Elephant family in Kenya video


This 12 April 2019 video from Kenya about elephants says about itself:

Look at who our team spotted recently while out collecting data in Samburu National Reserve – Monsoon and her adorable calf! This little guy was seen suckling while in the company of his aunties – Hurricane and Tempest – and his cousin who is seen here pushing his way around. Monsoon, the matriarch of the Storms 2 herd, amazed researchers last year when she gave birth again for the first time in nine years to this feisty youngster. Footage: Tanya Onserio.

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Donald Trump’s revenge on bald eagles


This 18 August 2019 video from the USA says about itself:

Trump Takes Revenge After Bald Eagle Attack

Trump takes revenge on animals after a bald eagle attack. John Iadarola breaks it down on The Damage Report.

“Mother Nature has it figured out. She’s designed a master scheme that connects plants and animals, all working in concert to keep every living thing in balance. Imagine a stack of dominoes—knock down one of them, and the rest will tumble. The same can happen in nature.

This is especially evident in places like central Africa and in South American tropical rainforests where certain animals—from the world’s largest to its smallest—help keep trees safe and healthy, which is critical as trees absorb vast amounts of planet-warming carbon pollution.

Recent research warns that losing the creatures that nurture trees puts forests in danger. This, by extension, is helping to accelerate dangerous climate change.

In central Africa, for example, elephants eat fast-growing trees, making room for those that grow more slowly. The slow-growing trees—with their very dense wood—store more carbon than their thinner, faster-developing counterparts. Without elephants, more carbon would accumulate in the atmosphere, worsening climate change, according to a new study that used computer models to project what could happen if elephant populations continue to dwindle or become extinct.”

Read more here.

Baby elephants, BBC video


This 27 July 2019 video says about itself:

Baby Elephants are So Clumsy! | First Year on Earth | BBC Earth

Newborn elephants are the biggest babies on earth, in more ways than one.

The findings, published in the September issue of Ecology Letters, indicate how elephants employ a diverse array of strategies that they adjust based on ecological changes. In particular, poaching causes elephants to switch their movements. The study results indicate that landscape conservation efforts should consider the needs of the different tactics elephants display: here.

South African dung beetles, new research


This 2007 video says about itself:

African Dung Beetle | National Geographic

Sacred to ancient Egyptians, these beetles recycle – of all things – dung.

From the University of Würzburg in Germany:

How dung beetles know where to roll their dung balls

June 25, 2019

Summary: When the South African dung beetle rolls its dung ball through the savannah, it must know the way as precisely as possible. Scientists have now discovered that it does not orient itself solely on the position of the sun.

The South African dung beetle Scarabaeus lamarcki has — to put it mildly — an interesting technique to ensure its offspring a good start in life. When the animal, which is only a few centimetres tall, encounters elephant dung, for example, it forms small balls out of it which it then rolls away in a randomly chosen direction. After a while, the beetle stuffs the dung into underground passages, which serve as its breeding chamber; where it then lays its eggs.

How the dung beetle finds its way from the elephant dung pile to the underground passages: This is what Dr. Basil el Jundi is interested in. The neurobiologist heads an Emmy Noether Junior Research Group at the Biocentre of Julius-Maximilians-Universität Würzburg (JMU) in Bavaria, Germany, and investigates the navigational ability of insects.

Together with scientists from Sweden and South Africa, he has now discovered that the dung beetle — contrary to previous assumptions — does not only orient itself on the position of the sun when navigating, but also includes information about wind direction in its route planning. The researchers have published their new findings in the current issue of the journal PNAS — Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

On a straight line away from the dung heap

“South African dung beetles must roll their dung ball away from the dung pile as quickly as possible to prevent the ball from being stolen by other beetles,” explains el Jundi. To ensure that they actually get out of the dangerous area as quickly as possible, the beetles roll the ball away from the dung pile along a straight line. In order to keep their course, they use celestial cues as orientation references — for example, the position of the sun. However, it was not yet clear how the beetles find their way when the sun provides no useful information, for example when it is noon.

Basil el Jundi and his team can now answer this question: “We have discovered that dung beetles use the wind for orientation in addition to the sky.” The animals perceive the corresponding signals via their antennae. The necessary information is provided by high wind speeds, which occur in the African savannah especially around noon, when orientation by the sun becomes difficult.

The combination of the systems increases precision

However, to produce an efficient and robust “compass”, the animals must combine and harmonize the wind information with the other celestial signals. This is the only way to ensure that they find their way, even in a sudden calm, by flexibly switching back to the solar compass as the main orientation signal. As the researchers were able to show, this combination of different orientation systems not only makes it easier for the beetle to find its way, but it also increases the precision of the beetle compass.

For their study, the scientists worked within a laboratory arena in which they were able to simulate and control the position of the sun and the wind direction to precisely record their effects on beetle navigation. Their experiments not only show that the beetles set the wind directional information relative to the position of the sun. “We could also show that the beetles were able to transfer the directional information, which they have set with the sun as their only reference, to the wind compass,” says el Jundi. This shows that both the wind compass and the solar compass in the beetle brain “access” the same spatial memory network and therefore communicate with each other.

A highly plastic neuronal machinery

Thus, the recently published study shows that dung beetles use a much more dynamic compass than science has previously thought possible. The access to different sensory modalities enables the animals to navigate at any time with highest precision. Their abilities clearly exceed human abilities — even though they are equipped with a brain that is smaller than a grain of rice. In addition, the results confirm that an insect brain is not a “static substrate”, but a piece of a “highly plastic neuronal machinery that can adapt to its environment in a perfect way”, as the scientists write.

