A German walker was attacked and killed by an elephant which had escaped from a circus, police say.
The 65-year-old man was taking his regular morning walk in woods near the town of Buchen, south-west Germany, when he encountered the female African elephant, called Baby.
The 34-year-old elephant was later captured and returned to the circus.
Photo Getty Images
German police are now investigating how the elephant got out of its enclosure and why it acted so aggressively.
“There’s evidence of third-party involvement,” Heidelberg police spokeswoman Yvonne Schmierer told the AP news agency.
“Either someone forgot to shut the enclosure, or the elephant was released intentionally.”
The elephant had previously injured at least two people – including a man who was thrown in the air and a 12-year-old boy who suffered a broken jaw when he was hit by its trunk, local news agency Stimme reported.
PETA Germany was urging the authorities to remove the elephant from the circus, the agency reported.
The Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus, one of America’s largest circus companies, has said it will phase out the use of elephants in its shows.
The circus told the Associated Press that it plans to stop using the animals by 2018.
It said growing public concern about how the animals are treated led to the decision.
The company’s 43 elephants will live at an animal conservation centre in Florida.
In recent years, some cities and counties have passed laws banning the use of elephants for entertainment, which has complicated the show’s tours, company president Kenneth Feld.
Animal right activists have protested the use of the elephants in live shows for years saying they face physical abuse at the hands of trainers and unhealthy living conditions.
“Many of the elephants are painfully arthritic, and many have tuberculosis, so their retirement day needs to come now,” said Jessica Johnson, a spokeswoman for People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals.
“If the decision is serious, then the circus needs to do it now.”
Executives from Feld Entertainment, which owns the circus company said the decision was not easy and was the result of much debate.
“There’s been somewhat of a mood shift among our consumers,” the company’s executive vice president Alana Feld told the Associated Press.
“All of the resources used to fight these things can be put towards the elephants. We’re not reacting to our critics; we’re creating the greatest resource for the preservation of the Asian elephant.”
Feld Entertainment owns 43 elephants, of which 29 currently live at the company’s 200-acre conservation centre in central Florida. Until 2018, 13 of the animals will continue to perform in shows. One elephant has been loaned to the Fort Worth Zoo for breeding.
The company plans to formally announce the decision on March 5.
Elephant acts have long been a part of the company’s show, and have often been featured in its advertising materials.
An elephant at UK’s West Midlands Safari Park took a selfie on a visitor’s phone when he dropped it, it has been claimed.
The 23-year-old visitor, named Scott Brierley, said he found a photo of African elephant Latabe on his phone after it was returned to him by keepers at West Midlands Safari Park, near Bewdley in Worcestershire.
Scott Brierley said he found a photo of African elephant Latabe on his phone after it was returned to him by keepers at West Midlands Safari Park (photo Scott Brierley)
Head keeper Andy Plumb said the picture was a first for the park.
Scott Brierley said he believed it was the world’s first “elfie” – or elephant selfie.
He said he was ordered to stay inside his car after his phone fell to the ground while he was taking pictures of the park’s elephant enclosure.
Scott Brierley said he saw the 22-year-old elephant walk towards his phone but thought she had mistaken it for food.
“I really couldn’t believe when the phone came back, I pressed the centre button to check it was still working and there it was – me and my friend were in shock,” he said.
Andy Plumb said the staff at the park were “very proud” of Latabe’s apparent photography skills.
“Lots of people have dropped their phones at our park but I’ve never seen anything like this,” he said.
According to a new study, elephants are able to differentiate between ethnicities and genders, and can tell an adult from a child – all from the sound of a human voice.
The research team played voice recordings to wild African elephants.
The animals showed more fear when they heard the voices of adult Masai men.
Livestock-herding Masai people do come into conflict with elephants, and this suggests that animals have adapted to specifically listen for and avoid them.
The study is published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
Prof. Karen McComb and Dr. Graeme Shannon from the University of Sussex, who led the study, explained that in previous research they had used similar playback experiments to reveal that elephants could tell – from the sound of a lion’s roar – whether the animal was a female or a more dangerous male.
Other studies have shown that elephants respond with fear to the scent and even to the red color of the Masai clothing.
“I’ve experienced that,” explained Prof. Karen McComb.
Elephants are able to differentiate between ethnicities and genders, and can tell an adult from a child
“If you give a Masai man a lift in your car, you can see the elephants behave in a different way around you.
“They’re much more wary of the car and you see a lot of smelling and listening.”
Prof. Karen McComb wanted to find out if the animals used their very acute sense of hearing to identify a potential threat from humans.
The scientists recorded Masai men, women and children saying, in their own language, “look, look over there, a group of elephants is coming”.
They also recorded Kamba men saying this phrase.
