Would less than lethal rounds have any affect on an elephant?

Answer by Rory Young:

Yes. They would enrage the animal. There are much better ways to deter elephants which I will explain further on.

This is what you have coming at you if you piss him off!

I was just recently looking into a story about three people who were killed fairly recently in Kazungula in Zambia (Elephant kills 3 people in Kazungula) and subsequently discovered that it had been shot with bird-shot from a shot-gun the night before.

This sort of scenario is quite common with elephants. In a misguided attempt to deter them from crops people end up making them dangerous and this often ends in tragedy.

There are better ways to deter them such as hot pepper plants for example. Have a look at Elephant Pepper They can be planted or the pepper mixed with old engine oil and smeared on twine which is then strung around areas that need to be protected.

Elephants hate these!

Electric fences are popular but elephants often quickly learn how to break them without being shocked.

Chillies can also be mixed with green vegetation or dung and burnt. The smoke is a deterrent to elephants.

Burning a mixture of elephant dung and chillies.

Elephants don’t like noise so banging pots helps. However, this should be done from a good distance and preferably indoors as from close by it can cause the elephants to charge. Shots fired can also work but of course one should never fire a shot into the air (what goes up must come down) so blank cartridges are best.

Bright and flashing lights are also useful but again not from anywhere near the elephant/s as these can also cause them to attack.

All in all, chillies and other such “passive” deterrents are the safest methods for all concerned.

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How smart are elephants?

Answer by Rory Young:

“The animal which surpasses all others in wit and mind”, said Aristotle.

Mature Female African Elephant

Since Aristotle and long before, people who have been privileged to spend time observing and interacting with elephants have expressed similar sentiments.

They have been trained for thousands of years to do everything from play soccer to destroy the enemy on the battlefield. They were the tanks of the ancient world and the front end loaders and the tractors.. Their size and strength are of course second to none.

There are many tales and legends told about elephants both long ago and today in many different languages and among very different cultures. What is so telling about these stories is that they don’t usually go on about their incredible size and strength because that is obvious. What they all eagerly tell is of the great intelligence, formidable memories and complex nature of these gentle giants.

Now I have to be honest and say that when people ask me how clever a particular animal such as a lion for example is I usually say, “a lion is a genius at being an lion”. What I am trying to say by this is that every animal has evolved to perfectly fit its niche and may be very dumb and doing what doesn’t benefit it and very clever at doing what does.

However, when someone asks me about Elephants, I get very excited and my little story about all animals being geniuses goes out the window. I immediately start comparing them to us. Here is why.

Like us elephants are self-awareThis has been proven scientifically through a number of recent studies. In one study an elephant called Happy would touch a white cross painted on her forehead, a test used to test self-awareness in children. She could only see it in the mirror:

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/61004…

Elephants practice altruism. There is a now famous story of an Indian elephant called Chadrasekhan who was working lifting poles off a truck as it moved along and placing them in holes dug in the ground. When Chandrasekhan came to one hole he refused to put the log in. Eventually the Mahout checked and discovered a dog sleeping in it. Only when the dog was gone would Chandrasekhan put the pole in. This sort of behaviour is typical of elephants.

Elephants really do have long memories. Elephants eat an incredible variety of foods and need to cover large distances to  get it. They need to know where to go at what time of year. They learn this and remember it. They also have complex communication and societies and so need to remember all the different individuals’ voices and smells so as to be socially adept. The result is they have incredibly good memories.

This is also shown in the size and development of their brains which are proportionally 0.08 percent of their body-weight while that of a horse is 0.02 percent of its body weight. This was all figured out be a scientist called Herbert Haug. He also discovered that the brains of elephant and humans are both highly convoluted, which increases the surface area of the brain.

I once had a love hate relationship with an elephant at Fothergill Island in about 1991. Every day I would drive out the front gate and a bull elephant we called Left Hook (he had extra curve to his left tusk) would charge my vehicle. And every day I would rev my engine and bang the door and tell him to sod off and then we would go our separate ways. Every single day this happened without fail. If other vehicles came and went he would ignore them and then go for mine.

One day I went out in a different vehicle, stopped nearby and watched for a while. The wind changed, he caught my scent and of course we went through the whole noisy rigmarole again before I was allowed to leave with my by now completely traumatized tourists.

More recently it has been found that spindle neurons play an important role in the development of intelligent behaviour. Spindle neurons are found in the brains of humans, great apes, dolphins and elephants.

There are many other behaviours exhibited by elephants such as grieving (see my answer to What non-human animals grieve?), playing, mimicking  producing art and using tools, all of which serve to show their flexible and powerful minds.

Elephant painting in thailand.

However, what I found most amazing is their problem-solving ability. To illustrate this, and because I risk happily waffling on forever, I will leave you with one last story:

Working Asian elephants sometimes wear wooden bells. The young elephants will deliberately stuff them with clay so that they can sneak into banana groves without being heard in order to steal as much as possible!

A wild bull elephant “playing” with legendary Zimbabwean game ranger Willie De Beer. The bull could kill him in an instant if it wanted to..

