Rhino: No Horn Of Plenty

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“This is a long post, but if you are interested in Rhino, this is a must read & well worth the time needed to read it!!”

More rhinos will be killed in the next two years than will be born, so those charged with saving the endangered animal are considering radical and previously unimaginable solutions.

Twenty-four-hour watch: An anti-poaching team guards a de-horned northern white rhinoceros in Kenya in 2011. Photo: Brent Stirton

The battle to save the African rhinoceros has all the ingredients for a Hollywood thriller. There are armed baddies with good guys in hot pursuit. There is a hint of glamour. And the drama is played out against a backdrop of a beautiful, bloodstained landscape.

It is a story that begins, perhaps improbably, in Vietnam soon after the turn of the 21st century. A Vietnamese official of some influence, so the story goes, lets it be known that he, or perhaps it is his wife (for the sake of the story it matters little), has been cured of cancer. The miracle cure? Rhino horn powder.

With disconcerting speed, the story shifts to southern Africa, where a series of gunshots ring out across the African plains. This is followed by the hacking sound of machetes – it takes little time to dehorn a rhino because its horn consists not of bone but of keratin fibres with the density of tightly compressed hair or fingernails.

The getaway begins, armed rangers give chase. Once the horn leaves the flimsy protection of the national park or game reserve, where its former owner lies bleeding to death, it may never be found.

White Rhinoceros with a calf at Lake Nakuru national Park in Kenya. Photo: Martin Harvey/WWF

Its new owners never brought to justice. Sometimes they are caught. Sometimes they get away. Either way, another rhino is dead in a war that the bad guys seem to be winning.

The story shifts again, back to Vietnam where even the prime minister is rumoured to have survived a life-threatening illness after ingesting rhino horn. More than a cure for the country’s rich and powerful, however, rhino horn has by now crossed into the mainstream. Young Vietnamese mothers have taken to keeping at hand a supply of rhino horn to treat high fevers and other childhood ailments.

It is also the drug of choice for minor complaints associated more with the affluent lifestyle to which increasing numbers of Vietnamese have access; rhino horn has become a cure-all pick-me-up, a tonic, an elixir for hangovers.

With this new popularity has come the essential paraphernalia common to lifestyle drugs the world over, including bowls with specially designed serrated edges for grinding rhino horn into powder. In a short space of time, rhino horn has become the latest must-have accessory for the nouveau riche.

The sudden spike in Vietnamese demand, the miraculous fame of a saved official or his wife, and rhino horn’s emergence as a symbol of status all came at a time when legal stockpiles of rhino horn were at an all-time low. Demand and supply. This is the irrefutable law of economics.

Or, as one expert in the illegal trade in rhino horn put it: ”It was a perfect storm of deadly consumption.”

The rhinoceros is one of the oldest creatures on earth, one of just two survivors – the other is the elephant – of the megaherbivores that once counted dinosaurs among their number. Scientists believe rhinos have changed little in 40 million years.

The rhino’s unmistakable echo of the prehistoric and the mystery that surrounds such ancient creatures – this is the animal that Marco Polo mistook for a unicorn, describing it as having the feet of an elephant, the head of a wild boar and hair like a buffalo – have always been its nemesis.

As early as the first century AD, Greek traders travelled to the east, where the rhino horn powder they carried was prized as an aphrodisiac. But the rhino survived and, by the beginning of the 20th century, rhino numbers ran into the hundreds of thousands.

They were certainly plentiful in 1915 when the Roosevelts travelled to Africa to hunt. Kermit, the son, observed a rhinoceros ”standing there in the middle of the African plain, deep in prehistoric thought”, to which Theodore the father is quoted as replying: ”Indeed, the rhinoceros does seem like a survival from the elder world that has vanished.”

The Roosevelts then proceeded to shoot them.