Elephants help frogs survive


This 2010 music video is called Crazy frog – Nellie the elephant.

From the Wildlife Conservation Society:

Frogs find refuge in elephant tracks

Study says pachyderm puddles are amphibian condos

June 4, 2019

Summary: Researchers in Myanmar describe flooded elephant tracks as key breeding grounds and ‘stepping stones’ connecting populations.

Frogs need elephants. That’s what a new WCS-led study says that looked at the role of water-filled elephant tracks in providing predator-free breeding grounds and pathways connecting frog populations.

Publishing in the journal Mammalia, the researchers found that rain-filled tracks of Asian elephants (Elephas maximus) were filled with frog egg masses and tadpoles. The tracks can persist for a year or more and provide temporary habitat during the dry season where alternate sites are unavailable. Trackways could also function as “stepping stones” that connect frog populations.

This study was made available online in September 2018 ahead of final publication in print in May 2019.

The researchers made their observations in Myanmar’s Htamanthi Wildlife Sanctuary.

Elephants are widely recognized as “ecosystem engineers”, where they extensively modify vegetation through browsing, trampling, and seed dispersal, and convert large amounts of plant biomass into dung that is an important nutrient input for terrestrial and aquatic systems. At smaller scales, local plant species richness is enhanced when elephants open gaps in the forest canopy, browsing damage to trees creates refuges for small vertebrates (lizards and small mammals), and dung piles provide food for a diversity of beetles.

However, most research on ecosystem engineering by elephants has focused on savanna elephants (Loxodonta Africana) and to a lesser extent, forest elephants (Loxodonta cyclotis) in Africa; the role of Asian elephants as ecosystem engineers is much less well-known. Asian elephants are considered Endangered by IUCN due to habitat loss, poaching and retribution for crop raiding and human/elephant conflict.

Said Steven Platt, Associate Conservation Herpetologist with WCS’s Myanmar Program and lead author of the study: “Elephant tracks are virtual condominiums for frogs. This study underscores the critical role wildlife play in ecosystems in sometimes unexpected ways. When you lose one species, you may be unknowingly affecting others, which is why protecting intact ecosystems with full assemblages of wildlife is so important.”
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Elephants help forests store more carbon by destroying smaller plants: here.

African elephants, less poaching, still threatened


This 2015 video from South Africa says about itself:

MASTHULELE. The Largest Elephant Tusker Alive! Amazing Footage.

Kruger National Park Tusker Masthulele deceases 15 September 2017

It is with deep sympathy that we announce the unfortunate passing on of Masthulele, meaning ‘the quiet one’; Masthulele passes on at an estimated age of 49 and 50 years. This bull’s name was very appropriate as he lived up to the ‘quiet one’ reputation by being seldom seen, he had only been photographed twice at the time of naming. The first two series of photographs of this bull were both taken from a helicopter during the elephant censuses in 2003 and 2004.

From the University of York in England:

Africa’s elephant poaching rates in decline, but iconic animal still under threat

May 28, 2019

Elephant poaching rates in Africa have started to decline after reaching a peak in 2011, an international team of scientists have concluded.

However, the team say the continent’s elephant population remains threatened without continuing action to tackle poverty, reduce corruption and decrease demand of ivory.

The research, which included scientists from the universities of Freiburg, York and the Convention for the International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES), reveals a decline in annual poaching mortality rate from an estimated peak of over 10% in 2011 to less than 4% in 2017.

It is estimated there are around 350,000 elephants left in Africa, but approximately 10-15,000 are killed each year by poachers.

At current poaching rates, elephants are in danger of being virtually wiped from the continent, surviving only in small, heavily protected pockets.

One of the authors of the study, Dr Colin Beale, from the University of York’s Department of Biology said: “We are seeing a downturn in poaching, which is obviously positive news, but it is still above what we think is sustainable so the elephant populations are declining.”

“The poaching rates seem to respond primarily to ivory prices in South-East Asia and we can’t hope to succeed without tackling demand in that region.”

The research team say it is impossible to say if the ivory trade ban introduced in China 2017 is having an impact on the figures as ivory prices started to fall before the ban and may reflect a wider downturn in the Chinese economy.

“We need to reduce demand in Asia and improve the livelihoods of people who are living with elephants in Africa; these are the two biggest targets to ensure the long-term survival of elephants,” Dr Beale added.

“While we can’t forget about anti-poaching and law enforcement, improving this alone will not solve the poaching problem,” Dr Beale added.

The scientists looked at data from the MIKE (Monitoring the Illegal Killing of Elephants) programme, which records carcass data provided by park rangers at 53 protected sites across Africa.

Dr Beale added: “Elephants are the very definition of charismatic megafauna, but they are also important engineers of African savannah and forest ecosystems and play a vital role in attracting ecotourism so their conservation is a real concern.”

Lisa Rolls Hagelberg, Head of Wildlife Communication & Ambassador Relations, UN Environment, said: “Ensuring a future with wild elephants, and myriad other species, will require stronger laws and enforcement efforts and genuine community engagement; however, as long as demand exists supply will find a way to quench it.

“Only about 6% of the current funding going towards tackling illegal trade in wildlife is directed to communication.

For long-term success, governments need to prioritize comprehensive social and behavioural change interventions to both prevent and reduce demand. We have the know how, now we need to invest to truly influence environmental consciousness.”

Severin Hauenstein, from the University of Freiburg, added: “This is a positive trend, but we should not see this as an end to the poaching crisis.

“After some changes in the political environment, the total number of illegally killed elephants in Africa seems to be falling, but to assess possible protection measures, we need to understand the local and global processes driving illegal elephant hunting.”

The study is published in Nature Communications.