Make your own free website on Tripod.com
NEWSFILE: ELEPHANTS

EDITOR`S NOTE: As regular readers will know, stories tend to come up in quasi-fortean clusters, and for some reason known only to Great Cthulu this time we have been deluged (not literally) by elephants...

PEEVISH PACHYDERMS

CHITTAGONG, Bangladesh (AP). Hungry wild elephants went on a rampage through a Bangladesh village, injuring 30 people and destroying homes and crops, a forestry official said. Thirteen elephants, apparently forced out of the forest by a shortage of fodder, stampeded Sunday night in a village near the town of Khagrachari, 325 miles southeast of Dhaka, said Mutallib, chief conservator for the region. The elephants uprooted trees, trampled crops and destroyed at least 20 houses in Paidang village, whose residents fled to neighbouring communities, Mutallib said. Hard-pressed by development that is cutting into their food and shelter, elephants in the area have killed 30 people, injured at least 100 others and caused heavy property damage over the last five years, forestry officials say. The Sunday Times

MOOLA'S MESS

Missouri Springfield - Moola, a 17-year old Asian elephant, has become the world’s first artificially inseminated elephant in captivity, officials at Dickerson Park Zoo said. if perfected, artificial insemination could help replenish the ageing captive elephant population world-wide officials said. USA TODAY - MONDAY, JUNE 8, 1998

PAUNCHY PACHYDERM

VANCOUVER. Canadian zoo officials think they have the cure for a paunchy pachyderm that appears bored with life - a vacation in the country. The 28-year-old Asian elephant, Tina, has begun a 10-day vacation that officials from the Vancouver Zoological Center hope will help her perk up and lose a few pounds. "We want to put more zest in her life," zoo director and veterinarian Ken Macquisten told reporters as Tina was loaded into a truck Tuesday. The elephant, dubbed "Tubby Tina" by one local newspaper, was showing signs of boredom, including bobbing her head, slouching and making circles with her trunk, zoo workers said. An elephant expert, who said Tina could stand to lose almost half a ton, recommended the elephant get more exercise and be switched to a high-fibre diet. Zoo employee Lorie Schellenburg volunteered to let Tina spend a few days on her 10-acre property east of Vancouver. "She'll have a heyday out there," Schellenburg told the Vancouver Province newspaper.

RETURN OF THE CYBERPHANT

LONDON (AP). For sale: 1.5 ton jumbo elephant. Can carry up to a dozen children. Has a 10-horsepower engine. The life-sized mechanical elephant, with a top speed of 12 mph, was built in 1949 as a fairground attraction for Blackpool pier in northwest England. The steel-framed machine has three forward gears and one reverse, is covered in hide-like cloth and comes complete with flappable ears and resin tusks. To prove the elephant is in working order, antiques dealer Emma Hawkins took it for a drive Wednesday outside west London's Olympia exhibition center, where it is the star attraction at an antiques fair.

"Wonderful, very comfortable, far more comfortable than a real elephant," said Ms. Hawkins said after clambering down.

Ms. Hawkins' father, who bought the elephant from a restorer, hopes to sell it for $160,000. "It is unique and it is wonderful but only someone who was rather eccentric would want to own such a thing," John Hawkins said. The previous owner, restorer Hew Kennedy, agreed. "Once you've got it going, what is the point in owning it?" he said. "You would have to be quite deranged to own it."

PARALYSED PACHYDERMS

May 31 1998. BRITISH vets have been called in to investigate a bizarre disease that kills African elephants by paralysing their trunks. The disease, known as flaccid trunk paralysis, which leaves the animals unable to feed themselves, is believed to be spreading across southern Africa. The British experts believe the elephants could have been afflicted by high levels of pollutants, such as heavy metals, or by plant toxins. The disease seems to affect male elephants more than females. Parkrangers in Zimbabwe have recently had to shoot bull elephants affected by the condition, mostly in the prime of life.

Nancy Kock, the British vet who is leading the research from a laboratory at the University of Zimbabwe, said it was among the most distressing and mysterious diseases she had seen in animals. "We still don't know what is causing trunk paralysis but the number of cases is growing. We believe pollutants or the ingestion of toxic plants, such as thistles, could be responsible. We can only hope that continued research will provide us with the answers," she said.

Elephants rely on their trunks for eating by pulling vegetation into their mouths. In Zimbabwe, however, increasing numbers have been observed trying to cope with the restrictions imposed by the disease. One technique involves flicking their heads to throw their trunks across tree branches to bring vegetation within reach of their mouths. The affected animals also have problems with drinking. Normally water is sucked up through the trunk, but the paralysis means they have to wade deep into rivers and lakes to put their mouths directly into the water. Some animals, already weakened by the disease, have been swept away by rivers or drowned after sinking into the muddy beds of lakes.

So far a cure has proved elusive. The disease appears to work by destroying the nerves controlling trunk movement. Such nerves do not regenerate, so any animal contracting the disease is doomed. Death, however, can take months, and as the disease progresses the elephants slowly lose the ability to feed. The disorder was first found in two bull elephants nine years ago in Zimbabwe's Matusadona national park. Since then the number of cases has steadily increased: 40 corpses have been found and rangers say hundreds more must therefore have gone undetected in the huge reserves. The number of live animals with the disease is estimated at several hundred to 2,000.

When the disease was first noticed it was thought to be caused by a parasitic infection or by injury, but post-mortem examinations showed no sign of either. Kock and her team believe it is caused by toxins, probably released by man. In a research paper she said: "Studies on the affected elephants showed no evidence of trauma or of infection by bacteria or parasites."