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How many teeth does a hippo have?

Answer by Rory Young:

Common Hippopotamus:
Young hippos have thirty two milk teeth including three incisors, one canine, four premolars on each half of the jaw on both sides.

Hippo skull

Adult hippos have thirty six teeth including two incisors, one canine, three premolars and three molars on each half of the jaw on both sides.

However! Adult hippos can retain some of their milk teeth for some years after developing their adult teeth meaning some hippos can have as many as fourty teeth for a few years.

The largest teeth are commonly referred to as tusks. These are the canines.

The front incisors are commonly referred to as fighting tusks as they are primarily responsible for inflicting wounds during fights.

Male Hippos Fighting

I have found a number of dead males killed during fighting over the years. In every case the dead animal had been bitten through the spine. Interestingly this is also the way male lions tend to kill each other when fighting (The mane protests male lion’s necks).

The Pygmy Hippopotamus
Young  Pygmy hippos  have the same configuration of milk teeth as common hippos, consisting of 32 teeth.
There are 3 incisors, 1 canine and 4 premolars in each half jaw. Canines of an adult pygmy are huge and can cause serious injurie

Adult pygmy hippos only have 34 teeth, so 2 less than in the common hippo.
These are  2 incisors, 1 canine,3 premolars and 3 molars in each half of upper jaw, 1 incisor, 1 canine, 3 premolars and 3 molars in each half of lower jaw on both sides.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fil…

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Which animal will best represent your personality and why?

Answer by Rory Young:

Photo:Benny Van Zyl

The Honey Badger

That’s the cheeky one on the left confusing the lion with his willingness to take him on.

For some reason I have always admired, loved and identified with them. I don’t know how much I resemble a honey badger but I like to think I do and I certainly admire and strive for many of their qualities.

The go about their business with determination and don’t look for trouble. If you leave them alone they will leave you alone.

They are not the biggest or the strongest but they can take more punishment than any other animal by far.

They are much smarter than generally realized and are especially adaptable and resourceful. They are even known to use tools. Throw a curve ball at them and they will growl and grouch and then just get on with doing what has to be done. They NEVER give up.

They are much more gregarious than people imagine too but when they want to be left alone though just leave them be. They are caring and loving parents and will fight to the death to protect their young.

Most importantly they make me laugh. Maybe because I see something of myself in them maybe not but they always seem to defy and then beat the odds. I hope by the time I have lived all there is to live that I will have been a Honey Badger.

P.S. Thanks for the A2A.

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Why is it safe to go on safari in an open vehicle?

Answer by Rory Young:

It is not necessarily safe in the slightest! It depends entirely on your guide!

Elephants can pulverise a vehicle whether it is a sedan or a specially adapted safari 4×4. This is the recent result of an elephant’s annoyance in Kruger National Park in South Africa:

Lions will leave you alone if you remain seated. However, if the guide doesn’t tell his clients or if they don’t follow safety instructions and stand up then they are no longer “a part” of the big-noisy-monster-thing and can be seen as individuals. They can go for you. Kids are a huge problem.

Here’s a little secret, I can call lions out of the bush. How do I do it? I use make a noise like a baby crying! Kid’s voices + lions = immediate interest, vehicle or no vehicle.

One of George Adamson’s lions from “Born Free” went in through the vehicle window of w a Park Warden and tried to get his baby. (The same lion later killed the gardener but that is another story).

I know of one incident of a leopard going over the bonnet of an open landrover and having a go at the driver. That though was an extreme situation and an exception to the rule.

Regarding guides and what makes a good one, here is an excellent article by Dick Pitman, a conservationist I am honoured to have known for many years: HAVE YOU SEEN ANYTHING?

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What should you do when you’re attacked by killer bees?

Answer by Rory Young:

Matan Shelomi‘s answer is damn fine advice! I can’t add to it but perhaps my own experience of being attacked by a swarm of African (killer) bees can illustrate how good that advice is...

In November 1995 I was leading an anti-poaching patrol in the Zambezi Valley on the Zambian side of the river.  I was carrying my .375 H&H and leading as it was a dangerous game area so the immediate threat was bumping into lion, buffalo, elephant or other beasties.

The two scouts were armed with Chinese SKS and following about 15 metres bank and flanking to either sides. We were following a river bed as it was an ideal place to cast for poachers’ tracks as they would have to cross it on their way to cross the Zambezi river into Zimbabwe to kill rhinos. The rains had not yet come, so it was bone dry. The scouts’ job was to cover me against poachers and keep an eye out for dangerous game that I might miss.

We had another chap from South Africa who had been given permission to accompany us as an observer. I told him to just walk quietly behind me and either lie down, run or stay still, depending on the signal I would give him if anything happened.

Before setting out I asked him if he was allergic to anything and he told me that he was highly allergic to bees. I had a very comprehensive first aid kit in my pack but of course I intended to avoid bees.

