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Bit of rollercoaster ride today - thanks to the internet!


Libby

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  • Elders (Admins)

I mentioned in my status that I watch wildearth.tv. It's a protected wild life area in South Africa. They do two tours a day, driving a "jigga" which is their term for a Landrover. They get very close to the wild life, which is a bit scary to watch because there's no roof to the jigga but apparently the animals are so used to the vehicles that drive around there they don't take too much notice. These tours have running commentaries by people who are really good at spotting the wild life.

This afternoon, the tour showed a number of animals, including a leopard and a herd of elephants; I was following the chat that's on the site. One of the female elephants was behaving rather strangely. She was a little way from the herd and the way she was standing looked like she was in labour. But she had a little calf with her, probably about three years old. Time-wise that didn't work out because elephants are pregnant for 22 months and they don't generally give birth until their current calf is about five years old, though the little calf could have been adopted by her – elephants sometimes do that. The driver/commentator, though really very good at spotting wild life, wasn't sufficiently familiar with the way elephants behave in labour to be sure what was going on. Certainly the elephant seemed to be in pain. The calf was trying to suckle and she seemed to be disinterested in that. The rest of the herd kept at some distance, which again seemed odd because generally they'd be close at hand and making a bit of a fuss.

Then the driver was informed that one of the local leopards was nearby, so off we all went to spot the leopard. There was a bit of concern about her, because she was looking rather thin. They followed the leopard, who was taking very little notice of the vehicle, but there were some fantastic views of her, and eventually she disappeared off into the woods where the trees were too dense to follow (though they often do follow wherever they can).

By this time, the sun was pretty well down, and so they went back to where the elephants were. Unfortunately, the female elephant was down on the ground, lying on her side, very little movement. No sign of the little calf. The thought then was that her pain was related to intestinal obstruction or something, because her belly was very extended, so they were thinking she was bloated. The chat room people were talking about the kinds of intestinal problems they knew about in terms of cattle and horses but of course in terms of an elephant in a wild life area nothing could be done. The driver was looking at this downed elephant and not seeing anything much reassuring, because animals such as elephants give birth standing up. The people back in the control room keep an eye on the chat room and, if important, relay what's going on there back to the driver, and both the driver and chat room people wanted to stay with the elephant because it looked like she was dying. So they did, and the driver was having a bit of problem coping with what he was looking at, and some of the chat room people were crying. It was pretty tough to go from what looked like a potentially happy event to what looked like the last few moments of the life of this beautiful animal.

Then the elephant stood up. Smoothly and strongly. And the little calf appeared as well. By now it was dark, and they didn't have the infrared camera with them. The elephant continued with her strange movements, she appeared to be losing a little blood from the relevant bit of her anatomy, and so they followed her, being careful about not shining the flashlight in her face, while she and her calf slowly moved off. There did appear to be the beginnings of activity in that relevant bit, and the control room person started collecting the infrared camera and dashing off to the area with that, with the intention of continuing to follow this elephant for as long as possible. By this time, of course, the chat room was going wild! But the elephant and her calf walked further into the woods where it wasn't possible to follow her. So they had to close down the transmission, way beyond their normal goodbye time.

So, nobody knows for sure what's going on. The first tour of the day starts at 6 am local time, which I figure is 5 am my time. I'm going to set my alarm clock for 5 am. I have to know.

Libby

"Humans need fantasy to be human. To be the place where the falling angel meets the rising ape." Terry Pratchett

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PLease say what happened next... I feel silly to be hooked on this narrative, but I had a similar experience in RL while living on a farm, only the animal in question was a cow, and the ending was far from happy.

We live in a world where too many people won't go far enough... won't do what they know is right... what they believe. I don't know how or why it got this way but the world has become so complicated, to involve yourself in someone else's problems is to invite them needlessly on yourself. ~ Frank Black

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  • Elders (Admins)

The current prognosis is that she might be getting better, but there's still clearly a proble. There was a scare a couple of days ago. Here's some pictures of the elephant, which show that she wasn't looking at well, and show the strange movements she was doing:

https://wildearth.nin...lbums/our-ellie

A couple of days ago, she was seen with the rest of the herd at a watering hole. Seen amongst the other adult elephants, she was clearly bigger around the abdomen than the rest, and she had quite a gaunt look about her head. She was drinking, however. Most of the herd left and she wandered along the bank of the waterhole. Then she laid down, and the people in the chat room were getting rather distressed, as it looked as though she was giving up. Then a man appeared nearby on the bank and approached her quite closely. For some reason that no-one's quite sure about, but may have been because the resident hippo was moving towards that part of the waterhole, he picked up a rock and threw it into the water. The elephant then got up, quite quickly, and faced him. He moved away, the elephant followed him; then he turned and ran and the elephant ran after him. Whatever her problem is, it isn't to do with joints or muscles. As she seemed to be in labour, the speculation is that the labour has failed to progress and therefore the foetus has died. She has been seen today, and is apparently eating, which she didn't seem to be doing for several days now.

However, the whole situation has given cause for concern for people who watch the broadcasts to see the animals, because the policy in all the wild life reserves in that area is not to intervene unless the problem is caused by humans. In the past, they have intervened when an animal gets caught by a snare or trap (they do still have a problem of poaching in that area) and in which case, if they can get a vet in to dart the animal, they will attempt to free it. If it's a case of injury through fighting or natural medical causes, then they leave nature to take its course. In the case of this particular elephant, they decided to stop following her or seeking her out, but only film her if they came across her during their televised drives around the area. They would definitely not make any attempt to help her.

