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Zimbabwe parks authority officials say they suspect a bacterial disease called hemorrhagic septicemia is behind the recent deaths of at least 34 elephants in the northwestern part of the country.
The elephant deaths, which began in late August, come soon after hundreds of elephants died in neighboring Botswana in mysterious circumstances. Authorities subsequently blamed the deaths on toxins produced by another type of bacterium.
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Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Management Authority Director-General Fulton Mangwanya said Tuesday they have discovered 34 dead elephants, but suspect more may be found. The elephants were found lying on their stomachs, suggesting a sudden death.
Mangwanya said the dead elephants were discovered in an area between the Hwange National Park and Victoria Falls in west-central Zimbabwe, suggesting to him the outbreak has been isolated.
Mangwanya said postmortems on some of the elephants showed inflamed livers and other organs. Samples have been sent to the UK and South Africa to confirm the type of bacterial disease.
Experts say that Zimbabwe’s current elephant population could be close to 90,000.
Elephants in Botswana and parts of Zimbabwe are at historically high levels — roughly half of the continent’s 400,000 elephants, according to estimates — but elsewhere on the continent, especially in forested areas, many populations are severely depleted, researchers say. (VOA)
WASHINGTON, Mar 3, 2017: There’s an old saying that elephants never forget. You also can say they almost never sleep.
Scientists on Wednesday said a first-of-its-kind study tracking the sleep behavior of wild elephants found the world’s largest land mammal sleeps two hours per day on average, and some days not at all, and does so mostly standing up.
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This represented the shortest-known sleep time of any mammal. Previos research showed captive elephants got four to six hours daily.
“Sleep needs to be studied in an animal’s natural environment if we are truly to understand it,” said Paul Manger, a research professor in the School of Anatomical Sciences at the University of the Witwatersrand in South Africa who led the study published in the journal PLOS ONE.
The researchers monitored two free-roaming female African elephants in Botswana’s Chobe National Park for 35 days. They got data to track sleep accurately from a wristwatch-sized device implanted under the skin of the trunk that was not harmful to the animals. They used a satellite-tracking collar with a gyroscope to monitor their location and sleep position.
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“We do feel these two elephants are representative of the broader population,” Manger said, adding he hoped future research could be done with larger numbers of wild elephants, including males.
The elephants sometimes went up to 46 hours without sleep while walking distances of about 19 miles (30 km), possibly to avoid threats like lions or human poachers.
They typically slept somewhere between 2 a.m. and 6 a.m. After a sleepless night, they had no extra sleep the next night.
The maximum sleep recorded was five hours in a day. They spent just 17 percent of their sleeping time lying down.
The next shortest sleepers among mammals may be domestic horses, which get under three hours daily. Some mammals have been shown in captivity to sleep most of the day, including the little brown bat (19 hours), opossum (18 hours) and armadillo (17 hours), Manger said.
People average roughly six to nine hours, Manger said.
The elephants appeared to experience rapid eye movement (REM) sleep, associated with more dreaming and body movements and loss of muscle tone, only every three to four nights.
“REM sleep is often associated with the consolidation of memories. However, we do know elephants have good memories, so this finding contradicts one central hypothesis of REM sleep function,” Manger said. (VOA)