By Julie Hecht
Between the government shutdown and the public uproar over the National Zoo Giant Panda Cam going dark (“PANDA! PANDA!” screamed the general public), you might not have noticed a few more elephants in the news.
I’m not talking about fluff pieces with adorable elephants and their big ears that according to BuzzFeed, “We Would Like to Be Best Friends With.” Instead, the conversation focused on the dwindling number of elephants on the planet.
While my current research focuses on canine behavior and cognition, my background is in applied animal behavior, or the study of “domesticated and utilized animals.” Elephants certainly fit the bill as “utilized,” predominantly for their ivory. Elephant carcass data and the seizure of large quantities of ivory suggest that elephant killing is increasing:
“The proportion of elephant carcasses found that had been killed illegally in 2010 was the highest on record only to be exceeded by 2011 levels. Elephant meat is an important by-product, but ivory is the primary reason for elephant poaching. It is now clear that elephants in general, and especially the elephants of Central Africa, are under serious threat and that the poaching since 2011, may be at the level at which all elephant populations are in net decline.” (embedded citations here).
The mistreatment of dogs is met with horror and public outcry. Last month, the media blew up when a dog was abused “medieval-style.” That’s as far as I got. For others, that was just the beginning. Animal care professionals and crime-scene investigators can go to school to learn to detect the signs of animal abuse and document and preserve evidence for trial. Practitioners learn to look for old wounds and recognize that multiple breaks or fractures might not be “accidental.” Programs, like the ASCPA Veterinary Forensic Sciences Program at the University of Florida, hold events on “Bloodstain Analysis,” “Animal Crime Scenes” and “Shooting Reconstruction.” More....