Mammoth discoveries in Michigan, USA

This video from the USA says about itself:

30 November 2017

University of Michigan paleontologists conducted a second excavation this week at the Chelsea-area farm where the skull, tusks and dozens of intact bones of an ice age mammoth were pulled from the ground in late 2015.

A U-M news video of the skull and two attached tusks being hoisted from the muddy excavation pit with a backhoe on October 1, 2015, has been viewed more than 875,000 times on YouTube.

From the University of Michigan in the USA:

More mammoth bones recovered from Michigan farm where skull, tusks and dozens of intact bones of an ice age mammoth were found

November 30, 2017

University of Michigan paleontologists conducted a second excavation this week at the Chelsea-area farm where the skull, tusks and dozens of intact bones of an ice age mammoth were pulled from the ground in late 2015.

A U-M news video of the skull and two attached tusks being hoisted from the muddy excavation pit with a backhoe on Oct. 1, 2015, has been viewed more than 875,000 times on YouTube.

Nothing that dramatic happened during the two-day follow-up. But 40 additional bones and bone fragments from the Bristle Mammoth were recovered, and the researchers were able to thoroughly document the site. That just wasn’t possible two years ago, in the one-day rush to get the skull and tusks out of the ground.

“This return to the Bristle site was absolutely a success. We got the kind of information that we need to do the science right, and we were also able to recover an impressive amount of additional material from this animal,” said U-M paleontologist Daniel Fisher, who led both Bristle digs and who is overseeing the analysis of the bones and the environmental samples.

“So I’m confident that as a result of this second excavation, we’ll have more insight into what happened here,” said Fisher, director of the U-M Museum of Paleontology.

Bristle’s farm deserved a second visit in part because a single radiocarbon date from one of the mammoth bones showed the animal to be more than 15,000 years old. Also, several lines of evidence point to human processing of the mammoth carcass for food.

If additional studies substantiate those preliminary findings, the Bristle Mammoth “would represent the earliest instance of human interaction with a mammoth in the eastern Great Lakes basin,” Fisher said.

The U-M team had been trying to make a return trip to Bristle’s farm for a while but needed to find a time that worked for Fisher, excavator James Bollinger and farmer James Bristle, who harvested corn from the dig site in October.

“The crops are off, so it’s really a perfect time to do it,” Bristle said Tuesday morning as Bollinger began removing soil from a site directly south of the October 2015 excavation.

“It was such a hurried thing the first time around,” said Bristle, who renamed his farm Mammoth Acres after that find. “So this is an opportunity to complete the discovery process.”

The first mammoth bones were discovered while Bristle was installing a drainage system at a low spot in one of his fields. The farmer gave U-M researchers one day to recover whatever remains they could find; after that, the drainage project and his harvest for the year needed to resume.

Bristle later donated the mammoth remains to the university, and some of them are now on display at the U-M Museum of Natural History. This week, additional bones were found in clays that were disturbed in 2015 when a sump pump was installed as part of the drainage project. The newly discovered bones will also be donated to the university, Bristle said.

During the first Bristle dig, 55 to 60 nearly complete mammoth bones were found, accounting for 30 to 40 percent of the animal’s skeletal mass. The animal was a male in its mid-40s and would have weighed about 9 tons.

In addition to the skull with teeth and tusks, most of the vertebrae and ribs were found, along with parts of the shoulder blades and the pelvis. Notably missing are the limb and foot bones and the tail vertebrae.

This week, the researchers added 40 more bones and bone fragments, including several vertebrae, skull fragments, an intact rib, part of a shoulder blade, a piece of the pelvis, and what appears to be part of the mandible.

Most of the workers in the muddy pit with Fisher were current or former U-M students. Scott Johnston, a 2017 graduate in the Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences who has worked at the U-M Museum of Natural History since he was 14, found a jagged, softball-sized fragment of the mammoth‘s skull on Wednesday.

“I knew immediately that it was skull bone because nothing else looks exactly like it,” Johnston said. “The feeling was pure euphoria.”

Nichole Lohrke was a double major in German and evolutionary anthropology two years ago when she heard about the Bristle mammoth discovery. A few months later, she went to work in Fisher’s lab, repairing the Bristle tusks and skull. She added a minor in paleontology, graduated last spring, and on Wednesday found a plum-sized piece of the animal’s skull.

“The first Bristle excavation is what inspired me to get into paleontology,” she said. “I heard about it on the news and thought, ‘That is so cool. I would love to be part of that.’ And now I’m here.”

One goal of the second Bristle excavation was to find more bones and, possibly, additional evidence of human involvement. But an even higher priority was to reconstruct the geological context of the mammoth remains, something that simply wasn’t possible during 2015’s get-what-you-can-in-a-day dig.

The Bristle bones were found about 10 feet below the current land surface, in fine-grained clays and marls from the bottom of a pond that no longer exists.

