An Elephant’s Understanding of the Concept of Death
“You’ve all heard about elephant graveyards? Of course that is a myth. But what is not a myth is the amount of attention that elephants pay to their own species.”
In the aftermath of the poaching crisis of the 1970’s Dr. Wasser arrived in Africa “collecting skulls and keeping them around their camp because they wanted to age and sex them to see how many animals were being killed”.
Nightly, without fail, the elephants would wander “into their camp” searching. They would “sniff every single centimeter of the elephant bones & skulls or whatever product of elephants they had there.”
As there were other types of bones such as buffalo or giraffe among the carcasses of the elephants what amazed the researchers was the elephant’s ability to discriminate among the mix and single out “the next elephant”. “They had that much focus.”
So, an elephant’s understanding of the concept of death is very real and their intelligence is beyond compare. Yet they continue to be needlessly “massacred” .
An Elephant’s Importance in Our Ecosystem
- In Africa two species of elephants exist; Forest elephants (in Central Africa) and Savanna elephants.
- “The central African forests are the second most important forests in the world for carbon capture. That means they are very important for controlling our climate.”
- As the majority of those carbon-capturing trees have oversized seeds, “the only thing that can really effectively disperse those seeds (to move them away from the parent so that they don’t just fall under the tree and get eaten by seed parasites or seed predators) is the forest elephant”.
“Well in the last 50 years we have lost almost 95 percent of the forest elephants. So who is dispersing those seeds? Nobody. “
So, the seeds are still falling but they are now “just essentially dying” under the tree from which they came. As a result, these far bigger, more superior trees of this “key species” “get replaced by a potentially inferior” one “instead of by its “ecological optimal” kind and this could hugely impact our climate.
- “Fifty years from now this area could certainly see either a massive increase in rainfall or massive drought” which will “affect seed production (of natural products & food for people) either way”. This, of course, “negatively impacts the poverty rate and collateral crime. The ripple effects just go on and on and on.”
So, this killing of our elephants, “this amazingly wonderful species”, impacts so many and so much. “The effects are just beyond our imagination.” If only people could realize that.
About Dr. Sam Wasser: “I work on the illegal ivory trade. About 15 years ago I developed a method to determine where ivory was being poached, from their DNA. All large ivory seizures that are made in Africa and Asia come to my lab, if they are provided to us, and then we are able to figure out where they are poached. So this has really given me a broad perspective on wildlife trafficking and how bad it is.”
Dr. Wasser earned his PhD in early 1980’s. See also: University of Washington Center for Conservation Biology
Source: photo of Dr. Samuel Wasser by Kyu Han from The Daily
Source: All other photos and logo graphics from GMFER Media Pool
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