Rhinos are epic creatures, gunmetal grey and the second-largest land animal on earth. Up to five metres long and weighing as much as 2700 kilograms, the white rhino, the largest of all rhino species, can live up to 50 years if left to grow old in the wild. In an example of advanced evolutionary adaptability, the black rhino will happily choose from about 220 plant species, eating more than 70 kilograms of plants a day.

These impressive numbers, combined with some of the rhino’s more limiting characteristics – it has very poor eyesight – have added to the myth that surrounds it.

”A slight movement may bring on a rhino charge,” reported nature writer Peter Matthiessen in the 1960s. ”Its poor vision cannot make out what’s moving and its nerves cannot tolerate suspense.”

Thus it was that the rhinoceros became a permanent member of the ”big five”, the roll-call of the most dangerous animals in Africa as defined by professional hunters.

But respect has always been tinged with derision. ”I do not see how the rhinoceros can be permanently preserved,” Theodore Roosevelt is reported as wondering, ”save in very out-of-the-way places or in regular game reserves … the beast’s stupidity, curiosity and truculence make up a combination of qualities which inevitably tend to ensure its destruction.”

In the 1960s, one eminent scientist described the rhinoceros as ”a very pathetic prehistoric creature, quite unable to adapt itself to modern times. It is our duty to save and preserve this short-tempered, prehistorically stupid but nevertheless so immensely lovable creature.”

Such disparaging remarks aside, they were, of course, right to be worried.

We have been here before when it comes to saving the rhino. In 1960, an estimated 100,000 black rhinos roamed across Africa, absent only from tropical rainforests and the Sahara. By 1981, 15,000 remained. In 1995, there were just 2410 left on the continent. In 2006, the western black rhino was declared extinct.

In Kenya, the numbers of black rhino fell from 20,000 at the beginning of the 1970s to 300 within a decade. This catastrophic fall in rhino numbers was the consequence of a poaching slaughter that consumed the country’s wildlife as lucrative ivory and rhino horn was consumed to meet the growing demand in Asia; rhino horn also made its way to the Arabian Peninsula, where it was used to fashion the handles of traditional Yemeni daggers.

It was in Kenya’s south, in the Tsavo National Park, that the war against rhinos reached its nadir – the park’s rhino population fell from 9000 in 1969 to less than 100 in 1980.

Since then, rhino numbers have rebounded thanks to a combination of legal protection – the trade in rhino horn was declared illegal under the Convention on the International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) in 1975 – and beefed-up security.

When I visited the Tsavo West Ngulia Rhino Sanctuary three decades after the massacre, I was met by guards in full military fatigues and armed with machineguns. ”These rhinos in here,” one guard told me, ”they receive more protection than many African presidents.”

Kenya’s population of black rhinos grew to about 600, with the continent-wide figure thought to be 10 times that number. Efforts to save the white rhino proved even more successful, with more than 20,000 in South Africa alone. A corner had been turned, it seemed, and the battle to save the rhino was counted among the great conservation success stories of our time.

And then Vietnam acquired a taste for rhino horn.

In 2007, 13 rhinos were killed in South Africa. In the years that followed, the rate of killing grew steadily. From 2007 to 2009, one quarter of Zimbabwe’s 800 rhinos were killed, and Botswana’s rhino population has fallen to just 38. In South Africa, home to 90 per cent of the world’s white rhinos, armed guards patrol the parks.

Even so, 448 rhinos were killed in 2011. The following year, the number rose to 668. In the first 65 days of 2013, poachers killed 146 rhinos. At current rates the figure for this year will be close to 830.

As a result, rhino populations could soon reach a tipping point that may prove difficult to reverse. The rhino death rate will exceed its birth rate within two years on current trends, according to Dr Mike Knight, chairman of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature’s African Rhino Specialist Group. ”We would then be eating into rhino capital.”

Chief scientist of South Africa’s National Parks Hector Magome agrees: ”If poaching continues, the rhino population will decline significantly by 2016.”

