ElephantVoices Gestures Database

This is the “dictionary” of elephant gestures! Absolutely and completely incredible!

ElephantVoices Gestures Database.

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Are lions the only big cats that hunt in prides and why are other big cats solitary? (specifically the females)

Answer by Rory Young:

Yes they are the only cats that hunt in prides. Young cheetah males will sometimes congregate in bachelor groups but these just temporary get-togethers.

Let’s look at the three big African cats, the lion, leopard and cheetah. They have each evolved to fill a niche which they dominate. These niches may overlap and when they do the lion is top of the pile, followed by leopards and then cheetah.

The leopard is an ambush predator. They like to stalk their prey as close as possible and then pounce on them. They also try to sneak up on animals in trees, especially baboons and monkeys and then start up the tree by which stage the baboon can’t go anywhere. Baboons will fight back at times as a group but that is another story.

In order to ambush prey they need to be on their own. A large group of them would not be able to stalk animals as successfully.

The ideal environment for them is forested or rocky not flat and open, as that would not allow them to stalk up close to their prey.

In some ways they are more gregarious than people would imagine. Males’ and females’ territories will overlap, as will females and females. However, males’ and males’ territories will not overlap and they will chase each other out of their areas. Adult offspring will often hang out with mom from time to time for a few days if they bump into each other. These habits show that they are not solitary because they don’t “like” each other but because they are necessarily so to hunt and survive.

Leopards’ spots are also ideal camouflage for an ambush predator, allowing them to sneak up close without being seen.

Cheetah of course also have spots. Most people imagine them running down prey from distance with their incredible speed. However, they need to get as close to their prey as possible first before launching themselves after it and running it down. Thus the need for spots. They combine stealth first and then speed to succeed.

So, leopards and cheetahs do not really compete in terms of environment because as explained, leopards prefer terrain where they can hide and ambush whilst cheetah open areas, with some limited cover such as tall grass or shrubs to first stalk their prey. The extremes of these two are mountainous terrain or cliffs where you will find leopards (who are incredibly versatile and will live on the edges of urban areas living off rats if need be) and flat open grassland areas where you will find cheetahs (who are not versatile at all). Both species are medium size, allowing them to take down relatively large game or small game to survive.

And then of course there are lions. Although the will not survive in the extreme mountainous terrain where leopards are happy, they will overlap a fair amount with them in areas of fairly open, broken ground and savanna woodland. When it comes to cheetah habitat however, there is much more competition between cheetahs and lions and cheetahs will often be chased off their kills. I was fortunate to be part of the cheetah re-introduction into Matusadona National Park in Zimbabwe 20 years ago. I built the boma (a boma is a pen where you keep the animals for anything from 4 to 8 weeks to acclimatize them to a new area and get them settled)  so that the 16ft fences were buried deep with rubble, very strong with steel posts and the fences were looser the higher up they went so that any thing trying to climb them would fall off. This was because we were expecting trouble and boy we got it. During the day we would shoot impalas to feed  the cheetahs and then sleep because we would be up all night chasing off lions and hyaenas (he he, yes they should be part of the question and answer but you did specify cats) with shots and Landrovers. Lions, leopards and cheetahs will kill each other if they get a chance, because of the competition for food.

Lions are “pack hunters”. They live in close-nit extended family groups. Their group behaviour allows them to take on prey that neither leopards nor cheetah could touch. They use herding and other techniques together with stalking and enormous strength to take down large prey all the way up to elephants (this is quite common in Botswana). Most importantly and most relevant to your question, they can tackle large herds of large game and this is their real niche which they dominate completely.

If they were solitary they would not be able to feed themselves consistently, as often happens with young males who are pushed out of the pride when they grow to big for their boots and start threatening the boss. These homeless males will either die of hunger, join up with other such males to hunt as a team or learn to hunt on their own, adopting methods more like leopards.

With regards to females specifically, although we males hate to admit it, females are the heart of any  group and whilst males tend to think first about sex and then food whilst females tend to think about feeding their babies and then themselves. So the males are pretty much obsessed with their… genes.

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What would effectively stop elephant poaching in Africa?

Answer by Rory Young:

I mulled over how to answer this for some time because there are just so many things that can and must be done, I decided to look at the broader picture because no matter the effort of the brave few on the ground, without the will of the world’s nations to put an end to ivory and other poaching it is a losing battle.

There is currently a struggle between two very polarized groups of African countries (and their corners) on how to deal with the problem.

Firstly it is important to look at the three links in the ivory supply chain. These are the poachers, the traffickers and the consumers.

Firstly with regards to the consumers.
There are two approaches to the problem.

The first approach, promoted mostly by Kenya, focuses on ending the international legal trade in ivory.This ivory is from legally culled or hunted elephants in countries with large populations. It is believed that by doing so demand will dramatically reduce or dry up altogether.Those who support the theory believe that demand will dry up and their will therefore be no more demand.