While cattle-herding Maasai people often encounter free-ranging elephants, which can result in violent conflict, the Kamba people’s more agricultural lifestyle does not generally bring them into aggressive contact with the animals.
When the team played recordings of these different voices through a camouflaged loudspeaker, they found that elephant family groups reacted more fearfully in response to the voice of a Masai man, than to a Kamba man’s voice – retreating and bunching together defensively.
And the adult male Masai voices triggered far more of these defensive reactions than the voices of women or boys.
An additional and unexpected finding was that when the researchers changed the pitch and frequency of the voices – making a male Masai voice sound more female – the elephants would still react in the same way as they did to the original recording.
“That suggests they’re using completely different cues [to us] in order to attribute gender,” said Prof. Karen McComb.
Frans van der Waal from the Yerkes National Primate Research Center at Emory University, a researcher and the author of several books on animal behavior, wrote in an accompanying article in PNAS that this finding suggested we had “much to learn about how elephants make decisions”.
Prof. Karen McComb said the research showed that elephants were “trying to adapt” to human threats.
“Humans are undoubtedly the most dangerous and versatile predators the elephants are faced with these days,” she said.
Spanish affiliate of the conservation group WWF has removed King Juan Carlos as its honorary president for going on an elephant hunting trip in Botswana.
The WWF’s Spanish chapter voted overwhelmingly to abolish the post, a statement said, adding that the safari did not sit well with WWF goals.
King Juan Carlos was widely criticized after news of the trip emerged in April, in the middle of a severe economic crisis.
Spain’s royal family has faced a series of embarrassments this year.
King Juan Carlos apologized to the Spanish people for the hunting trip, which only came to light when he was flown home from Africa after breaking a hip.
Spanish affiliate of the conservation group WWF has removed King Juan Carlos as its honorary president for going on an elephant hunting trip in Botswana
An online petition calling for his resignation from the WWF post accumulated almost 85,000 signatures by the time he made his public apology.
The controversy prompted Spanish newspapers to publish a photo of the king on a previous safari, in which he is seen standing with a gun beside a dead elephant.
“Although this type of hunting is legal and regulated, many members consider it to be incompatible with the position of honorary patron of an international organization that aims to protect the environment,” the WWF statement said on Saturday.
The vote to abolish the position of honorary president was carried by a 94% majority, it said.
The king is generally popular in Spain, but the royal family has been beset by a series of embarrassing news stories this year.
King Juan Carlos’ son-in-law, Inaki Urdangarin, has been questioned in connection with a corruption scandal involving claims that he used public funds to organize sports events.
A baby elephant and its mother were rescued by conservation workers after they got stuck in the mud of Kapani Lagoon in Zambia.
Conservation workers from South Luangwa Conservation Society, who normally have a policy of leaving nature to fend for itself as much as possible, unless the problem was created by humans.
A baby elephant and its mother were rescued by conservation workers after they got stuck in the mud of Kapani Lagoon in Zambia
On this occasion, however, they could not sit by and let the mother elephant and calf die in such a horrible way.
Before the rescue by conservation workers on the flats of the Kapani Lagoon, the baby elephant and its mother’s herd tries to rescue the pair.
When they are unable to do anything, the team – along with members of the Zambian Wildlife Authority – moves in while the herd waits on the other side of some trees.
With mud in the lagoon drying quickly, the rescue becomes a race against time. Eventually a rope is slipped under the calf’s trunk before the pulling can begin.
A couple of attempts are made to release the baby elephant but it wants to stay with its mother and goes back, getting stuck once again.
At one point, the baby elephant appears to be calling for help while his mother appears resigned to her fate before the rescue gets under way
Eventually, they pull the calf out further away from what could have been its muddy grave. It hears the cry of a cousin elephant and runs towards it.
Once the baby elephant is freed, the team works to help the mother who has become tired after all the thrashing around
Rachel McRobb from the team said: “Most conservationists believe that man should not meddle with the natural order and that we should allow nature to run her course however cruel or grim it seems to be. We agree on the whole, unless a wildlife problem has been created by man (for instance in the case of snaring or being trapped in a fence, in which case it’s justifiable to intervene) then nature should be left to her own devices. She has a plan.
“However – every rule has an exception and the dreadful plight of a baby elephant trapped in the mud of the Kapani Lagoon and her mother, who had also got stuck trying to save her yesterday had us all in a frenzy of activity. We simply could not stand by and watch them struggle and slowly die.”
Once the baby elephant is freed, the team works to help the mother who has become tired after all the thrashing around.
The mother elephant is tied to a tractor and, inch by inch, she makes her way to freedom. Eventually she is pulled from the mud and runs towards her baby and the waiting family.