The importance of saving Africa’s black and white rhinos is given added weight by the negligible numbers for the world’s other three surviving rhino species – the almost 3000 Indian rhinos live in highly fragmented populations, while just 220 Sumatran and fewer than 45 Javan rhinos survive. Vietnam’s last population of Javan rhinos was declared extinct in October 2011.

It is proving far easier to quantify the threats faced by Africa’s rhinos than it is to arrest the decline for one simple reason: what worked in the past no longer holds.

The recent upsurge in poaching has taken place in spite of the CITES regime of international legal protection. Security is also tighter than it has ever been.

In South Africa’s Kruger National Park, home to almost half the world’s white rhinos, 650 rangers patrol an area the size of Israel or Wales. This falls well short of the one-ranger-per-10-square-kilometres ratio recommended by international experts, and more than 100 rhinos have already been killed in Kruger this year.

Thus, those charged with saving the rhino are considering radical and hitherto unimaginable solutions. One such approach gaining traction is the controversial plan to legalise the trade in rhino horn, dehorn thousands of rhinos and flood the market with newly legal horns.

Were this to happen, supporters of the proposal say, the price of rhino horn – which reached $65,000 a kilogram in 2012 – would fall, and the incentive for poaching would diminish.

Dehorning has long been opposed by conservationists – rhinos use their horns to defend themselves and while feeding. But the failure of all other methods has convinced some that the time has come to contemplate the unthinkable.

”The current situation is failing,” Dr Duan Biggs, of the University of Queensland and one of the leading advocates for legalising the trade in horns, said recently. ”The longer we wait to put in place a legal trade, the more rhinos we lose.”

Dr Biggs and others point to the legalisation of the trade in crocodile products as an example of how such a plan could work.

Critics counter that any legalisation of the trade in rhino horns is unenforceable. They also argue that lax or ineffective legal controls in Vietnam – where trading in rhino horn is already illegal – and elsewhere ensure that it will be impossible to separate legally obtained rhino horns from those supplied by poachers.

”We don’t think it would stop the poaching crisis,” says Dr Colman O’Criodain, of the World Wildlife Fund. ”We think the legal trade could make it worse.’

The debate about saving rhinos is riddled with apparent contradictions: that we must consider disfiguring rhinos if we are to save them; that rhino numbers have not been this high in half a century but the risk of their extinction has never been greater.

And so it is that the story of the rhinoceros has reached a crossroads. It is a story that pits, on one side, a creature that has adapted to everything millions of years of evolution have thrown at it, against, on the other, the humans that will either drive the species to extinction or take the difficult decisions necessary to save it.

News Link-http://www.theage.com.au/world/no-horn-of-plenty-20130514-2jknt.html#ixzz2TKNlQary

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ALDF Urges Federal Government to End Research on Captive Chimpanzees: Video, Release of Chimps After Being Experimented On For 30 Years

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The United States and the small African nation of Gabon are the only two countries in the world that continue to use chimpanzees as test subjects in behavioural and biomedical research Such testing has brought little in the way of scientific breakthrough, but has, instead, inflicted a host of horrors on our closest genetic relatives. 

Tragically, many chimpanzees have served as research specimens for decades without relief, often confined to small cages with no access to other members of their species or the outdoorsconditions tantamount to physical, emotional, and psychological torture.  It is widely acknowledged that such terrible conditions irreparably harm these highly intelligent and social creatures.

Late in 2010, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) forecasted that a change in policy might be on the horizon.  After decades of scrutiny and pressure from animal rights groups, the general public and, increasingly, the international community, the NIH requisitioned a study from the Institute of Medicine (IOM) to examine the use of chimpanzees in NIH-funded behavioural and biomedical research. 

That report, issued one year later in December 2011, concluded that “most current biomedical use of chimpanzees is unnecessary” and suggested that future research on chimpanzees be limited and guided by the following three principles:

(1) the research must be necessary to advance public health;
(2) there is no other suitable research model available; and
(3) the chimpanzee research subjects be maintained in an ethological environment focused on meeting both their social and physical needs.