The argument against this approach is that the demand will always be there and that the supply of legal ivory should be carefully controlled and funds funneled into wildlife management.

To give some context to these different approaches we also need to look at the different situations between these groups of countries. Zimbabwe for example has over 80’000 elephants and the population increases at about 3% per annum. Zimbabwe is in favour of limited trade in legal ivory. Kenya on the other hand has around 12’000 elephants, the population is decreasing rapidly and the Kenyan government is totally against any trade.

Where both groups agree is that the countries where this illegal ivory is going are not doing enough to discourage its sale.

Next we need to look at the traffickers. These are smugglers of just the same ilk as drug or blood diamond traffickers. However, their are much fewer controls and and because many of the States these traffickers come from have a very disinterested views of wildlife conservation, they are much more easily able to collude with the authorities in the countries they are shipping to. Like any illicit product, it is relatively easy to get it out. Controls and checks are usually at ports of entry not exit and as a result the methods, systems and infrastructure are not in place to stop exports.

The big problem again is the lack of will to get tough at the countries where the ivory is going. The customs departments are just not motivated to arrest and charge traffickers.

Thirdly we need to look at the poaching itself. The approach to stopping the poaching again differs tremendously between the two groups of countries mentioned before. In Kenya an ivory poacher will likely get off with a fine. In Zimbabwe he could be shot if he doesn’t surrender immediately contact is made with him and then he will face up to 7 years in prison (typically 5).

As you can imagine the group of countries with the vast majority of elephants also has the toughest policies for dealing with poaching. Most of them also support limited trade in ivory.

Whether supporting this is right or wrong, it will be impossible for the Kenya group to convince the others to change this until Kenya itself shows that they are really doing what needs to be done to fight the poaching itself. Iain Douglas-Hamilton recently said that Kenya is all that is standing between the poachers and the large Southern African populations. If that is true then God help us because if Kenya’s way of fighting poaching is with fines then they will have no elephants left soon.

Now to answer your question. I believe that Kenya has held an idealistic policy that has also not been supported by tough action. Realistic pragmatism is needed and a will to save what is left.

There needs to be an all out war on poachers in East Africa, supported by the African Union, as it is a cross border problem with harsh penalties imposed.

There needs to be international pressure and action against the traffickers and the nations that allow them to ply their trade.

With regards the consumers, the ivory itself needs to be made untouchable, taboo, illegal or dangerous. That can only happen if the governments of those buying get serious. Whether or not the trade should be banned, there should only be allowed a tiny amount of extremely expensive legal ivory sold to these countries. Any revenue should be proven to have been channeled back into anti poaching and other conservation efforts.

It is possible to win this war. I mentioned that Zimbabwe has 80’000+ elephants. Well, in 1900 there were less than 500 left.

The white rhino was reintroduced into Zimbabwe from South Africa after being wiped out completely and the Black Rhino was reintroduced into South Africa from Zimbabwe after being wiped out.

So, this war can be won but to win it needs money will and champions. All are in
short supply. What it doesn’t need is procrastination, half-hearted effort, hesitation or denial. It is a war just like any other war, it needs action and massive support to win it.

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HAVE YOU SEEN ANYTHING?

EVERY GUIDE Should Read This..

Thank you to Dick Pitman for kindly allowing me to post the following Excellent article.

 

HAVE YOU SEEN ANYTHING?

 We’re pottering around – say – Mana Pools in our Land Cruiser, and someone coming the other way pulls up beside us, brandishing a hugely expensive camera. We exchange greetings. Then –
“Have you seen anything?” the driver says.I ponder for a moment. “Yes, indeed. There’s an ele mum back there with a really tiny calf. A group of absolutely superb kudu bulls. A civet, a bit earlier. Couple of impala rams sparring, really interesting to watch. Lovely light through the albidas.”My interlocutor looks a bit uncomfortable. “Yes, but have you seen…umm…something?

Something

I’m determined to drag it out of him. “What do you mean by something?”

“Well…er…you know, lions. The Dogs”.

As a matter of fact we did see ‘something’, yesterday. I give him some inspired misdirection and off he goes, wheels virtually spinning, until he vanishes in a cloud of dust.

This happens to us all the time. Our National Parks are full of vehicles hurtling around in search of this something. To them, everything else isnothing. Well, to me, this nothing is in fact everything. The wild dogs and lions – good though it is to see them – are just one part of the richly-textured tapestry of our wild places. We have ourselves had enquiries asking for “guaranteed” predator sightings. There’s only one answer to this: if you want is to see lions and wild dogs on demand, matey, go to a zoo.

Nothing?

You have to take wilderness as it comes and, if experience in recent years is anything to go by, fewer and fewer people are happy to do that.

Why?

Is the current ‘sensational predator photography cult’ a reflection of a society that has in itself become predatory? Is it the fault of an increasingly sensationalist media? Or is it the paradigm of instant gratification, ceaseless motion and search for novelty prevalent in today’s world?

