A two-year study, to appear in January's edition of Biological Conservation, tracked the elephants' migration with Global Positioning System (GPS) collars. Its findings advance conservation efforts for the animals, which are facing increased armed conflict in Mali between government forces and Touareg rebels.
"In recent years, the Mali elephants have largely managed to maintain their numbers in extreme natural conditions of heat and drought," says lead researcher Jake Wall, a UBC Dept. of Geography PhD candidate, whose study received support from Save The Elephants, a Kenya-based conservation group. "The uprising occurring in northern Mali puts them at greater risk, as does increasing human settlement in their traditional territory and the growing risk of ivory poaching."
The study focused on the Gourma elephants of Mali's northern region, which are arguably the world's toughest elephants. The desert-adapted species frequently endure sand storms, water shortages, and temperatures over 50 degrees Celsius (122 Farenheit). Hunting, drought and climate changes have reduced their population to an estimated 350 elephants.
The study reveals the elephants travel more than 32,000 square kilometers annually in search of food and water – the largest area ever recorded for any elephant species.
The elephants spend concentrated periods in several key areas and rely on a network of pathways, including a critical sandstone passage known as "la Porte des Elephants." The study identifies 10 "hot spots" essential for their survival that should be protected for conservation purposes.
Backgrounder: Ivory poaching
Gourma elephants have largely been spared from the ivory poaching crisis ravaging elephant populations across Africa, but at least three have been killed this year. Profits from the illegal ivory trade are believed to fuel terrorist groups like Al-Shabaab, the Janjaweed and the Lord's Resistance Army, experts say.
An anti-poaching initiative by the International Conservation Fund of Canada and the WILD Foundation is engaging local communities and national foresters in defense of elephants, says co-author Iain Douglas-Hamilton, an Oxford University zoology researcher and founder of Save the Elephants.
Backgrounder: Gourma elephants
Gourma elephants are believed to be the northernmost population of elephants in the world. They have historically enjoyed relatively peaceful coexistence with the local Touareg, Fuhlani and Dogon peoples, but conflict between humans and elephants over space and resources are increasing as local peoples shift from pastoralism to agriculture settlements.
A surprise study finding is that male and female elephants share only a quarter of their ranges. "We think the difference is partly because of their tolerances towards people," Wall says. "Bulls generally take more risks and occupy areas that have higher human densities. They also have varying food strategies and we think that differences in the areas they occupy might be because of different vegetation types in those areas."
Although Gourma elephants walk similar linear distances to their East and Southern African relatives, their movements are spread out over an area 150 per cent larger than those reported in Namibia, and 29 per cent larger than elephants in Botswana. Researchers believe their epic migration is due to the scarcity of food and water in the region, and suggest it may be forced to expand further as resources become scarcer.
Research co-authors include Brian Klinkenberg and Valerie LeMay of UBC and George Wittemyer of Colorado State University.
Basil Waugh | EurekAlert!
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Today, plants and microorganisms are heavily used for the production of medicinal products. The production of biopharmaceuticals in plants, also referred to as “Molecular Pharming”, represents a continuously growing field of plant biotechnology. Preferred host organisms include yeast and crop plants, such as maize and potato – plants with high demands. With the help of a special algal strain, the research team of Prof. Ralph Bock at the Max Planck Institute of Molecular Plant Physiology in Potsdam strives to develop a more efficient and resource-saving system for the production of medicines and vaccines. They tested its practicality by synthesizing a component of a potential AIDS vaccine.
The use of plants and microorganisms to produce pharmaceuticals is nothing new. In 1982, bacteria were genetically modified to produce human insulin, a drug...
Atomic clock experts from the Physikalisch-Technische Bundesanstalt (PTB) are the first research group in the world to have built an optical single-ion clock which attains an accuracy which had only been predicted theoretically so far. Their optical ytterbium clock achieved a relative systematic measurement uncertainty of 3 E-18. The results have been published in the current issue of the scientific journal "Physical Review Letters".
Atomic clock experts from the Physikalisch-Technische Bundesanstalt (PTB) are the first research group in the world to have built an optical single-ion clock...
The University of Würzburg has two new space projects in the pipeline which are concerned with the observation of planets and autonomous fault correction aboard satellites. The German Federal Ministry of Economic Affairs and Energy funds the projects with around 1.6 million euros.
Detecting tornadoes that sweep across Mars. Discovering meteors that fall to Earth. Investigating strange lightning that flashes from Earth's atmosphere into...
Physicists from Saarland University and the ESPCI in Paris have shown how liquids on solid surfaces can be made to slide over the surface a bit like a bobsleigh on ice. The key is to apply a coating at the boundary between the liquid and the surface that induces the liquid to slip. This results in an increase in the average flow velocity of the liquid and its throughput. This was demonstrated by studying the behaviour of droplets on surfaces with different coatings as they evolved into the equilibrium state. The results could prove useful in optimizing industrial processes, such as the extrusion of plastics.
The study has been published in the respected academic journal PNAS (Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America).
Exceeding critical temperature limits in the Southern Ocean may cause the collapse of ice sheets and a sharp rise in sea levels
A future warming of the Southern Ocean caused by rising greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere may severely disrupt the stability of the West...
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