dimanche 29 janvier 2012

Anne l'éléphante rescapée d'un cirque

Suite au scandale d'Anne, l'éléphante mal traitée par un employé du cirque où elle se produit depuis 50 ans, Lawrence Anthony, le fondateur de The Earth Organization, prend la parole :

28 MARS 2011 
A circus , even one which treats its animals well, is no place for an elephant.
If you spend any time in the company of our biggest land mammal you’ll see the same emotions and qualities in them as you do in humans — love, compassion, loneliness, excitement and nervousness.
Plus, of course, fear. This is an emotion that arthritic, 59- year-old Anne will be familiar with.
The poor animal was stabbed in the face with a pitchfork and smashed around the head with metal and wooden staves.This would be a disgusting manner in which to treat any animal. But cruelty such as this is all the more despicable when it’s meted out to an animal as intelligent, loyal and warm-hearted as the elephant.
Anyone who has spent time with elephants can be left in no doubt of their intelligence.

How else could a group of them on my South African game reserve, the Thula Thula, manage to track down the generator of an electric border fence and disable it, even though it was a full kilometre from the fence it was powering? Or distinguish the sound of my Land Rover from the other eight — all of them identical models — that operate on the reserve?
Yet it’s not its IQ that makes the elephant truly special, but its capacity for love. My wish is that all humans could run our families with the same mixture of firm discipline and warmth as elephants routinely do.
Have you ever seen what happens when a baby elephant gets stuck in mud?
Every single member of the herd stops what it’s doing and comes to help. They don’t walk on by when one member of the herd is struggling. 

Elephants’ nature as herd animals and their sharp intelligence manifest themselves in an incredible ability to communicate with each other. A herd is made up of adult females and infants — the males depart after breeding. The matriarch always has the most sway, and the contribution of the other elephants very much depends on their status within the herd. I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve heard the familiar trumpeting sound — and seen other members of the herd respond, raising their heads and backs, lifting their trunks and opening their ears as they listen out for anything untoward.
For loud trumpeting has long been considered the elephants’ method of expressing excitement or danger. But elephants also make other sounds — grunts and, occasionally, roars.
These can mean anything from ‘walk faster’ or ‘walk slower’ to ‘let’s eat’ or ‘let’s sleep’.
The males may appear to communicate less, but if you are standing close to a bull it is possible to feel the vibration from the low-frequency noise he is emitting.

Female elephants use these rumbling noises in other ways. During the breeding season (just four days, every four years) a female will emit an infrasonic mating call to attract a male.
And when a pregnant female elephant is about to go into labour (after 22 months’ gestation) she emits a rumble to let the rest of the herd know, a day or two in advance.
From that moment, the behaviour of the other animals changes, becoming protective. Instead of spreading out as normal, they stay close.
And as she goes into labour some of the older members form a protective circle around her to shelter the newborn from preying lions and hyenas.
Researchers at San Diego Zoo spent months studying the creatures, attaching collars with highly sensitive microphones and GPS tracking systems to eight females.
They were then able to follow the herd and record links between the noises they made and their activity — before concluding that the animals ‘talk’ to each other, using a series of trumpets, grumbles and low-frequency sounds inaudible to the human ear.
Other researchers have investigated these very low frequency sounds and concluded they travel over hundreds of square miles. What messages do these lowpitch grunts carry?
We can never prove it for sure, but there’s a growing amount of anecdotal evidence that suggests they can pass on quite complicated information.

Oxford University scientists have found that elephants have developed a special alarm call — a low rumble — to warn the herd when a swarm of bees is approaching (stings around the eyes and trunk are potentially fatal to young calves).
I was in Sudan when that country’s appalling civil war ended in 2005, after 22 years. Many elephants had sought to avoid the conflict by migrating to Uganda and Kenya.
Then a peace treaty was signed — and hundreds of the animals miraculously started moving back to Sudan. What explanation can there be for this?
The most obvious, it seems to me, is that the elephants that remained had sent a message out declaring that the gunfire had stopped and it was now safe for fellow herd members to return.
I’ve also seen an elephant cry. The occasion was the birth of a frail calf, born weak and unable to walk.
Members of the herd fought to try to keep the animal alive by using their trunks to try to support the poor baby’s legs and help it stand.
Meanwhile as all this was going on, a rota system was drawn up — other elephants took it in turn to shield the sick baby from the hot African sun.
They kept this up for 40 hours. When they finally took the decision to give up, the atmosphere was like a funeral.
Tears welled up in the mother’s eye. She was crying. And so was I. Evidence of their interdependence is not just anecdotal.
Scientists from Cambridge University have found out more about how elephants communicate. They placed two bowls of food behind a net, threaded a rope through them and left the ends on the ground for the elephants to pick up.
Only by working with another elephant — each holding an end of the rope — could the food be retrieved. The researchers were surprised at just how quickly the animals learned to work in tandem, demonstrating the kind of co-operation skills usually seen in humans.
My fear is that Anne will have spent much of the past 50 years using her amazing communication skills to try to summon help from the herd members she left behind when she was trapped by hunters in her native Sri Lanka in 1954, before she was shipped off to join the circus.
The tragedy is that it has taken more than five decades for her distress signal to get through.
  • Lawrence Anthony runs the Thula Thula game reserve, outside Durban, which is home to 20 elephants.

Anne a finalement été transférée au parc safari Longleat Wildlife dans le Wiltshire en Angleterre en mai 2011.

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