You can watch the incident at the waterhole at:

https://www.wildearth...1.flv&start=274

It's a ten-minute sequence (as all their archives are) but this link starts about four minutes into the sequence.

Libby

"Humans need fantasy to be human. To be the place where the falling angel meets the rising ape." Terry Pratchett

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Two updates, both of which are very sad.

The first is the reaction of some unspecified animal welfare groups to the news that there was to be no intervention because of the local policy that the elephant's problem was not caused by human action. Apparently that reaction included harassing and ranting at the people who are involved in the wild life areas concerned. The decision was then made to intervene to ascertain what the problem is. Personally, I feel this was caving in to the bullies. There appears to be no problem with the broadcasts showing a leopardess eating an animal that she has killed – which is just as much part of nature as is an animal that has developed a problem. It's anthropomorphism – and that can result in consequences in terms of where should the line be drawn? I think that the people who work in this wild life area might well have problems if they have to face a similar situation in the future and in the blog one of the people said:

Our policy of non-intervention is crucial to our management of these reserves and it seems nobody has asked themselves the obvious reductio absurdum that their insistence upon intervention leads to: what if lions kill a buffalo cow with young calf and then not kill that calf, but use it to teach the youngsters how to hunt? Will I be asked to rescue the calf? Is it even necessary to discuss how wrong this intervention would be?

The second is this:

The elephant cow has been found and she has now been investigated. It was determined that she is very old, so old that her teeth are too worn for her to masticate her food properly and thus a bolus of un-chewed food is blocking her alimentary canal, i.e. She is constipated, in pain and at the end of her natural life. She will be euthanized once she is on her own. Her calf of three years old is no longer suckling and has been seen within the breeding herd.

May she rest in peace.

Libby

"Humans need fantasy to be human. To be the place where the falling angel meets the rising ape." Terry Pratchett

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Thanks for the update! :thumbsup: So many stories are left hanging with no conclusion it makes you not want to hear the story in the first place. :yucky:

you can pick your friends... you can pick your nose .... but you can NEVER pick your friend's nose !!

MAKE EVERY DAY COUNT!

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A further update:

WildEarth have just learned from Djuma management that the vets chose not to euthanaize the distressed elephant cow.

It has been established that her calf is eating mostly greens and not milk now, and has been accepted into the herd. In addition, the cow appears to be recovering from her constipation, and in spite of her advanced years, the current view is to let nature take its course and allow her to live out her last years with the herd.

Furthermore WE think that her herd entered western Gowrie (our traversing area) at Buffelshoek dam, a few hours ago, and WE hope to find the herd and check in on the cow LIVE this afternoon on our safari.

She is currently at the Gowrie waterhole, and does appear better. The vet did dart her to examine her and apparently was able to relieve the elephant's internal congestion somewhat. They assessed the age of the elephant at about 50 to 60 years old, which is at the upper extent of the normal age range. Now that spring is well on its way there, the food available will change from tough bark and twigs to grass and leaves, which will also help the elephant's survival. There now is hope that she'll at least last through the summer, but they will continue to monitor her as and when they can.

Libby

"Humans need fantasy to be human. To be the place where the falling angel meets the rising ape." Terry Pratchett

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An update:

This morning there was the usual radio conference amongst the rangers who cover various areas within the Kruger National Park. The elephant herd had moved outside the area covered by the Wild Earth people. The rangers covering that area reported finding an elephant that had died sometime the night before. It's pretty clear that it was the sick ellie the Wild Earth people had been following. What those other rangers said was that there were a lot of elephant footprints around, so she was not alone in her last hours.

The Wild Earth people and those in the chat room are very upset about this because there was the hope that if she could have survived just a couple of weeks more for the new grass to grow then she might have survived for the whole summer. But everyone realises that it was her time and are just grateful to know that her family was with her. A lot of people have learned so much about animals in their natural environment, but also how we humans must learn what we can from these situations in order to understand what we must and should do to protect the wild life of our planet.

This is a link which shows the young elephant approaching the jigga. The jigga can be seen as the grey area at the bottom of the screen. It's best to have the sound on, so you can hear the rumbling from the mother ellie. The young ellie calf then moved away from the jigga and can be seen foraging for roots.

https://www.wildearth...1.flv&start=427

This link shows the mother and calf ellie, and then behind them there's a mother leopard, named by the WE people as Karula, and her two cubs who come down to the waterhole. Against it's best to have the sound on to listen to the commentator and how he feels about the circle of life.

https://www.wildearth...a1.flv&start=11

This link shows how close the mother ellie was the jigga, and the mother leopard and her cubs leaving the waterhole. Again, with the sound, you can hear that there is communication from and to the jigga from other people in the area, passing on information as to where animals are and where they are heading. The jigga has to leave their position to make way for the paying customers to come in and view the elephant. Those wild life areas rely very much on eco-tourists (of whom my husband is one, having recently come back from two weeks in Namibia) in order to not only fund the costs of protecting an area against poachers but also, in what Wild Earth are doing, to give the rest of us an insight into areas we wouldn't otherwise know about.

It's not surprising, then, that so many people were affected by the story of the special ellie. I know some of it is anthropomorphism, but if that works as a way to get the message across, then in my view it's a case of whatever it takes. I just wish there was a way of naming and shaming the organisations that destroy, either for fun or for money, these wonderful creatures and their habitat.

Libby

"Humans need fantasy to be human. To be the place where the falling angel meets the rising ape." Terry Pratchett

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