Following the IOM study, a Working Group was tasked with reviewing the IOM proposals and advising on their implementation.  The Working Group issued a report on January 22, 2013, which offered twenty-eight recommendations.  The NIH published this report as part of a “Request for Information through which it sought public comment on the recommendations.

ALDF, together with pro bono legal counsel from the law firm of Proskauer Rose, once again welcomed the chance to defend captive chimpanzees from the agonies of behavioural and biomedical research.

Although long overdue, the Working Group’s recommendations are an important step forward in the fight for chimpanzee rights.  Importantly, the report recommended that “[t]he majority of NIH-owned chimpanzees should be designated for retirement and transferred to the federal sanctuary system.” 

The report also proposed dramatic improvements in the housing of research chimpanzees—by requiring them to cohabit in social groups of at least seven individuals and improving the size and layout of their living space, as well as requiring access to the outdoors and veterinary care.  These changes to policy, if implemented, would help to alleviate the suffering of chimpanzees used in research.

But they do not go far enough.

To demonstrate that NIH policy is out-of-step with international standards and still lags behind the rest of the world in its treatment of chimpanzees, our comments included a survey of the laws of Europe, Australia, New Zealand, and Japan, which, particularly in recent years, have banned or otherwise restricted chimpanzee-based research.

Our comments also urged the NIH to embrace public opinion, as polls have shown that a majority of Americans favour banning the practice of experimenting on chimpanzees.  Moreover, we exhorted the NIH to follow the lead of other federal government agencies taking steps to provide greater protections for captive chimpanzees.  In particular, we highlighted the recent petition to the Fish & Wildlife Service to classify captive chimpanzees, like their wild counterparts, as endangered species under the Endangered Species Act.

Accordingly, our comments insisted that the NIH go beyond the Working Group recommendations and implement a ban on all future chimpanzee testing in any NIH-funded researchWith such a ban, not only would there be no need to retain at government expense the proposed colony of fifty research-ready chimpanzees, but such resources could be better invested in developing non-animal research modelsIndeed, it is our long-term goal that the NIH will forego the recommendation to explore alternative animal research models (such as genetically altered mice), and instead adopt more humane, ethical, and reliable research protocols.

Given recent trends, the NIH should seize this seminal moment in history and stop the suffering of research chimpanzees once and for all.  As the Working Group report conceded, “in light of evidence suggesting that research involving chimpanzees has rarely accelerated new discoveries or the advancement of human health for infectious diseases,” it is not logical, ethical, or humane to squander precious government funds to exacerbate the plight of our fellow primates.

News Link:http://aldf.org/article.php?id=2384

“The following made me cry, we have no right to lock up the innocent & perform horrific experiments on them. Why don’t we put all the rapist’s, murderers & child abusers to good use, instead of giving them a warm place to sleep, food, recreation, etc. all that we pay for…experiment on them instead, then at least we would know the drugs being tested, might actually work on humans!!”

Release of chimpanzees, 30 years after undergoing experiments

Uploaded on 7 Sep 2011

With Your Invaluable Support, The League, RSPCA And Other Organisations Will Continue To Oppose The Badger Cull in 2013.

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“Please watch the video below, from last year…then please sign petitions etc. Together we can save the badgers”

The Government’s proposed badger cull, set to go ahead last year was postponed after a sustained and comprehensive campaign that involved numerous organisations, including the League and our supporters, coming together as Team Badger.

Last year over 160,000 people also signed a Government e-petition, far exceeding the 100,000 signatures needed to be considered for a House of Commons debate, which went ahead on 25th October.

The Parliamentary vote against the badger cull was overwhelming: 147 votes to 28 votes, with the majority of MPs agreeing with scientists, animal welfare organisations and the general public, that the cull is wrong and would be ineffective on scientific, humanitarian and practical grounds.

However, the vote is not binding and the Government are still planning to resume culling this summer.

