How many muscles does an elephant’s trunk have? And 6 other elephant facts

How many muscles does an elephant’s trunk have? And 6 other elephant facts

Elephants, found in both Africa and Asia, are vital to maintaining the rich biodiversity of the ecosystems that they share with other species.

WWF focuses its conservation efforts on saving the world’s largest mammal in sites across both continents. We work with wildlife managers, governments and local communities to stop poaching, reduce human-wildlife conflict and improve monitoring and research.

Here’s a look at some interesting elephant facts.

1. How many muscles does an elephant trunk have?

An elephant trunk has up to 40,000 muscles in it. A human has more than 600 muscles in his/her entire body. Elephants use their trunks to pick up objects, trumpet warnings and greet one another.

2. What's the difference between Asian and African elephants?

There are more than 10 physical characteristics that differentiate Asian and African elephants. For example, Asian elephants are smaller than their African brethren, and their ears are straight at the bottom, distinct from the large fan-shaped ears of the African species. Only some male Asian elephants have tusks, while African elephants—both male and female—grow tusks.

3. Do elephants have a dominant tusk?

Elephants are either left- or right-tusked, and the dominant tusk is generally smaller because of wear and tear from frequent use.

4. How often do elephants give birth?

Elephants have the longest gestation period of any mammal—22 months. Females give birth every four to five years. Matriarchs also dominate the complex social structure of elephants and calves, while male elephants tend to live in isolation or in small bachelor groups.

5. How do elephants help their ecosystem thrive?

Elephants are important ecosystem engineers. Many tree species in central African and Asian forests rely on seeds passing through an elephant's digestive tract before they can germinate.

6. What's the most urgent threat to elephants?

Today, the greatest threat to African elephants is wildlife crime, primarily poaching for the illegal ivory trade, while the greatest threat to Asian elephants is habitat loss and resulting human-elephant conflict. WWF uses our expertise in policy, wildlife trade, advocacy, and communications in an effort to stop wildlife crime and illegal ivory trade, reduce human-elephant conflict, and protect elephant habitats. You can help, too, by signing on to stop wildlife crime.

7. How does WWF help humans and elephants peacefully coexist?

As wild spaces shrink, elephants and humans are forced into contact and often clash. WWF helps prevent and mitigate elephant-human conflict through various programs, including electric fences to protect crops and trained response teams to safely drive wild elephants away from farms and human habitation.



Published August 10, 2018 at 05:00AM

Legendary undercover investigators protect forests

Legendary undercover investigators protect forests

Week to week, their names and professions vary, changing to fit the different surroundings and people they move between. They’re the chameleons of the rain forest.

“I watch a lot of James Bond movies,” one of them jokes.

The men in question can’t be named or pictured, because they’re undercover investigators for a deforestation watchdog group called Eyes on the Forest (EoF). And they’re routinely putting their safety on the line to protect Thirty Hills, one of the last great swaths of rainforest on the Indonesian island of Sumatra.

Since the 1980s, Sumatra has been clearing its forests at a breakneck pace, largely for palm oil and pulpwood plantations. Eyes on the Forest was founded in 2004 in Riau Province--the epicenter of the deforestation--to expose that destruction to the world.

The group has since become legendary. Through detective work, photography, satellite imagery, and, more recently, drone footage, EoF has produced a slew of investigative reports detailing Sumatra’s deforestation, as well as the political and corporate corruption driving it.

Their investigations have helped land six Indonesian government officials in jail, including a former governor of Riau Province. EoF reports were key to a campaign against Asia Pulp & Paper, one of the world’s largest paper companies with a deforestation legacy of more than 2 million hectares, that forced APP to pledge to stop pulping tiger habitat to make toilet paper. Google lent them assistance to develop a cutting-edge online map that tracks deforestation and deforestation drivers like APP. Eyes on the Forest uses satellite imagery NASA provides freely to the public and WWF-Indonesia is a part of Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency's science initiative to test their radar satellite images.

EoF’s investigations have long focused on Sumatra’s Riau Province. In 2014, the group expanded its network to Borneo as several NGOs established a consortium; and in 2015 the network was redeveloped as Kalimantan’s Eyes on the Forest network. In 2016, EoF was asked to open a new network in Sumatra’s Jambi Province, to monitor loss of the vulnerable forests of Thirty Hills.

“WWF-Indonesia and partners had just secured a concession there to protect a big chunk of forest outside Thirty Hills National Park,” says Jan Vertefeuille, head of wildlife conservation advocacy for WWF-US. “And we believed that encroachers had cleared some of the forest in the concession while we were waiting to get the license. Eyes on the Forest brought the model they developed in Riau for use in monitoring the concession.”

In March 2016, with support from a handful of office-based staff, four EoF investigators began exploring Thirty Hills in disguise. They quickly discovered a number of encroachments in the forest concession; the biggest was a 3,200-acre palm oil plantation. “We heard about that one through a local informant,” says Nursamsu, EoF’s founder and coordinator. “Based on what we found, we believe a village leader hostile to WWF ‘sold’ it to a powerful individual in Jakarta.”