A combination of all three, maybe, but I favour the latter – and probably simplest – explanation.This is borne out by what happens when one does actually put people in front of  a pride of lions.

Excitement turns to boredom in about ten minutes flat, when, as is their wont during daytime – the lions just lie around doing nothing at all or – the worst-case scenario! – all go to sleep. It takes on average about ten  minutes before boredom – signified by an insidious outbreak of foot-shuffling andsotto voce conversation – sets in. Finally, some bold spirit pipes up – “Well. Nothing much happening, then.” And so resting lions and wild dogs also get consigned to the great vacuum of nothingness with which the Park is apparently filled.

Mana lions, doing what they like most. Let them sleep!

Well, sorry for that, everyone, but this variety of “nothing” is what most predators do, most of the time. Unfortunately, this isn’t enough for the hordes of so-called “wildlife photographers”, that have invaded Parks like Mana Pools recently. Wild dogs must be persuaded to come trotting up and shove their noses into the business end of the telephoto lens. Lions that would far rather lie around sleeping must be provoked into making mock charges instead.

While writing this post, my attention was drawn to an excellent piece by Gerry van der Walt at http://photography.wild-eye.co.za/ethics-in-wildlife-photography/. Really, he says it all, but I’ll add my 0.05cents-worth while I’m at it.

At a purely personal level I couldn’t give a damn if some lunatic macho-man (or woman) gets themselves killed by a  deliberately-provoked “mock charge” that turns nasty. Unfortunately, though, there could be other outcomes as well.

For starters, a lot more visitors with little or no bush experience who see these photos all over the web may be infected by the “zoo mentality” and try the same thing, with disastrous results. Furthermore, guides and operators may be faced with immense pressure from guests to create similarly artificial photo opportunities, and risk getting labelled as cissies or worse if they refuse.

Worst of all, intrusive behaviour can have a profound impact on wildlife. Wild dog packs may be forced to move away from denning sites by constant, close-quarters intrusion. We’ve also seen tragedies that almost certainly resulted from lion becoming over-habituated to humans. And where potentially dangerous species are involved, something’s quite likely to get shot, either by a guide or by the Parks Authority, and sadly it’s not usually the offending visitor.

Meanwhile, for many, the idea of actually sitting still beside a pan for a day, just waiting and observing what goes on, what comes to drink, listening to the chorus of birdsong, absorbing the immutable peace of wilderness – in other words just being –  has become an absurdity. It seems that wild nature must increasingly be viewed through the lens of sensationalism.

 Dick Pitman Dick’s Blog: http://zim4x4.blogspot.com/

12 DECEMBER 2012

What are some extinct species found?

Answer by Rory Young:

The Coelacanth, known only from fossils and believed to have been extinct since the end of the Cretaceous period (around 66 million years ago), was rediscovered off the East coast of South Africa in 1938.  The fish was caught by Captain Hendrick Goosen and identified Marjorie Courtenay-Latimer.

This would be the equivalent of bumping into a dinosaur while looking for deer in a park.

Here is a great link: http://www.dinofish.com/

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What animal(s) kills the most humans per year?

Answer by Rory Young:

The Hippopotamus kills more people than any other mammal every year. You could say that it has been unintentionally provoked as they are so touchy that they are easy to upset. They are extremely aggressive and will often attack boats and dug out canoes as well as people on land. Very often the cause of death is drowning

The most deadly animal on the planet by far and causing unprovoked deaths is the Anopheles Mosquito which carries the Malaria Plasmodium . In 2010 between 660,000 and 1.2 million people died from malaria.

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What is the best way to defend yourself against a large cat attack?

Answer by Rory Young:

There are many accounts of people not only surviving lion attacks but killing the lion (with something other than a gun).

One of the techniques recorded as used by the the Maasai and other African tribes hunt lions was to provoke a charge; covering themselves with their shield and wedging the butt of their spear against the ground and letting the animal impale itself.

One of the most amazing stories of bravery I have ever  read was recorded by the explorer Frederick Courtney Selous.

Two Matabele (Ndebele) boys who had a cow in their care killed by a lion. Determined to redeem their honour and the cow, they set off with one shield and one Assegai. They provoked the lion to charge by approaching it while it was feeding.

The intention was for one of them to let the lion attack, while protecting himself with the shield. This would distract the lion, allowing the second chap to spear it. This is clever and shows they understood lion behaviour. A lion that attacks more than one person will usually stay on that one individual.

The first boy did hold the shield and let the lion attack him whilst covering himself with the shield and the second did spear the lion and kill it.

Unfortunately the boy who held the shield was killed by the lion and the second boy was mauled but survived. The cow was retrieved.

              Matabele Warrior

Then there is the amazing story of game ranger Harry  Wolhuter who was attacked by two lions while riding a horse in the Kruger Park in 1904.

One of the lions grabbed him in its mouth by his shoulder and dragged him off to eat him.

Somehow he managed to draw his sheath knife knife and stab the lion, mortally wounding it.

Harry Wolhuter

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