The League, our partner organisations and supporters are committed, therefore, to continue with the campaign to ensure the cull isn’t just postponed, but abandoned for good, in favour of vaccinating badgers and developing an effective bovine TB vaccine.

As part of Team Badger, the League recently submitted evidence to the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (EFRA) Committee inquiry, which is looking into vaccination alternative to culling and is due to report later this year.

Vaccination has already been a proven success in Wales, where over 1,400 badgers have already been protected against bovine TB as part of a five year programme of work to eradicate TB completely. The badger vaccination initiative in Wales reflects the constructive alternative to culling that the League, along with “Team Badger”, is calling for. It also demonstrates the co-operation that is possible between the farming industry and government in taking swift, positive and decisive action against the spread of Bovine TB.

The League, alongside our campaign partners, believes strongly that vaccination of both badgers and cattle and better husbandry are the most effective and long-term way to tackle this terrible disease. Together we successfully came together to ensure badgers had a stay of execution in 2012 and we are now working for a full and permanent pardon in 2013.

What can I do to stop the cull happening this summer?

You should contact your MP to remind them that the badger cull is set to go ahead in summer of 2013. You should ensure that they know the evidence and science against the cull and ask them to make sure they will continue to oppose the cull in 2013.

Link:-http://www.league.org.uk/faq/32/Badger-Cull-FAQs

Keep checking back at this site for more news & next steps to take:- http://www.league.org.uk/content/643/Badger-Cull

Badger cull to begin from June, Environment Secretary confirms

Conservative MP Owen Paterson said that, if successful, the cull aimed at stopping bovine tuberculosis would be rolled out across the country next year.

It has not been confirmed where this summer’s pilot culls will take place, however the National Farmers Union (NFU) said it believed they would be in Gloucestershire and Somerset.

Animal rights campaigners expressed dismay, claiming there is still no scientific evidence to support the cull and that the move is against the wishes of the British public.

Speaking to the BBC, Mr Paterson said: “We need to make sure that these two trials are carried out in a professional and scientific manner and if we prove that this works we will continue.”

The Government wants to stop the animals spreading the disease which has cost the taxpayer £500m in the last decade. That figure is expected to rise to £1bn in the next 10 years.

Adam Quinney, the vice president of the National Farmers’ Union, welcomed the decision and said they had expected the cull to go ahead this summer.

“The two licences have been issued for two areas in Gloucestershire and Somerset and they still stand.

“There have been discussions about looking at alternative areas just because it is prudent,” he said.

A spokeswoman for The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) confirmed: “The earliest the cull can take place is from June 1, and it will definitely be going ahead this summer.”

The cull cannot take place before then for a number of reasons, including licence restrictions and welfare concerns for badger’s caring for their young.

A spokesperson for the RSPCA said they were “deeply disappointed” with the plans to cull the animals tomorrow as there is no “real proof” that it will help either cows or badgers and called for Defra to look again at alternatives including vaccines.

They said: “The Government must think again and the RSPCA will continue to campaign against the cull until it does so.

“After this year’s postponement we had hoped that the government would finally see sense and pay attention to the vast amount of scientific research showing that a cull will be ineffective, wasteful and potentially damaging to the welfare of both farm and wild animals.

“The vaccination of both badgers and cattle along with more effective biosecurity is the only approach which addresses the welfare of both cattle and badgers and the long term livelihood of farmers.

“This announcement flies in the face of the views of a huge majority of MPs who voted against the cull as well as the majority of the British public and the overwhelming weight of scientific opinion. The RSPCA stands ready to work alongside all those seeking an alternative to this barbaric cull.”