On Tuesday of this week, the researchers dug a pit just south of the October 2015 location and collected sediment samples from the layers exposed in one of the walls. They collected samples at 2-inch intervals, from a couple feet below the top of the pit wall to the gravel at its bottom, a distance of about 13 feet. The gravel at the bottom of the pit is from a time 17,000 to 18,000 years ago, when glacial ice still covered the region, Fisher said.

Organic material from some of the samples will be radiocarbon-dated. If the dates grow steadily older with increasing depth, as expected, the researchers can have increased confidence in the dates of the Bristle Mammoth bones.

Pollen grains and fungal spores will be extracted from the sediments and analyzed to help reconstruct ancient environments and to provide proper context for the mammoth find.

Spores from the Sporormiella fungus are found today in the dung of domestic livestock animals as well as wild herbivores. The spores are preserved in recognizable form for thousands of years and are used in paleoecological studies as a proxy for the abundance of ancient grazing mammals such as mammoths.

If the fungal spores are found in the various ancient sediment layers at the Bristle site, their distribution could reveal when grazing mammals were present at the site as well as the timing of their local extinction.

Pollen grains would show what types of plants were growing at the time of the Bristle Mammoth and how the vegetation mix changed over time as the climate shifted.

The oldest well-documented, published evidence for humans in Michigan is about 13,000 years ago, the age of the spear-wielding Clovis hunters. But several lines of evidence from the Bristle Mammoth, including the single radiocarbon date, imply that humans processed the carcass more than 2,000 years before the Clovis hunters arrived.

The Bristle Mammoth remains were found in pond sediments. Fisher suspects early humans butchered the carcass and placed selected portions at the bottom of the pond for storage, using boulders to anchor their meat stash.

Examination of the sediments revealed during this week’s dig suggest the pond was small, perhaps only 20 to 30 yards across, said Fisher, a professor in the Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences and in the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology.

The weather was ideal for this week’s two-day dig, with sunny skies and unseasonably warm temperatures both days. Excavation costs of the second dig are being covered by Friends of the University of Michigan Museum of Paleontology, a group of avocational paleontologists associated with the university.


Provisional victory against Trump’s elephant killing plans

This video from the USA says about itself:

16 November 2017

Trump is making poachers great again. Ana Kasparian, Michael Shure, and Mark Thompson, hosts of The Young Turks, discuss.

The Trump administration plans to allow hunters to bring trophies of elephants they killed in Zimbabwe and Zambia back to the United States, reversing a ban put in place by the Obama administration in 2014, a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service official confirmed for ABC News today.

Even though elephants are listed as endangered under the Endangered Species Act, a provision in the act allows the government to give permits to import such trophies if there is evidence that the hunting benefits conservation for that species.”*\

Read more here.

That was two days ago. But now …

From the Washington Post in the USA:

Trump puts hold on this week’s decision to again allow trophies from elephant hunts in Zimbabwe

by Juliet Eilperin and Darryl Fears

November 17 at 11:08 PM

President Trump and Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke on Friday night announced that the administration’s reversal of a ban on importation of elephant hunt trophies from Zimbabwe and Zambia has been put on hold until further review. The sudden decision follows protests from animal rights groups and even some conservatives after the administration decided to reverse an Obama-era rule barring such imports. …

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service had announced the policy shift just two days earlier, with officials signaling in a statement that they would expand efforts to promote trophy hunting as a form of conservation. …

African elephants are listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act, but the Interior Department agency said it had determined that large sums paid for permits to hunt the animals could actually help them “by putting much-needed revenue back into conservation.”

Under the Obama administration, elephant-hunting trophies were allowed in South Africa and Namibia but not in Zimbabwe because Fish and Wildlife decided in 2015 that the nation had failed to prove that its management of elephants enhanced the population. At the time, Zimbabwe could not confirm its elephant population in a way that was acceptable to U.S. officials and did not demonstrate an ability to implement laws to protect it. …

The change was to apply to elephants shot in Zimbabwe on or after Jan. 21, 2016, and to those legally permitted to be hunted before the end of next year.

The African elephant population in that country has fallen 6 percent in recent years, according to the Great Elephant Census project. It is relatively stable in Zambia, which has decided to renew hunting after having previously banned it because of several decades of sharp decline. …

The Fish and Wildlife Service has also been reviewing whether to allow elephant trophy imports from Tanzania, where poaching is rampant and the species has suffered a sharp decline in recent decades. …

Two of the department’s existing wildlife advisory bodies — the Advisory Council on Wildlife Trafficking and the Wildlife and Hunting Heritage Conservation Council — remain suspended as a result of a temporary freeze Zinke imposed earlier this year on all such panels. And the U.S. Task Force on Wildlife Trafficking, which was codified into law last year and is led by Interior as well as the Justice and State departments, has not been active since Trump took office.