Thanks to that discovery, PT. Alam Bukit Tigapuluh (ABT), the company that WWF-Indonesia and partners started to manage the concession, has filed a police complaint against the plantation owner. Meanwhile, EoF’s investigators continue to patrol other parts of the concession undercover.

It’s dangerous work. In 2007 during a patrol in Riau’s Tesso Nilo National Park, one of the investigators was attacked by angry mob, kidnapped, and held hostage by an encroacher. “The encroacher and his men beat me and the others with me, and then took me to his house,” he says. “It took six hours for us to be released.”

Despite that experience, the investigator says he’s as committed as ever to protecting Thirty Hills and Sumatra’s other forests. Plus, he likes his job. “You have to think on your feet and blend into different settings and situations. You have to adapt quickly to new things,” he says of his work. “I enjoy that.”



Published August 09, 2018 at 05:00AM

Congratulations, Bahamas! We Did It!

Congratulations, Bahamas! We Did It!

The waters around The Bahamas are classic Caribbean: vibrant shades of turquoise from afar, crystal-clear on the surface, and teeming with corals, seagrasses, and animals of every color. Because these diverse species evolved together over eons, they are interdependent. Each species relies on others for food, so removing even one can throw the ecosystem out of balance.

One species—spiny lobster—is particularly popular, both on land and at sea. People enjoy the crustacean, as do dolphins, sharks, turtles and other animals. That’s why it’s so important that The Bahamas’ lobster fishermen just earned certification from the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) for managing their fishery to the highest available standard of environmental performance.

Eight years ago, World Wildlife Fund began collaborating with The Nature Conservancy as well as Bahamian government officials, exporters, and fishermen to manage the fishery sustainably. MSC certification means that they have made significant strides in their environmental performance, helping position the fishery to produce food and jobs as sustainably as possible.

“We eagerly accept the MSC stamp of approval,” said Mia Isaacs, president of the Bahamas Marine Export Association. “It's been a collaborative effort and we are thankful to all the stakeholders, especially the fishermen. As we continually improve our spiny lobster fishery, we aim for product of The Bahamas to become synonymous with strength, collaboration and sustainability. MSC certification is a proud accomplishment. Congratulations, Bahamas! We did it!”

WWF engaged leading U.S. companies, such as Costco, Kroger, Hyatt, Hilton, Tequesta Bay, and Supervalu, to use their buying power to encourage fishermen to work toward MSC certification and to provide the financial support needed to achieve their goal.

“Earning certification is a win-win-win for the lobster fishermen, their buyers, consumers, and for all the animals that enjoy lobster as much as we humans do,” said Wendy Goyert, WWF’s lead specialist for Latin America fisheries in transition. “This is a huge achievement for The Bahamas, and we congratulate everyone for working so hard to manage this precious resource for the long-term.”



Published August 07, 2018 at 05:00AM

Kui Buri National Park’s only female ranger shatters stereotypes

Kui Buri National Park’s only female ranger shatters stereotypes

Woraya Makal comes across as a gentle and soft-spoken woman, but she is clear about what she wants and does not mince her words, especially when explaining why she chose her current occupation.

“I became a ranger because [as a ranger] you have the right to make decisions on your own,” she says of her work.

“And because I love nature.”

Woraya, called Kwan, is the only female ranger in the whole of Kui Buri National Park - a protected area in south-western Thailand, that borders Myanmar to the west.

A veteran in her field, Kwan has spent almost a decade engaging in wildlife protection and patrolling national parks. At Kui Buri, where she has worked for two and a half years, she is one of 116 rangers. 

In Thailand, women like Kwan remain a rarity. But neither this nor the voices alleging that women aren’t suited for the ranger lifestyle – which comprises long working hours in spartan and sometimes dangerous conditions, away from loved ones – have prevented her from living her truth.

“I think [gender] doesn’t matter for your occupation. Any job that a man can do a woman can do also. Sometimes even better,” Kwan asserts, chuckling.

Like her colleagues, she ventures out on patrol for 15 days each month, sometimes in the company of WWF staff. Armed with a digital camera – an item she rarely parts with – Kwan documents wildlife movements throughout the park and looks out for snares left behind by poachers.

At the end of each day, she sends her findings and photographs via a mobile app to her supervisors, who log it onto the SMART patrolling system –software that allows for better planning of rangers’ and WWF’s joint protection efforts.

“When I go on my motorbike, it is to check where the animals come out and give that information to the tourists,” she says.

Over the years, Kui Buri has become known as one of the best places in Thailand for spotting Asian elephants and mighty gaurs (also known as Indian bison). If you’re lucky, you might even see a rare banteng, a species of wild forest cattle, among the herds of gaur. Because Kui Buri’s wildlife attracts visitors from all over the world, one of Kwan’s responsibilities is to look out for the people admiring the animals and share information with the park’s guides as to the wildlife’s whereabouts.

She also engages in habitat improvement. The activity— which includes removing weeds from the park’s open fields with fellow rangers and WWF staffers and replanting native vegetation—ensures elephants have enough food within the park and don’t venture out in search of food in neighboring plantations.

