African elephants call each other by unique names, new study shows

In this undated photo, an African elephant matriarch leads her calf away from danger in northern Kenya. (AP)
Short Url
Updated 11 June 2024
Follow

African elephants call each other by unique names, new study shows

  • Researchers tested their results by playing recordings to individual elephants, who responded more energetically, ears flapping and trunk lifted, to recordings that contained their names

WASHINGTON: African elephants call each other and respond to individual names — something that few wild animals do, according to new research published Monday.
The names are one part of elephants’ low rumbles that they can hear over long distances across the savanna. Scientists believe that animals with complex social structures and family groups that separate and then reunite often may be more likely to use individual names.
“If you’re looking after a large family, you’ve got to be able to say, ‘Hey, Virginia, get over here!’” said Duke University ecologist Stuart Pimm, who was not involved in the study.
It’s extremely rare for wild animals to call each other by unique names. Humans have names, of course, and our dogs come when their names are called. Baby dolphins invent their own names, called signature whistles, and parrots may also use names.
Each of these naming species also possesses the ability to learn to pronounce unique new sounds throughout their lives — a rare talent that elephants also possess.
For the study in Nature Ecology & Evolution, biologists used machine learning to detect the use of names in a sound library of savanna elephant vocalizations recorded at Kenya’s Samburu National Reserve and Amboseli National Park.
The researchers followed the elephants in jeeps to observe who called out and who appeared to respond — for example, if a mother called to a calf, or a matriarch called to a straggler who later rejoined the family group.
Analyzing only the audio data, the computer model predicted which elephant was being addressed 28 percent of the time, likely due to the inclusion of its name. When fed meaningless data, the model only accurately labeled 8 percent of calls.
“Just like humans, elephants use names, but probably don’t use names in the majority of utterances, so we wouldn’t expect 100 percent,” said study author and Cornell University biologist Mickey Pardo.
Elephant rumbles include sounds that are below the range of human hearing. The scientists still don’t know which part of the vocalization is the name.
Researchers tested their results by playing recordings to individual elephants, who responded more energetically, ears flapping and trunk lifted, to recordings that contained their names. Sometimes elephants entirely ignored vocalizations addressed to others.
“Elephants are incredibly social, always talking and touching each other — this naming is probably one of the things that underpins their ability to communicate to individuals,” said co-author and Colorado State University ecologist George Wittemyer, who is also a scientific adviser for nonprofit Save the Elephants.
“We just cracked open the door a bit to the elephant mind.”
 

 


Baby flamingos saved from drought-decimated lake in Algeria

Updated 22 July 2024
Follow

Baby flamingos saved from drought-decimated lake in Algeria

OUM EL BOUAGHI: Around 300 pink flamingo chicks were rescued by volunteers in eastern Algeria after the salt lake where they hatched dried up following years of high temperatures and drought.
Thousands of flamingos migrate each year to nest in Lake Tinsilt, located around 450 kilometers (about 280 miles) southeast of the capital Algiers.
It is one of the largest wetlands in the country, with an area of more than 20 square kilometers.
“Barely a month ago there was water here,” volunteer Mourad Ajroud told AFP on Friday, pointing to what is now a vast expanse of cracked earth littered with the carcasses of dead birds.
The disappearance of the lake, which locals and Algerian media attribute to high temperatures and a years-long drought, has driven the adult flamingos away.
They left behind their unhatched eggs and defenseless chicks, dozens of which have died from hunger, thirst, poaching and wolf attacks.
A group of volunteers provided their cars and trucks to transfer 283 pink flamingos about 50 kilometers away to Lake Mahidiya, about 50 kilometers away.
The wetland near Ain Mlila remains flush thanks to a steady flow of water from nearby rivers and lakes.
The rescue operation was initiated by local amateur photographer Tarek Kawajlia, who documents the wildlife in his area, and noticed the decrease in the size of the lake and the flight of birds.
The volunteers carry out “morning and evening patrols to follow the chicks until they recover and are able to fly, so that they can return next year to the sabkha (marsh) and life can resume its normal course,” Kawajlia told AFP.
Ajroud, 53, said the group was not able to save all the birds.
“We couldn’t transport them all,” he said sadly, as another volunteer takes an injured bird to a veterinary clinic.
A few hours after the chicks were released at their new habitat, some adult birds joined them.
“The operation was successful and the parents found their little ones in a magnificent scene,” Kawajlia said in a comment on one of his photos posted to Facebook.
Lake Tinsilt is one of the around 50 bodies of water in Algeria declared wetlands of international importance under the Ramsar international environment treaty to protect wetlands.
Last year, about a hundred pink flamingos died at Lake Telamine in western Algeria’s Oran province due to wastewater pollution, according to environmental activists.