That day CNN reported that the closest town, Kariba, (higher than and above the valley) was the hottest town on earth. The temperature was reported to be 52C (125.60ºF) but according to later government reports some places in the valley reached 56C (132.80ºF).

As we carefully moved in a loose formation down the dry riverbed we came to a bend. There was a steep walled bank to the left inside curve and lots of large boulders, many the height of a man which I had to climb over and round to make my way forward. All the while I was checking for leopard especially but also snakes and of course hoping to pick up poachers’ tracks in the sand between the rocks.

As we approached the curve I crept slowly to the inside while the two scouts went wide. The South African chap was told to wait round the corner till given the all clear to move forward again. The scouts were about 40 meters back and about 15 meters apart.

I came round the corner and heard a loud humming. I was instantly captivated by the sight that met me. An entire hive of bees was attached to the rock embankment in front of me. Because of the extreme heat they had brought the whole hive out onto the rock face and were buzzing to cool it. It looked like a single living organism and I stood there amazed.

As I stood there in silence, the game scouts started getting nervous, wondering why I was not moving or signalling. To them this meant imminent danger and they assumed I had encountered a leopard or something else at extremely close quarters.

Then the buzz of the hive changed. It became suddenly louder and the bees started flying straight at me.

As they did so I remembered the South African and shouted out his name and that he should run. In just the time it took to do that my head was already becoming covered in bees.

I turned, and remembering what I had been taught, began to run like hell!  I couldn’t go near the South African as I could get him killed. I couldn’t run downstream as I had no idea what was that way and could run straight into dangerous game and furthermore the boulders were too high to get away easily. So my only option was to run towards the scouts, intending to head out of the river bed and into the open where we could keep running whilst at least being able to see what was ahead. I began shouting to them that there were bees and to run away from the river.

By this time the bees were buzzing through my hair (yes, ha ha, I still had lots of thick hair in those days) and over my collar and stinging my scalp, face and neck everywhere. Also my back and arms to a lesser degree.

Then the scouts opened fire.

In their minds I had bumped into a group of poachers or a leopard and was now running and leading whatever it was towards them. They just emptied their magazines in my general direction, hoping to hit whatever the threat was to them but not worried about hitting me.

So now not only did I have a swarm of African bees all over me and stinging the hell of me but I had two fools shooting at me too. I hit the ground till they had finished unintentionally shooting bees out of the air and then resumed my attempt at a 3 minute mile, this time passing between the scouts (who by now were changing magazines) and out into the open.

One of the scouts was about five foot tall and the other about six foot five tall and shortly the tall one went flying past me. The bees were thankfully first diverted to the short one and then slowly left us alone.

We walked round, picked up the South African chap, who hadn’t been stung and began to administer first aid. The two scouts to each other and the South African to me. I also radioed camp for a vehicle to come and pick us up urgently and that I had been badly stung so might need evacuation.

You do not take a bee sting out with your fingers. The sting has the venom sac still attached so if you pinch it between your fingers you are squeezing more poison into you so you scrape them out with a knife.

He gave up counting after scraping 23 stings out of my scalp alone. I was stung all over my face, neck, back and arms and by the time the vehicle reached us I was feeling rough as hell. By the time they got me back to camp I was sick as a dog.

I had already pumped myself with antihistamine and painkillers but it didn’t feel like it made any difference.

I was evacuated to Kariba and after recovering discovered that my knife had been so sharp that when they were scraping stings out of my head, they were also shaving patches of hair, so with all the stings I looked like a madman.

The doctor estimated I had been stung seventy to eighty times. It felt like it.

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What non-human animals grieve? How does it physiologically affect them and why do they do it?

elebones
Elephants mourning

Answer by Rory Young:

Here is what I have seen and what I believe.

When a herd of elephants come across the bones of a dead elephant they will immediately stop feeding and become silent. It is as if they there is a deliberate solemnity in honour of their dead friend.

The quietly move among the bones with all signs of dominance or aggression removed from their body language, in fact clearly submissive in behaviour..

They will carefully smell along the surface of the bones almost but not quite touching them. It is as though they are caressing where the skin once was.Then they will pick up a bone and wander around or just stand holding it as though unsure of how to let go of it. Sometimes they will throw it down and then gently pick it up again, not wanting to be parted from the memory.

When my mother was dying I had to say goodbye to her over a telephone. I desperately wanted to be near her. I took a photo of her and piece of jewellery she had given me the last time I had seen her. When the grief came I would hold it. I see no difference between what I was doing and what the elephants do.

There are further examples throughout nature. One of the saddest things I have seen is a baboon mother with her dead baby. Unable to accept the terrible reality she would try to groom it or just sit holding and staring at it. This went on for days.

Fortunately or unfortunately life is both beautiful and terrible — for us and the animals. I believe they do it for the same reason we do, because it these experiences are almost beyond our ability to handle.

Here is a link to an incredible site http://www.elephantvoices.org/mu… about the gestures and communications of elephants including how they mourn.

Lastly, animals also grieve for their human friends…

Jack Russell “Squeak” lying with the body of his murdered master, Terry Ford.