News Link:http://www.telegraph.co.uk/earth/agriculture/farming/9828358/Badger-cull-to-begin-from-June-Environment-Secretary-confirms.html

British Badger Cull – Channel 4 News

Published on 19 Sep 2012

UK channel 4 news item with Brian May, badger supported and guitarist with Queen and Jan Rowe, cattle farmer, debating the badger cull which is taking part in the UK now. 
This programme was first shown in the UK on Monday, September 17th, 2012 
If you are against the cull please support http://www.teambadger.org

Relevant sites & petitions:-

A selection of related items, to find more, type Badgers in the search box in my blog:-

Elephants really do grieve like us: They shed tears and even try to ‘bury’ their dead – a leading wildlife film-maker reveals how the animals are like us

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The pictures of a baby elephant in Borneo, nudging and nuzzling the body of its dead mother in obvious distress and bewilderment, cannot fail to move us.

Allegations that up to ten pygmy elephants were poisoned, perhaps by local farmers, are upsetting — perhaps because elephant emotions seem so like our own, so heartbreakingly close to human sorrow and grief.

Any scientist knows how dangerous it is to project human feelings on to an animal, to force them into human moulds or ‘anthropomorphise’ them, but it’s equally dangerous to ignore a wealth of scientific data based on decades of observation in the wild.

Heart-rendering: An African elephant mother mourns her calf, a victim of the three consecutive years of drought in East Africa

We may never know exactly what goes on inside the mind of an elephant, but it would be arrogant of us to assume we are the only species capable of feeling loss and grief.

I have been filming animals in the wild for more than 20 years, and that has often meant being around elephants: they live across a huge range of habitats. But mass poaching has put them into terrible declinearound 40,000 elephants a year are killed by poachers and, according to some estimates, since the Sixties the population has been culled from 3.5 million to just 250,000.

I am certain that the behaviour I have witnessed so often stems from real emotion. Understanding it is the biggest challenge for a wildlife cameraman. We have to get inside the heads of the animals, see how they are reacting and predict what they will do next, or we won’t get the shots we need.

Perhaps the most dramatic and emotional sequence happened in our current BBC1 series, Africa, narrated by David Attenborough. We filmed an elephant mother’s desperate attempts to keep her calf alive during the worst drought in 50 years in Kenya.

These animals were not dying of thirst: they were starving. Some volcanic springs were still flowing, so the animals could get water; what they couldn’t get were nutrients.

By that time, the drought was well into its second year and mother and baby were trying to survive on dry twigs. There was no hay in Kenya, there was a sense of utter helplessness, and we felt the most important thing was to document what was happening.

Cameraman Mark Deeble had been following the family for days. He saw that the mother stayed with her baby and felt she was distressed, trying to lift up the dead body and move it with her feet, before standing over the prone calf for about an hour, seeming to come to terms with the situation.

Whether you were actually there or watching events unfold on the screen, it was impossible to keep your emotions separate from what you were seeing. The mother’s bereavement transmitted itself so strongly.

In a more benign environment, an elephant might mourn for longer. I have heard of animals staying beside the bodies of dead friends for three days and nights, refusing to move.

This mother didn’t do that, possibly because she had been exposed to a lot of death around her. Fifteen thousand head of game died in that reserve during the drought. More than 400 elephants perished, including 60 per cent of all the matriarchs — a herd’s female leader. It was a terrible time for that population, and I think death had become familiar to them. You could draw a parallel with humans in wartime. The mother had to move on for her own survival.

We couldn’t save her baby, but we felt it was essential to put its death in context: Africa is infamous for its droughts and famines, and yet we very rarely see how seriously that affects its wildlife.

Scientists have observed extraordinary displays of emotion from elephants. When one tame animal called Abu died at a safari outfit in Botswana, his keepers brought the other elephants to say ‘goodbye’. One female, Cathy, was seen crying from both eyes, tears streaming down her face.

That doesn’t mean elephants know what death is. They can’t anticipate death in the way we can or imagine it as an abstract concept. Their grief is different: it’s simply about loss.

Dr Kate Evans, of the Elephants For Africa research foundation, has told me that on several occasions she has watched grieving elephants exhibit almost a sense of puzzlement.

