Cambodia’s oldest elephant, Sambo, dies aged 63

Cambodia’s oldest elephant, Sambo, died on 19 October 2023, and the country is in mourming. 

She was the oldest elephant in Cambodia, aged 63, and survived the Khmer Rouge regime of the 1970s. When the Khmer Rouge took power, Sambo’s owner Sin Sorn had to hand her over to the Khmer Rouge authorities, with five other elephants. They all died in the poor living conditions, with Sambo the only survivor.

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Is there a limit to how big animals can grow?

Is there a limit to how big animals can grow?

Joshua A. Krish poses this question in his article in Live Science (March 2023) and he says that there is a limit – animals can’t grow indefinitely.

The largest land animal is the African Elephant (Loxodonta africana) which is a mammal that reaches 250 centimetres (8 feet 4 inches) tall and 750 centimetres (25 feet) long, weighing about 6 metric tons (7 tons). It is not a meat-eating carnivore. It is an herbivore and eats grass, trees, bushes, fruit, and bark.

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After 12 years apart, elephants may recognise the smell of a relative’s poop

Elephants have a reputation for having a long memory. Scientists have now found that elephants seem to recognise the smell of a relative’s poop – dung, manure, faeces, stools, excrement – even after 12 years apart.

New Scientist’s Life magazine (February 2023) reports on the findings of researchers at the University of Wuppertal in Germany who are studying elephant behaviour, especially elephant memory. 

Two mother-daughter pairs were about to reunite after years apart, and the researchers wanted to test their memories of each other. Would the mothers recognise their daughters’ manure, and would the daughters recognise their mothers’ manure?

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How many muscles are in an Elephant’s trunk?

How many muscles are in an Elephant’s trunk? 

The trunk (nose) of the African Savannah Elephant (Loxodonta africana), a large mammal in the Elephantidae family, is its nose or proboscis.

The African Elephant eats grass, trees, bushes, fruit, and bark. It uses its trunk to rip branches from trees to put them in its mouth. It can also pick up small objects of food with its trunk – the trunk is a prehensile appendage. For drinking, its trunk is used as a siphon to suck up water. Its trunk is also used to squirt water over its body to keep cool, trumpet to communicate, and snorkel to breath underwater.

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Do animals have emotions?

Do animals have emotions?

Humans have many emotions, such as happiness, sadness, anger, love, grief, pain, and so on.

Many animals have emotions too, particularly mammals, such as cats, dogs, horses, rodents, dolphins, apes etc. 

Although animals cannot talk, they express their emotions in other ways, such as making noises and acting in specific ways –  a dog wagging a tail, rubbing against a person, and even touching a human with its paws. 

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RESEARCH: Older male elephants keep younger males calm

Older male elephants keep younger males calm and help prevent conflict with humans, says a new study reported in Science News in December 2021.

Researchers at the Centre for Research in Animal Behaviour at the University of Exeter in England conducted research with a British-based charity organization called Elephants for Africa that is also a registered non-government organization (NGO) in Botswana, Africa.

The researchers studied 281 male elephants in an all-male area in Makgadikgadi Pans National Park in Botswana for three years. They divided the elephants into four groups, by age: two groups of adolescents and two groups of adults. In one group of adolescents, the elephants were 10-15 years old, and in the other group of adolescents, the elephants were 16-20 years old. In one group of adults, the elephants were 21-25 years old, and in the other group of adults, the elephants were older than 26 years of age.

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RESEARCH: Elephant trunks use extreme suction to suck up water quickly: faster than a human sneeze

Extreme suction helps elephants suck up water quickly, and to hold water and food in their trunks. Extreme suction enables elephants to inhale water at speeds nearly 30 times faster than humans exhale air during a sneeze.

New Scientist magazine, on 2 June 2021, announced recent research results on the effectiveness of elephants using extreme suction. Elephants use their trunks, which weigh more than 100 kilograms (220 pounds), in a variety of ways: to forage through vegetation for food, to drink, and even as a snorkel when wading through deep water.

To better understand the trunk in action, scientist Andrew Schulz at the Georgia Institute of Technology in America, and his colleagues, filmed a 34-year-old female African Savannah Elephant (Loxodonta africana) while she completed a series of tests at a zoo in Atlanta.

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Elephant census taken from space

In South Africa, an elephant census – counting the number of elephants – is being conducted by satellite imaging. 

This innovative, cutting-edge technology means that scientists can use the satellite images to count African elephants from space. 

The images are from an Earth-Observation satellite orbiting the planet 600 kilometres (372 miles) above the ground. This could enable scientists to survey up to 5,000 square kilometres of elephant habitat each day – on days without cloud cover.

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African Elephant and Asian Elephant: what’s the difference?

What is the difference between an African Elephant and an Asian Elephant?

The African Elephant (Loxodonta africana) and the Asian Elephant (Elephas maximus) are both land mammals.

The African Elephant has larger ears than the Asian Elephant.

The African Elephant has ears shaped like the continent of Africa; the Asian Elephant has ears shaped like the country of India.

The African Elephant has no frontal hump on its head; the Asian Elephant has a frontal hump on its head.

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Asian Elephant

The Asian Elephant (Elephas maximus) is a large land mammal.

The Asian Elephant has grey, almost hairless, wrinkled skin over its body. Its nose is a long trunk, its ears are fan-like flaps, and its tail is short. It has small dark eyes, a small mouth, and large forward and upturned ivory tusks. Females usually do not have tusks, but might have barely visible tushes (seen only when the mouth is open).

Its legs are thick with large pads for feet. Its front feet have a round sole, and the hind (back) feet have an oval-shaped sole. Its feet have distinct nail-like structures on each foot.

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African Elephant

The African Elephant (Loxodonta africana) is the largest land mammal on Earth.

The African Elephant has grey, almost hairless, wrinkled skin over its massive body. Its nose is a long trunk, its ears are large fan-like flaps, and its tail is short with a tuft of dark hair at the end. It has small dark eyes, a small mouth, and large forward and upturned ivory tusks. Both males and females have tusks, but female tusks are smaller.

Its legs are thick with large pads for feet. Its front feet have a round sole, and the hind (back) feet have an oval-shaped sole.

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CREATURE FEATURE: Rock Hyrax

The Rock Hyrax (Procavia capensis) is a mammal in the Procaviidae family. Hyrax means shrew mouse.

The Rock Hyrax is related to the Elephant and the Manatee (Dugong). It has tusks like the Elephant, which develop from the incisor teeth (most mammalian tusks develop from canine teeth). Also, like the Elephant, it has flattened nails on the tips of its toes, rather than curved, elongated claws that most mammals have.

The Rock Hyrax is furry and round, with a short tail. It has molar teeth and incisor teeth. The two upper incisors are large and tusk-like, and grow continuously throughout its life, similar to rodents such as rats. The four lower incisors are deeply grooved ‘comb teeth’. It has pads on its feet, which helps it move up steep, rocky terrains. It has four stumpy toes on each front foot and three on each back foot, all with hoof-like nails.

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