“If you care about wildlife, how can you ignore wildlife trafficking?” said Bob Dreher, vice president for conservation at the Defenders of Wildlife, who served as Fish and Wildlife associate director from 2014 to 2016. …

A representative of the [Safari Club International, a hunting advocacy] group, along with several other hunting activists, joined Zinke in his office on his first day as he signed one secretarial order aimed at expanding hunting and fishing on federal lands and another reversing an Obama-era policy that would have phased out the use of lead ammunition and tackle in national wildlife refuges by 2022. …

While hunting has fostered conservation in the past, allowing it now could undermine efforts to curb the widespread poaching that underpins the global ivory trade, according to Iain Douglas-Hamilton, founder and senior scientist at the Nairobi-based Save the Elephants.

Africans, he said in an interview Thursday, are “being told don’t kill elephants, and rich Americans are being allowed to come and do it. When you go back in history, it did do good, but now is absolutely not the time to be opening up hunting.”

In another potential policy reversal, Fish and Wildlife posted an online guide for hunters on how to import lion trophies. In 2016, after listing African lion populations as threatened or endangered depending on their location on the continent, the agency established specific requirements for allowing imports of their trophies. The Service also banned imports of trophies from lion populations kept in fenced enclosures to be hunted.

How to treat animal trophies Americans shoot overseas has been a contentious issue for years. The pelts of nearly four dozen polar bears that U.S. citizens shot in Canada in spring 2008 have remained stuck there after Fish and Wildlife declared the species as threatened under the Endangered Species Act.

Read more:

Overwhelmed U.S. port inspectors unable to keep up with the illegal wildlife trade

This hunter wanted a rare trophy — a rhino’s head

Zimbabwe was home to famous lion — that was hunted and killed

Save elephants from Trump, petition

Donald Trump Jr. - Elephant hunter


This is Donald Trump’s son with the tail of an elephant he killed. Trump just gave him a sick gift, changing the law to let bloodthirsty American hunters murder elephants and bring their heads home as trophies. Let’s build a massive global campaign to shame the US into dropping this disgusting plan — Avaaz will work with African countries to deliver our call at a major wildlife protection meeting in days.

Trump Jr. shot and mutilated an elephant — and now his dad is rewarding him by making it so anyone can join the slaughter and bring home elephant body parts as souvenirs, even as ivory poaching threatens to wipe these amazing creatures out.

Save the elephants, drop this disgusting plan!

To President Trump, the US Fish and Wildlife Service, and conservation authorities around the world:

Elephants are facing extinction and this is no time to strip them of protection. Trophy hunting drives the slaughter of elephants, increases demand for their body parts, and projects a double standard that makes it harder to tackle ivory poaching. We call on you to do all you can to reverse the US decision to allow the import of elephant trophies, before it is too late.

Save the elephants, drop this disgusting plan!

The Trump administration says it will only lift the ban on trophy imports from Zambia and Zimbabwe, countries it says have sustainable, well-managed elephant populations. But the population of elephants in Zambia is just 21,000, down from over 200,000 just 45 years ago, and in Zimbabwe government officials trap baby elephants to sell them to zoos!

Experts say it’s almost impossible to stop poaching when wealthy Americans are shooting elephants for fun. The only way to save elephants from extinction is to stop killing them, and reduce demand for their body parts.

When Cecil the lion was shot, an international outcry forced the US to better protect lions. Now we need to do it again – before it’s too late for elephants!

Let’s make sure that when government officials in charge of wildlife protection gather in a few days, we meet them with a giant call for the US to drop this disgusting plan. Sign now with one click and share with everyone!

Save the elephants, drop this disgusting plan!

Time and time again, our movement has rallied for elephants. We’ve pushed for ivory bans, funded undercover stings against poachers, and pushed for even greater protections. Now we need to come together for these amazing creatures again.

In hope and determination,

Bert, Spyro, Sarah, Danny and the rest of the Avaaz team


Donald Trump reverses ban on elephant trophy imports into US — The Telegraph

Trump Is Allowing Hunters To Import Elephant Trophies Back To The US — Buzzfeed

Trophies from elephant hunts in Zimbabwe were banned in the U.S. Trump just reversed that. — Washington Post

It’s not just the elephants: The Trump administration also rolled back regulations for lion trophies.

Trump helps elephant killing

This 18 February 2012 video from the USA is called The Trump family kill an elephant, leopard and many more animals in sick African killing vacation.

By Brianna Sacks in the USA:

Trump Is Allowing Hunters To Import Elephant Trophies Back To The US

The decision reverses an Obama-era policy aimed at protecting endangered elephants targeted for ivory.

November 16, 2017, at 4:56 a.m

The Trump administration will again allow hunters to import the heads of elephants killed in two African countries back to the United States, reversing an Obama-era ban and furthering the administration’s efforts to promote hunting.