They pick up, hold and examine bones, balancing a jawbone on their tusks or putting it in their mouths, as if they are saying to their dead friend: ‘Is that you?’ Perhaps the discredited myth of the elephant’s graveyard, a secret place where the animals supposedly went to die, had its origins in the fact that elephants interact with their dead.

Dr Evans has observed mourning among wild elephants that she knew well. On one occasion, a young bull came across three skulls. He ignored the first two, but paid particular attention to the third skull, from an elephant he had been friendly with. In Kate’s words, he seemed to know who the skull belonged to

Another time, a matriarch collapsed and died in the bush. Over the next three weeks, several lone males visited her body and spent time by her side.

Back in the Forties, George Adamson (the naturalist who, with his wife Joy, was the inspiration for the film Born Free) recalled how he once had to shoot a bull elephant from a herd that kept breaking into the government gardens of northern Kenya.

Adamson gave the elephant’s meat to the local Turkana tribesmen and then dragged the rest of the carcass half a mile away. That night, other elephants found the body, took the shoulderblade and leg bone, and returned the bones to the exact spot where the elephant was killed.

According to Charlie Mayhew, of the Tusk Trust, elephants will ‘bury’ their dead, covering carcasses with branches and even taking the tusks to be placed at a different spot. We cannot guess the precise meaning of that, but it’s clear that elephants are large-brained and social animals that live in complex groups. They recognise each other and, of course, they have marvellous memories.

When one animal dies, they will each need to assess how their social group has changed and how to re-evaluate themselves within this new hierarchy. The whole dynamic changes, and they need to know where they fit in within the crowd.

Those are not the only emotions they display. If you look at an elephant calf, chasing cattle egrets through the long grass, it is playing — it exhibits joy. In another episode of the Africa series, we showed a young bull elephant in ‘must’ or on heat — he was throwing his weight around, clearly in a heightened emotional state. We called it a ‘sexual fury’.

Elephants in zoos have reportedly shown symptoms of depression. The first African elephant to be taken to London Zoo, in the 1860s, was called Jumbo, and he posed problems for his keepers, who tried to keep him happy and amused.

For humans, the most complex and important emotion is love, and we describe it in a multitude of ways. The powerful bond between a mother elephant and her calf is an easy one for us to understand. But unlike humans, elephants don’t seem to have any notion of romantic love. You don’t get courting elephants — when they mate, it can be a pretty brief encounter.

Their society is a very female-based hierarchy, and the loyalty that a herd shows to a matriarch is intensely strong. They will follow her wherever she goes: perhaps that is a manifestation of love of a different sort.

Emotion requires communication, and the vocalisations of elephants are incredibly sophisticated.

They operate on some sound frequencies we can hear — trumpeting and grumbling — and others that we can’t. Much of their long-distance communication occurs through vibrations that are inaudible to us.

Low-frequency (or infrasonic) sounds are transmitted constantly, a deep rumble somewhere between  15-30 Hertz. The normal human range of hearing is between 20Hz and 20,000Hz.

These low frequencies can be sensed through the elephants’ trunks and even their feet, like vibrations on the skin of a drum.

They can talk to other elephants 50 miles away through the ground, communicating in ways that we are only just beginning to understand. It is possible that each elephant can recognise up to 100 other individuals by their infrasonic ‘voice’.

When we’re working with elephants, we can never let down our guard. I have been with populations that were utterly relaxed around humans; they just looked at us as being another kind of primate. Once, in the Okavango Delta in Botswana, on foot, I was part of a three-man camera team when we were surrounded by a herd of elephants.

That felt pretty scary — we were miles from our camp and could do nothing but crouch low beside a termite mound and keep murmuring, making small movements to show the animals that we were still alive. These were elephants very much in their natural state; they had never been hunted, and they were simply curious. In turn, three mothers brought their babies to show us to them. It appeared to be for their education — as if the mums were saying: ‘Come here, kids, and look at this!’

