The story behind one of the most extraordinary ears ever found in the world is a remarkable tale of survival.
In 2013, an expedition by scientists from the University of New South Wales led by Dr David G. Brown and Dr Stephen C. Lai of the University, was sent to find the ear.
The Ear of Hope was a large African elephant named Black.
The expedition was part of the International Elephant Rescue Project, which seeks to recover elephants that have been trafficked and sold into circuses.
They were heading into the rain forest in the southern region of Tanzania, near the town of Kisumu, when the team received a call from a team from the Elephant Protection Group (EPPG), a non-profit organisation that works with wildlife groups.
“The team was not prepared for the huge volume of traffic,” Dr Brown told Discovery News.
“[The team] were all on their mobile phones, and so we had to have our phones switched off to make sure no one could hear them.”
The EPPG team contacted the police and asked them to check the area.
They were able to find a large elephant called Black on the edge of a road, which was about 200 metres away from the team.
At first, Dr Brown was apprehensive about what he had just witnessed.
“When I heard the call, I thought I had just seen a ghost,” he said.
He and his team spent about 10 days in the area, before finding Black and the team’s elephant handler, who was living nearby.
“He had the ears and the tail of a black elephant, so I had a pretty good idea what to expect, and I was very happy with the outcome,” Dr Johnson said.
Dr Brown and his colleagues brought Black back to the team in Kisumus hospital and put him into a quarantine cage.
Within days, Dr Johnson’s team was able to recover Black, which he was able the rest of the day to recover.
“The elephant has just had a great recovery,” Dr Lai told Discovery.
However, Black’s story is far from over.
Dr Brown said the team had a lot of information about Black’s life, but they had no idea what happened to him.
“We’re just waiting to find out,” he told Discovery news.
“So, it’s been a lot about waiting to hear the outcome of what happened.
It’s not really a story of what’s going to happen next.”
Dr Johnson’s elephant handlers have now been contacted by the EPPG to find him a home, so the team can help recover the rest.
There is hope for Black’s recovery, however.
A new study published in the journal Current Biology by researchers from the Royal Veterinary College, University of Cambridge and the University at Buffalo has found that elephants can be coaxed into living with humans.
Elephants that were not living in captivity had a more difficult time surviving than those who were, the team said.
This finding, they said, is important because elephants can use “social learning” to adapt to humans.
This means they can become more dependent on humans, allowing them to live a more peaceful and comfortable life.
This was the first time a study had found this, and Dr Johnson is hopeful it can lead to an improvement in elephants’ lives.
If Black is successful, he may have a future with a family.
Black is currently on a rehabilitation program in Kenya, and is being cared for by the University’s Wildlife Conservation Institute.
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