Tag: elephant dung

For Some Elephants, an Uncertain — But Not Stressful — Future

In a thick pocket of acacia trees, a group of savannah elephants quietly munch leaves. Tails swing, ears flip and flap. Occasionally one scoops up a trunk full of dirt and tosses it across its face and back, to cool the hide and displace insects.

A few yards away, 3 researchers crouch in the brush, watching and filming. The setting seems peaceful and quiet, but the researchers are tensely aware: wild elephants can charge if frightened or startled. And the last thing a scientist wants is to be charged by the largest land animal in the world — especially while in pursuit of its poop.

Yes, poop.

“We needed fresh dung in order to gather DNA material,” explains grasslands ecologist Marissa Ahlering of The Nature Conservancy. But what for? While collecting dung samples from wild elephants is somewhat dangerous and far from glamorous (see video), the work has been providing useful insight into whether elephant populations in Kenya could live in proximity to people and livestock without stress.

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