Artist swaps British Museum coin with fake

Updated 22 July 2024
Follow

Artist swaps British Museum coin with fake

  • Ile Sartuzi said the idea came to him when he saw a museum volunteer handing visitors coins to handle

LONDON: A Brazilian conceptual artist swapped a historic British coin for a fake in the British Museum to highlight the large number of foreign objects it holds.
Ile Sartuzi said the idea came to him when he saw a museum volunteer handing visitors coins to handle.
He asked for an English Civil War-era silver coin because “It is one of the few British things in the British Museum” and then created a diversion while he swapped it for the fake.
Sartuzi told Reuters he deposited the original coin in the museum’s collection box on the way out. The Art Newspaper first reported his act, which he recounted in a video made for his master’s degree at Goldsmiths, University of London.
The British Museum said it would inform police about the incident, which took place in June.
“This is a disappointing and derivative act that abuses a volunteer led service aimed at giving visitors the opportunity to handle real items and engage with history,” a museum spokesperson said when asked for comment.
Sartuzi said institutions such as the British museum and France’s Louvre view themselves as the “holders of the treasures of humanity. The problem is that these institutions are the basis of imperialist cultures that looted a lot of these objects from the global south and world.”
The British Museum has been under scrutiny over the way it acquired some of the artefacts it holds, with some countries asking for pieces to be returned. Examples include the Parthenon Sculptures and Nigeria’s bronzes looted by British troops in 1897. It did not respond to Sartuzi’s allegations.
Sartuzi, who has exhibited in Brazil, Portugal and London, said he had sought advice from an art lawyer before swapping the coin.
The Museum dismissed an employee a year ago and ordered a review of security after it discovered hundreds of items had been stolen from its collection or were missing.


A 12-year-old girl is accused of smothering her 8-year-old cousin over an iPhone

iPhones are displayed during an event in Cupertino, Calif., on Tuesday, Sept. 10, 2019. (AP)
Updated 21 July 2024
Follow

A 12-year-old girl is accused of smothering her 8-year-old cousin over an iPhone

  • The recording shows the older child using bedding to suffocate her cousin as the younger girl slept in the top bunk, Gibson District Attorney Frederick Agee’s statement said

HUMBOLDT, Tennessee: A 12-year-old girl in Tennessee has been charged with murder, accused of smothering her 8-year-old cousin as the younger girl slept. A relative said they had been arguing over an iPhone.
A security camera recorded the killing, inside the bedroom they shared on July 15 in Humboldt, Tennessee, the county prosecutor said.
The recording shows the older child using bedding to suffocate her cousin as the younger girl slept in the top bunk, Gibson District Attorney Frederick Agee’s statement said. After the child died, “the juvenile cleaned up the victim and repositioned her body,” Agee said.
A relative told WREG-TV in Memphis that the girls had been arguing over an iPhone after coming from out of town to stay with their grandmother.
The girl was charged with first-degree murder and tampering with evidence after authorities obtained the video on Wednesday.
“I consider this to be one of the most disturbing violent acts committed by either an adult or juvenile that my office has prosecuted,” Agee wrote in the statement.
He said he would petition a judge to prosecute the girl, who turns 13 later this month, in adult court, which would allow for “a lengthier sentence, whether that will be through incarceration or supervision with court-ordered conditions.”

 


Watermelon soap from cosmetics firm Lush will support Palestinian children’s mental health

Updated 19 July 2024
Follow

Watermelon soap from cosmetics firm Lush will support Palestinian children’s mental health

  • Soap made from natural ingredients and safe synthetics such as rapeseed, coconut, watermelon, bergamot, rose

LONDON: British cosmetics retailer Lush has launched a watermelon soap, the proceeds of which will fund essential mental health support and trauma counseling for children in Gaza and the West Bank.

Watermelons have emerged as a symbol of solidarity with Palestine, as they contain the colors of the Palestinian flag.

The Lush soap is made from natural ingredients and safe synthetics such as rapeseed, coconut, watermelon, bergamot and rose.

In 2011, the British Medical Journal published a review study that found high rates of post-traumatic stress disorder among Palestinian children. New research by Save the Children has reported that feelings of depression, hyperactivity, a preference for being alone, and aggression are now reported by 95 percent of children in Gaza.

Lush’s support is nothing new. The company sources extra virgin olive oil from Palestine’s Marda Permaculture Farm, which is dedicated to social and environmental regeneration. The farm encourages sustainable agricultural practices and offers economic opportunities to local communities.
 


Say cheese: Japanese scientists make robot face ‘smile’ with living skin

Updated 18 July 2024
Follow

Say cheese: Japanese scientists make robot face ‘smile’ with living skin

TOKYO: Japanese scientists have devised a way to attach living skin tissue to robotic faces and make them “smile,” in a breakthrough that holds out promise of applications in cosmetics and medicine.
Researchers at the University of Tokyo grew human skin cells in the shape of a face and pulled it into a wide grin, using embedded ligament-like attachments.
The result, though eerie, is an important step toward building more life-like robots, said lead researcher Shoji Takeuchi.
“By attaching these actuators and anchors, it became possible to manipulate living skin for the first time,” he added.

Minghao Nie, a researcher of University of Tokyo shows a face mold covered in human skin tissue at his lab in Tokyo on July 12, 2024. (REUTERS)

The smiling robot, featured in a study published online last month by Cell Reports Physical Science, is the fruit of a decade of research by Takeuchi and his lab on how best to combine biological and artificial machines.
Living tissue has numerous advantages over metals and plastics, Takeuchi said, ranging from the energy efficiency of brains and muscles to skin’s ability to repair itself.
Looking ahead, the researchers aim to add more elements to the lab-grown skin, including a circulatory system and nerves. That could lead to safer testing platforms for cosmetics and drugs absorbed through the skin.
It could also produce more realistic and functional coverings for robots. Still, there remains the challenge of ridding people of the strange or unnerving feelings evoked by machines that fall just short of being entirely convincing.
“There’s still a bit of that creepiness to it,” Takeuchi acknowledged about the robot. “I think that making robots out of the same materials as humans and having them show the same expressions might be one key to overcoming the uncanny valley.”