The US Fish and Wildlife Service confirmed the decision Wednesday in a statement to BuzzFeed News, a day after announcing the reversal at a forum in Africa. …

Although African elephants are listed as an endangered species, the US government will enable hunters to kill the animals and import their trophies if there is proof the sport helps conserve the species. After some review, the agency said it had determined “well-regulated sport hunting” would actually help preserve the species and funnel resources back into conservation efforts.

In 2014, the Obama administration curtailed elephant trophy imports as part of an initiative to protect elephants, whose populations were alarmingly declining, targeted for wildlife trafficking and ivory. As a result, officials in Zimbabwe and Zambia bolstered efforts to combat poaching and enact stricter systems to keep track of permits and quotas.

The Safari Club and the National Rifle Association, which challenged the ban in court, are celebrating the reversal and praising the Trump administration for recognizing the importance of “sound scientific wildlife management.” …

Americans pay thousands of dollars to embark on African hunting voyages to kill animals, a practice that garnered intense controversy and outrage after a Minnesota dentist killed Cecil the lion in 2015

However, it is a beloved sport for several members of the Trump administration, including the president’s son, who famously ditched secret service in September to go on a hunting trip in the Canadian wilderness and, in March, called the sport “a great way to see the world” in a New York Times interview. Photos of him holding an elephant’s tail he had just severed outraged animal rights groups. …

Donald Trump Jr. - Elephant hunter

Now, hunters who killed elephants between Jan. 21, 2016, and Dec. 31, 2018, can apply to bring their trophies back to the US, a move that animal right’s groups say emboldens trophy hunters and disregards a threatened species.

“Let’s be clear: elephants are on the list of threatened species; the global community has rallied to stem the ivory trade; and now, the U.S. government is giving American trophy hunters the green light to kill them,” Wayne Pacelle, president of the Humane Society, wrote in a blog post vilifying the decision.

Elephants, other African animals

This video says about itself:

See Elephants at Their Local Watering Hole – Day 55 | Safari Live

5 November 2017

Join us on a LIVE African safari in the Maasai Mara as experts guide us through the bush in search of lions, elephants, buffalo and more wild animals.

Why mammoths died, new research

This video is called Mammoths of The Ice Age: Discovery Documentary 2015.

From ScienceDaily:

Male mammoths more often fell into ‘natural traps’ and died, DNA evidence suggests

November 2, 2017

Researchers who have sexed 98 woolly mammoth specimens collected from various parts of Siberia have discovered that the fossilized remains more often came from males of the species than females. They speculate that this skewed sex ratio — seven out of every ten specimens examined belonged to males — exists in the fossil record because inexperienced male mammoths more often travelled alone and got themselves killed by falling into natural traps that made their preservation more likely. The findings are reported in Current Biology on November 2.

“Most bones, tusks, and teeth from mammoths and other Ice Age animals haven’t survived,” said Love Dalen of the Swedish Museum of Natural History. “It is highly likely that the remains that are found in Siberia these days have been preserved because they have been buried, and thus protected from weathering. The new findings imply that male mammoths more often died in a way that meant their remains were buried, perhaps by falling through lake ice in winter or getting stuck in bogs.”

“We were very surprised because there was no reason to expect a sex bias in the fossil record,” added Patrícia Pecnerova, the study’s first author, also at the Swedish Museum of Natural History. “Since the ratio of females to males was likely balanced at birth, we had to consider explanations that involved better preservation of male remains.”

The researchers made the discovery in the midst of a larger, long-term effort to examine the genomes of woolly mammoth populations. For some of the analyses, they needed to know the sex of individuals. They initially set out to determine the sex of a small number of mammoths. “It became apparent that we were finding an excess of male samples, which we found very interesting,” Dalen said.

They decided to sex more samples and to examine the sex ratio of individuals collected from the Siberian mainland and from Wrangel Island, off the coast. Overall, they found, males consistently outnumbered females among their samples.

The researchers say the findings suggest that woolly mammoths lived similarly to modern elephants, with herds of females and young elephants led by an experienced adult female. In contrast, they suspect that male mammoths, like elephants, more often lived in bachelor groups or alone and engaged in more risk-taking behavior.

“Without the benefit of living in a herd led by an experienced female, male mammoths may have had a higher risk of dying in natural traps such as bogs, crevices, and lakes,” Dalen said.

The findings highlight the utility of fossil remains for making inferences about the socioecology and behavior of extinct animals, the researchers say. At the same time, they are a reminder to researchers that fossil assemblages don’t necessarily represent a random sample of a population.

The researchers say they’ll continue to study woolly mammoth genomes and those of several other extinct Ice Age mammals. They’re curious to see whether they observe the same skewed sex ratio in other species.

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.”