The babies approached us to within about five or six metres, wiggling their trunks and looking in all directions, and then they would suddenly lock on to us. We could hear these rumblings between mother and calf, as if they were discussing us. This happened three times within about ten minutes, before the matriarch led the herd away. That really was a magical experience.

When we’re on foot, especially in the forests of western Africa, we often have to use their trails. The only pathways are those made by elephants, so there is always a chance of an encounter. If one is coming head on, our only option is to get off the path: we have to rely on our guides because they know much more about the habits of those particular elephants than we do. And they will probably hear them coming a lot sooner.

You might imagine you could see an elephant coming a mile off, but it’s amazing how easy it is for an elephant to disappear. Give them a few small bushes and they can vanish completely. They are incredibly stealthy for their size.

Sadly, the impact of poaching is changing their behaviour. Some populations are becoming more aggressive because of it. Though I can’t prove it, I would readily accept that the elephant who wanted to shake our cameraman out of a tree was an animal who might have been hunted. All the others in the herd seemed relaxed, but this one was grumpy.

Why was that? Who can say how an individual elephant will respond to the loss of a close family member to poachers? All this feels particularly poignant as we examine in the next and last episode of Africa the future of the continent’s wildlife, and ask what the next few years hold for elephants.

Apart from the poaching crisis, elephants are coming into increasing conflict with farmers and expanding human populations. The incident in Borneo highlights that it’s not just an African problem.  One thing is certain: there will be many more dead elephants to mourn in the coming months.

News Linkhttp://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2270977/Elephants-really-grieve-like-They-shed-tears-try-bury-dead–leading-wildlife-film-maker-reveals-animals-like-us.html#ixzz2JzKmOKP8
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A National Geographic Video: Explaining The Wild-Blood Ivory Trade

Comments Off on A National Geographic Video: Explaining The Wild-Blood Ivory Trade

“This is a follow on, from the previous post. I wanted to show the full extent of the ivory problem, to as many people as possible. I want people to fully understand the problems, faced by elephants, due to the high supply & demand of ivory. Then hopefully, after viewing the video, one might want to go back to the previous post & carry out the instructions or click the link at the bottom of this post, that will take you to the page. It’s only 3 steps. 1 send an email letter (the template & email addresses are included) 2. sign 2 petitions (links are there) 3. to simply share it with everyone you know; we all need to do our bit, to help save the elephants.”

“The National Geographic film is 45 minutes long…but well worth 45 minutes of anybody’s time. I have watched many videos on the subject, but believe this one  gives a very real & disturbing insight into all areas of the ivory trade. From the poachers to customs & excise, even the Chinese government! This racket is definitely very shady; undercover agents were told things that really puts this expensive trade; into perspective!”

“As previously stated in the prior post, the sixteenth Conference of the Parties (CoP16) in March 2013 is so important in stopping the ivory trade. The scientific community, global intelligence agencies and wildlife trafficking authorities warn that the African Elephant is on the precipice of extermination due to the unmitigated slaughter of tens of thousands of elephants each year.”

” One interesting fact pointed out in the film, is that some Chinese people, believe ivory comes from the elephants teeth, which they presume just grows back! Therefore, education is a big factor here, the Chinese government need to get their ass into gear & make the Chinese aware of what ivory really is & the despicable, heinous way, in which it is taken from the elephant, often leaving many baby elephants to die also!”

“One big problem, is something used by many Chinese people…ivory chopsticks! Now I know that their not all made of ivory, but do up market restaurants use them; if so  imagine how many chopsticks China gets through in week? How many elephants are killed just to support the demand for chopsticks??

Please note: Viewer Discretion is Advised (more so in the fist 10 minutes)

Help the elephants CITIES CoP 16 Link; everthing you need is included in this link :-http://www.elephantectivism.org/p/ivory-action-1-2-3.html

National Geographic:-Wild-Blood Ivory Smugglers

Published on 18 Jun 2012

National Geographic:-Wild-Blood Ivory Smugglers

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