Elephants Can Distinguish Languages

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Researchers in Kenya have discovered that African elephants can learn to distinguish among different human languages. They also seem to be able to tell the difference between when a man, a woman or a child is speaking.

A group of animal behaviorists observed that elephants retreat more quickly when they hear a man speaking the Ma language (the language of the Maasai). Women and children speaking Ma do not elicit the same response, and neither do men speaking Kamba, another Kenyan language. Scientists believe the elephants have developed a fear of Maasai men because of a history of hunting.

Kenya toughens poaching penalties

Poaching laws in Kenya have become more strict, with real teeth added to the penalties for killing protected species or exporting their products. Only a year ago, the courts were limited in the penalties they could hand out – in one case, a group of Chinese nationals were fined just $340 each for trying to smuggle out $20,000 worth of ivory.  But after a new law passed, a judge was able to fine a smuggler $230,000 or 7 years in jail for trying to sneak a piece of elephant tusk out of the country in his suitcase.

You can learn more about the anti-smuggling efforts of Kenya and other nations in these articles from The Gaurdian:

The Jewels of East Africa

Most of us go on safari in East Africa to see the big game. And that’s understandable – for on what other continent can one encounter such a variety of large mammals? It’s breathtaking to see a giraffe bend down to nibble on the top of an acacia tree.

But if you only pay attention to the big game, you’re missing half the fun! East Africa is also home to an incredible variety of birds. Songbirds dot the landscape like small, colorful jewels, and larger birds like ostriches, crested cranes and secretary birds are quite spectacular in their own right.

Ostriches on the run

Ostriches in Masai Mara National Reserve, Kenya. Photo taken on an Ujuzi safari.

I recommend the book The Birds of East Africa: Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi by Terry Stevenson and John Fanshawe to anyone who’s going on safari. Another great resource is the Wild Birds of East Africa group on Flickr. It is free and has thousands of colorful photos, as well as an interactive map that allows you to view birds by location. If you’re a member of Flickr, you can join the group to share your own bird photos from safari.

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Eastern chanting goshawk. Photo taken by Mark and David Solberg on an Ujuzi safari.

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Starling at Mount Kenya Safari Club, Nanyuki, Kenya. Photo taken by Kathryn Kingsbury on an Ujuzi safari.

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Vulture. Photo taken by Mark and David Solberg on an Ujuzi safari.

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Yellow throated sandgrouse. Photo taken by Mark and David Solberg on an Ujuzi safari.

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Vitelline masked weaver. Photo taken by Mark and David Solberg on an Ujuzi safari.

Technology helps with conservation

East African nations are using technology in innovative ways to help with conservation efforts:

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