In case you missed it: 3 big stories from our world, World Elephant Day edition

Still shot from “My Africa,” Conservation International’s latest virtual reality film. (© Georgina Goodwin)

Editor’s note: News about conservation and the environment is made every day, but some of it can fly under the radar. In a recurring feature, Human Nature shares three stories from the past week that you should know about in honor of World Elephant Day.

  1. Inside the effort to save Africa’s elephant population

The story: A new satellite technology is being used to track endangered elephants in Tanzania, reported Kenneth Dickerman for the Washington Post August 8. Rangers are using satellite collars and mobile devices to track elephants and prevent them from moving into areas of high poaching activity.

The big picture: Reports show that while the illegal killing of elephants is starting to decline — helped in part by new tools such as this tracking technology — it’s still a major threat to the species. Tens of thousands of elephants are poached every year for ivory trade. In a review of the tracking program, the Associated Press described the current situation: “It’s far too early to declare a turnaround. Poachers are moving to new areas, and traffickers are adapting, aided by entrenched corruption. The rate of annual elephant losses still exceeds the birthrate. And the encroachment of human settlements is reducing the animals’ range.”

Read more here.

  1. Forest elephant DNA diverse, consistent, and distinct, study

The story: A recent study shows that forest elephants and savanna elephants have distinctly unique DNA from one another — indicating they are a separate species, reported Sue Palminteri for Mongabay. Understanding the distinct DNA of forest elephants is key to furthering efforts to conserve the species.

The big picture: Forest elephants have declined 60 percent due to poaching, prompting calls for the species to be officially recognized as distinct. Forest elephants scatter tree seeds as they travel, making them essential to the health of rainforests. Given predictions that the world’s rainforests could completely disappear within one hundred years if the current rate of deforestation continues, conservation of the species (and its habitat) is increasingly more crucial. “Forest elephants are the heart of these ecosystems,” said Alfred Roca, professor of animal sciences at the University of Illinois. “Without them, the system falls apart, and many other species are jeopardized.”

Read more here.

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  1. Virtual reality film ‘My Africa’ narrated by Lupita Nyong’o among finalists for global award

The story: Conservation International’s latest virtual reality film, “My Africa,” is a finalist for a global award, reported The Star August 10. The 2018 Jackson Hole Science Media Awards praise “the world’s most effective science storytellers and stories.”

The big picture: “My Africa” showcases a Samburu woman whose community is dedicated to saving elephants. “While there are other VR films that speak to the plight of Africa’s wildlife and the poaching wars, we want ours to remind people of what still exists, and what could be lost if we are not mindful stewards,” said Conservation International CEO Dr. M. Sanjayan. “We also want to celebrate the work of indigenous communities and local people who, in their self-interest, are working together to care for Earth’s Eden.”

Read more here.

Jessica Pink is an editorial intern for Conservation International.

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