Kwan lives for much of the year at a ranger base camp in the park. That, and the collaborative nature of her work means that close alliances are formed quickly. “The way we make jokes and talk to each other it’s really like family,” she proclaims when talking about her seven-person ranger unit.

That’s not to say she doesn’t miss her loved ones. Kwan admits her close-knit community is no substitute for her two teenage sons, who live with their father in another province.

A 2016 survey conducted by WWF 11 Asian countries, including Thailand, revealed that that 45% of the 530 rangers surveyed saw their families less than five days a month. Kwan visits her children twice a month, at most – a choice she makes with a heavy heart but one she sees as necessary to pay for their education.

Kwan concedes she sometimes faces criticism for choosing a profession that separates her from her sons because she is a woman and a mother, but she doesn’t dwell on negative voices.

“If I care about what other people think, I will not provide for [my children],” she says. “I work for them.”

This passion for her family, and for the park and its wildlife, drive Kwan and rangers like her, who serve so bravely on the frontlines of conservation.

Back a ranger: Help the women and men protecting nature and wildlife



Published July 31, 2018 at 05:00AM

Rare footage shows successful tiger breeding

Rare footage shows successful tiger breeding

Rare and never-before-seen footage of a Sumatran tiger family offers exciting proof of tigers breeding successfully in the wild. The video shows a female tigress - named Rima - and her 3 cubs growing up in Central Sumatra. Rima then meets Uma, a male Sumatra tiger, and breeds successfully to have four more tiger cubs.

Yet, tigers are endangered, facing a high risk of extinction in the wild. Today, there are only around 3,900 wild tigers worldwide. That’s more than a 95% decline from perhaps 100,000 just over a century ago.

Top predators in the food chain, wild tigers play a crucial role in maintaining balanced ecosystems that support thousands of other species and millions of people.

“If left to their own devices with enough habitat, prey and protection, tigers will breed,” said Ginette Hemley, senior vice president for wildlife conservation, WWF. “This video shows progress toward tiger population recovery in Indonesia and demonstrates what’s possible when governments, businesses and local communities work together toward a conservation goal.”

WWF works closely with partners around the world to achieve the TX2 goal—to double the number of tigers in the wild. This includes supporting rangers with proper training and equipment, collaborating with governments to strengthen protected areas management, and ensuring that local communities benefit from tiger conservation.

WWF also works with supporters worldwide to urge their local governments to prioritize tiger conservation, buy sustainably-sourced products that do not contribute to habitat destruction and ensure that they do not visit tiger farms or buy illegal tiger parts.



Published July 30, 2018 at 05:00AM

Sumatran tiger caught on camera

Sumatran tiger caught on camera

The camera traps are part of a collaboration between WWF and the Riau Forestry Department to help determine which species abound in the region. An important conservation tool, the cameras are equipped with infrared sensors that take a picture whenever they sense movement in the forest.  Around 18 cameras were strategically installed back in March of 2017 to support WWF’s intensive tiger monitoring in central Sumatra.

“This is the first time we have caught such a beautiful image of a tiger here. I feel our hard work has paid off just by seeing this majestic creature roaming on the island,” said Febri Anggriawan, WWF-Indonesia’s Tiger Research Coordinator leading this study.

The smallest in size of all wild tigers, the Sumatran tiger faces threats from rampant poaching and deforestation for palm oil and pulp and paper. Today, less than 400 of these tigers hold on for survival in the remaining patches of forests on the island of Sumatra. WWF works with the government of Indonesia and conservation partners to strengthen law enforcement and antipoaching efforts and slow deforestation in their remaining habitat.

SAVE TIGERS NOW

Help us reach our goal of 300 donors in honor of Global Tiger Day, July 29—donate to protect tigers today.



Published July 29, 2018 at 05:00AM

Caught on Camera: A Male Sumatran Tiger

Caught on Camera: A Male Sumatran Tiger

The camera traps are part of a collaboration between WWF and the Riau Forestry Department to help determine which species abound in the region. An important conservation tool, the cameras are equipped with infrared sensors that take a picture whenever they sense movement in the forest.  Around 18 cameras were strategically installed back in March of 2017 to support WWF’s intensive tiger monitoring in central Sumatra.

“This is the first time we have caught such a beautiful image of a tiger here. I feel our hard work has paid off just by seeing this majestic creature roaming on the island,” said Febri Anggriawan, WWF-Indonesia’s Tiger Research Coordinator leading this study.

The smallest in size of all wild tigers, the Sumatran tiger faces threats from rampant poaching and deforestation for palm oil and pulp and paper. Today, less than 400 of these tigers hold on for survival in the remaining patches of forests on the island of Sumatra. WWF works with the government of Indonesia and conservation partners to strengthen law enforcement and antipoaching efforts and slow deforestation in their remaining habitat.

SAVE TIGERS NOW

Help us reach our goal of 300 donors in honor of Global Tiger Day, July 29—donate to protect tigers today.



Published July 29, 2018 at 05:00AM

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