- “We are losing 50K elephants per year.”
- We have “only 470k elephants left on this planet.”
- “Habitat loss was traditionally the cause of dwindling wildlife populations, now poaching has overtaken this.”
- Illegal wildlife trafficking has become the 4th largest activity of the transnational organized crime networks, valued at $20 billion per year.
Are Elephants More Intelligent Than Humans?
A geneticist who had once compared humans with chimpanzees (we do “share 98% of the same genes as chimps”) wanted to “see who was the most intelligent animal in the world.”
He focused on the genes “that are responsible for oxygen metabolism” because of the way “your brain uses” copious amounts of oxygen “to grow and to do the things that is does.” He “compared a wide variety of species” and “of course the species at the top with the highest number of those genes was the elephant and the human being.”
“ No surprise with the human being but what is surprising is that elephants had more” (of those genes). Yes, elephants. “They are very, very intelligent animals.”
An Elephant’s Family Dynamics/Social Structure Destroyed
- “When the ivory ban happened in 1989 a very famous elephant researcher” working in Tanzania found that “30% of female elephants were living in orphan groups”.
As a member of a “female orphan group” (those females that were “relatively tuskless so they weren’t targeted by poachers, yet close enough to age 15 that they were able to live on their own) they were not allowed to join other families of elephants. This happened because, while elephants are “very social,” they are partial to their own lineage, their “own kin”.
This same phenomenon was discovered again, after another 20 years, by a different researcher. As “all of their family members were dead,” (at the hand of poachers) these females continued to live “solitary” lives leaving them vulnerable, and effectively ostracized by their own kind.
- Also as poachers killed off the “big bulls” for their tusks, the “younger males” took over the roles of breeding much earlier in their lives than normal (which they then continued “for a much longer period of time”.) Thus, inbreeding became rampant “in the population” and even continues in some elephant families today.
- When the poachers “ran out of big bulls “to hunt they went after the matriarchs. Without these adult female elephants (who would naturally “send out chemicals to prevent the young females from coming into an early estrus”) younger and younger females (at age 8, which is analogous to a child, instead of at age 12) were mating.
The consequences of these births (“very small babies” were born resulting in a very low survival rate) are devastating to elephant populations. Even with new generations of elephants, “these repercussions don’t just go away like that when you stop the killing. So we have got to think about the long term consequences of this (poaching).”
To be continued: GMFER What We Need To Realize About Elephants Part 2
Source: Global March For Elephants & Rhinos Oct 3 & 4 2015 Dr Sam Wasser Speech in Seattle
Source: All photos and logo graphics from GMFER Media Pool