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33364.  Tue Nov 22, 2005 4:54 am Reply with quote

Q: According to the South African Government, what is the country's biggest pest?

A: Elephants.

At the turn of the 20th century, there were just 6000 elephants left in Africa. Today there are more than 600,000.

The South African Government is planning to kill 5,000 of them, the biggest cull of the beasts ever carried out anywhere in the world. It claims they are the country's biggest pest, trashing the countryside by flattening (or eating) everything in their way.

Adult elephants eat about 330lb of vegetation per day and in the process (so some people claim) destroy the habitats of endangered species such as rare antelope and the black rhino. They devastate agricultural land, wrecking the livelihoods of poor farmers and occasionally killing people.

There are about 12,500 elephants in South Africa's Kruger Natiional Park an area (as such places invariably are) 'about the size of Wales'.

This is twice as many as the park can sustain and a gigantic increase from 1918, when there were just 65 elephants left.

If the South Africans survive the storm of international protest, Botswana (with 120,000 elephants) and Zimbabwe want to follow suit.

It is thought there were once some 10 million elephants spread across Africa.

s: Independent on Sunday 20.11.05

Richard Turner
67532.  Thu Apr 27, 2006 3:27 pm Reply with quote

How many species of elephant are there?
Forfeit: 2
(Indian and two African ones: the savannah elephant and the smaller forest elephant) Genetically, the African forest elephant is 2/3 as distinct from the African savannah as it is from the Indian elephant.

68042.  Mon May 01, 2006 6:22 am Reply with quote

Yes, here's some more on that. Quite interesting:

It does seem to be most (as you'd expect) down to toenails, but this bit seems to say that the definition of 'species' is a bit vague now, relying as it does on whether two different species 'can' mate, or whether they 'do' mate (and bear fertile offspring) if they are to be considered as one. There are genetic definitions of 'conspecific' now, which seem far more clear cut.

The long-standing debate over one species or two was considered definitively "settled" with the publication of two studies in 1958 and 1974. Both found that the L.a. cyclotis and L. africana interbred where their ranges overlapped; thus their differences could, by the "mate-recognition" concept of a species, be only "sub" specific. Scientists have since found that the actual areas where the forest and savanna elephants habitats overlap are few and far between, making their opportunities to hybridise actually quite rare.

The recent genetic recognition of two species overturns this idea of sub-specificity, although the study alludes to low levels of interbreeding in the isolated cases where the ranges of the two species meet. What is most surprising about the finding is the extent of genetic differences observed between the two species. The forest elephant is more than half as different genetically from the savanna elephant as the African elephants are from the Asian elephant Elephas maximus. To place this in perspective, the African forest elephant and African savanna elephant are more distant from each other genetically than a tiger is from a lion or a horse is from a zebra.

77970.  Mon Jul 03, 2006 6:00 am Reply with quote

Kent men butchered local elephant in Channel Tunnel car park.

77971.  Mon Jul 03, 2006 6:08 am Reply with quote

“A tourist in south China’s Hainan province escaped with minor injuries when an elephant fell on her. The woman was sitting in the front row watching a circus performance in the resort city of Sanya. The stage collapsed suddenly and the elephant toppled off it, pinning the woman underneath it. When the elephant was finally pulled off her, she was found to be suffering from a number of fractures.”
- Morning Star, 21 June 2006.

146344.  Tue Feb 13, 2007 6:08 am Reply with quote

“People have been confused about the names and natures of exotic animals for millennia. The camel's name in medieval English was "olfend", a word that has been defunct for eight centuries. This was known in earlier Germanic languages and also in Old Church Slavonic (where it was taken to mean "great wandering beast"), but it can be traced back to the Latin "elephantus". Basically, people confused the camel with the elephant, not so surprising when you've never seen either and you have to rely on travellers' descriptions
relayed many times.”

- World Wide Words, 2 Dec 06

148767.  Mon Feb 19, 2007 8:15 am Reply with quote

The belief that elephants get drunk on rotten fruit has been debunked, so they say, by Bristol University:

148802.  Mon Feb 19, 2007 9:22 am Reply with quote

It's a total myth that elephants are afraid of mice, isn't it?

148829.  Mon Feb 19, 2007 10:16 am Reply with quote

Yes, good point, Bunt -

Might make a nice question if we could find something that they really are afraid of?

148834.  Mon Feb 19, 2007 10:32 am Reply with quote

Well, according to this animal bestiary site:

Pliny The Elder (Alan's favourite) seems to have said:

The slightest squeal of a pig will frighten them, and African elephants fear to look at Indian elephants.

Mind you, he also said:

Elephants are wise and just, remember their duties, enjoy affection, and respect religion. They know that their tusks are valuable, so when a tusk falls off they bury it.

148906.  Mon Feb 19, 2007 12:52 pm Reply with quote

We did the squealing pig thing in one of the shows - a story about some army or other which set some pigs on fire and drove them towards the enemy elephants. The fire was to ensure a good hearty squeal.

149090.  Tue Feb 20, 2007 4:17 am Reply with quote

Ah yes, I remember now. I remember the pigs on fire, but I'd forgotten the point was to make them squeal :)

149111.  Tue Feb 20, 2007 4:53 am Reply with quote

Artificially inseminating elephants is a tricky business.

Wearing bicycle helmets and plastic protective gear, two german scientists nicknamed "The Berlin Boys" insert an ultrasound probe into the elephant's rectum while feeding a light-emitting tube into the elephant's 'vestibule'.

An elephant has a 10 foot reproductive tract with a comparitively tiny vaginal opening which is further complicated by false openings, however the situation is improved by hours of preparation, and an enema which produces wheelbarrows full of dung.

Elephants ovulate 10 times a year

Elephant semen cannot be frozen.

from here

149133.  Tue Feb 20, 2007 5:08 am Reply with quote

Elephants are like parrots in that they can imitate sounds: a 2005 study in Nature described a pachyderm named Mlaika who copied passing trucks, and it is believed to be a social device.

More recently, Kosik a 16-year-old male Asian elephant, has been reported as imitating a number of Korean words. He apparently can make sounds which sound like eight Korean words, including 'sit', 'no', 'yes', and 'lie down'.

149996.  Wed Feb 21, 2007 1:29 pm Reply with quote

Lucy the Elephant is a huge concrete building in New Jersey, it's the oldest remaining example of zoomorphic architecture left in the United States. At various times in its history it has been a pub (until it was nearly burned down by drunks) and a giant beach cabin, today it houses a museum and tourist centre.

It is often called the world's largest elephant.


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