Other experts working on the problem agree that pollution is likely to be involved. Research commissioned by Care for the Wild, an international animal welfare charity, suggests that flaccid trunk paralysis is caused by a deficiency of selenium, a trace mineral found in the vegetation on which elephants commonly feed. Bill Jordan, chairman of Care for the Wild, said pollutants could prevent animals from taking up selenium. "Chemicals such as nitrates or petroleum products interfere with the absorption of selenium. Our work suggests this is the probable cause of elephants dying from flaccid trunk paralysis. If true, it means the condition could affect elephants in Britain."

If Jordan's theory is correct, it will be an additional worry for British zoos. The 80 elephants in this country are prone to a variety of illnesses. Last year Chester zoo lost Karha, an Asian elephant -the first of its kind to be born and reared in a British zoo - after it refused to eat. More recently, a number of British zoos reported outbreaks of salmonella in their elephant population. At Dudley zoo a 10-year-old African female elephant died from salmonella infection, renewing calls for more stringent health regulations in zoos. TUESDAY, JUNE 2, 1-998 - USA TODAY

NIGHTSOIL NEMESIS

On Wed, 10 Jun 1998, PADERBORN, GERMANY - Overzealous zookeeper Friedrich Riesfeldt fed his constipated elephant Stefan 22 doses of animal laxative and more than a bushel of berries, figs and prunes before the plugged-up pachyderm finally let fly-and suffocated the keeper under 200 pounds of poop!

NO BULL

An escaped bull that went on a neighborhood romp, hitting cars and sending people running from a baseball field, was killed after venturing into a residential area in suburban Cleveland. The 1,600-pound bull was one of three bulls in the One Armed Bandit's & Co. travelling show that escaped from a corral Friday morning.

Two were quickly captured, but the third eluded authorities for almost four hours. It hit several cars, including a police cruiser, police said, and ran onto the baseball field, sending players and spectators running. Police, Cleveland park rangers and the bull's owners chased the animal for about six miles, but it was eventually shot because it was endangering people, police said. - JULY 5, 1998 - ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH

ICE AGE

Scientists aim to create a new generation of woolly mammoths using deep-frozen sperm from animals that died 40,000 years ago. Next month an expedition to Siberia will excavate mammoth carcasses buried complete with flesh, bones and hair in the Arctic permafrost.The intention is to extract sperm from them and use it to fertilise elephants' eggs. Cross-breeding with successive generations would allow the hybridsgradually to become pure genetic copies of their mammoth ancestors. Scientists involved in the ambitious project run jointly by theBritish, Japanese and Russians have already proved that long-dead sperm can be used to create viable embryos in cattle by injecting their genetic material directly into eggs from living heifers.

Last year David Smale, a British geophysicist and one of the world's experts in the use of underground radar, and Kazufumi Goto, professorof veterinary science at Kagoshima University, conducted an initial three-week summer visit to the wastes of northeastern Siberia to evaluate the project. They are being joined in their search for likely mammoth sites by Pyotr Lazarev, a specialist from the Museum of the Mammoth in Yakutsk. Smale specialises in the use of ground-penetrating radar, which can provide accurate images up to 70ft below the surface.

The technique has been used successfully by British police forces searching for murder victims. The radar waves bounce off buried objects and detectors on the surface translate them into pictures showing their exact location. Smale, who works for Allied Associates Geophysical, a British scientific consultancy, said expedition members would travel by boat down the Kolyma River near Cerskijo in the republic of Sakha into one of the world's most remote regions.

The river is flanked by high permafrost cliffs in which the ice has remained intact for tens ofthousands of years. It is here that the expedition hopes to find carcasses to study.

"Apart from the breeding programme, it would be very exciting to finda whole mammoth preserved in the ice," said Smale. "Last year we founda lot of mammoth bones and quite a large section of a horse, completewith flesh and hair, which had been buried for about 30,000 years, soI am reasonably confident this is a worthwhile exercise.

The museum specialists know exactly where to look and they havealready found pieces of mammoth carcass with the flesh intact." Interest in the project increased this week after the announcementthat normal offspring can be created from freeze-dried sperm storedfor prolonged periods in a vacuum-sealed jar, like instant coffee. A team from Hawaii and Tokyo universities proved that the freeze-driedsperm could even be flown around the world and remain fertile. The researchers added water to the dried sperm, removed the heads andinjected them directly into unfertilised fresh eggs. Most of the eggsbecame fertilised and about a quarter led to births and thedevelopment of healthy adult mice.

In a report on their findings, Ryuzo Yanagimachi and Teruhiko Wakayama, the researchers, emphasised the implications for the use of genetic material from sperm that would not normally be viable: "Although the sperm are dead in the conventional sense, they cansupport normal development when injected directly into an egg."

The mammoths, which populated every continent between 2.5m and 30,000 years ago, were on average 14ft high. They fed on the sparse vegetation of the Arctic tundra and were kept warm by a woolly,yellowish-brown undercoat about 1 inch thick, beneath a coarser, dark brown hair coating up to 20in long. The most recent intact carcass was a six-month-old calf, found in 1977by gold miners in the former Soviet Union. Others have been exhumed bysled dogs and eaten. Sunday Times 5 July 1998

EDITOR`S NOTE: Richard Freeman insists on running a `phone in compy. To win a free subscription to Animals & Men magazine, which Manchester band from the late `70s sang a song called "Ice Age"?