Britain to the slaughter of 30,000 elephants a year in Africa alone.

Will we see the Duke of Cambridge campaigning for Labour, which has pledged to introduce the total ban he has been lobbying for?

Environment Secretary Andrea Leadsom is under increasing pressure to make good on the Tory manifesto commitment to ban Britain’s ivory trade after China announced it would close down its domestic ivory market.

At the Convention on the International Trade in Endangered Species (Cites) meeting in Johannesburg last year, 182 nations gathered and agreed for the first time in its history that national ivory markets should be closed rather than regulated.

Many countries, including Britain, have allowed antique and other ivory pieces to be bought and sold. But the Cites nations agreed unanimously that every state should take all necessary steps to close their domestic markets for commercial trade in raw and worked ivory as a matter of urgency.

“There is no legal market that doesn’t contribute to the illegal trade,” said Susan Lieberman of the Wildlife Conservation Society.

Conservation organisations, including a charity championed by Windsor, say that by allowing the trade to continue Britain is fuelling the annual slaughter of thousands of elephants. A recent study suggested that this country is now the third-largest supplier of illegal ivory items to the US. The legal ivory trade here provides cover to criminals to launder illegal ivory through Britain.

In theory, it is only legal to sell items made from elephant ivory if it can be proved to have been manufactured before June 1 1947. But more modern poached ivory can be distressed to look older and circumvent regulations. Provenance proving an ivory artefact is old and therefore legal can be all too easily forged.

Ivory can come from many animals as well as elephants — from the hippopotamus, walrus, some whales, hogs and boars and much still comes from the long extinct woolly mammoth.

Mammoth ivory is found in melting glaciers, mostly in Siberia, and trade in it is legal. Tons of it was imported in the past and it was so common that many Victorian and Edwardian pianos had mammoth keys.

Today, many items made from recently poached elephant ivory change hands for huge amounts of money in London’s expensive antique emporiums and prestigious auction houses.

It is exported legally and illegally to the US and China, both of whom have many ivory collectors prepared to buy new ivory items despite the legal ban.

Boris Johnson, William Hague and former Defra secretary Owen Paterson all support a total ban on the sale of any ivory, while the Labour Party introduced a pledge for a total ban on ivory trading in its 2017 manifesto.

There are many good reasons to vote Labour in next week’s election and one of them is to save the biggest land animal on the face of the Earth from extinction by poaching.

The other is that perhaps the man who would be king thinks you should.

Elephants learn to work together

This video says about itself:

Elephants Learn To Work Together – Super Smart Animals – BBC Earth

2 June 2017

These amazing [Asian] elephants are put through their paces to challenge their cognitive ability when dealing with a complex level of cooperation, more often associated with human beings.