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The week in wildlife – in pictures

Pintail ducks, an elephant seal pup and an osprey in action are among this week’s pick of images from the natural world

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Elephants mourn. Dogs love. Why do we deny the feelings of other species?

Scientists are discovering more and more about the internal lives of animals. But what does this mean for the way humans behave? Last week footage of five young elephants being captured in Zimbabwe to sell to zoos travelled round the world. Parks offic...

Fatal extraction: how demand for hippos’ teeth is threatening them with extinction

The black market’s insatiable demand for ivory has turned poachers’ attention away from well-protected elephants to more vulnerable hippos

It seems almost incomprehensible that the desire for an ivory ornament or piece of jewellery justifies the slaughter of a majestic elephant, but as their populations continue to crash, the ever-hungry black market has become creative in order to satisfy its greed. Now, ivory hunters are setting their sights on everything from arctic narwhals to fossil mammoths. But one unexpected victim of this barbaric practice is the humble hippopotamus. A new study says that a rise in demand for hippos’ teeth is threatening the mammal with extinction.

In many ways, it takes a lot of effort to kill an elephant. They are legally well protected in most countries where they range and international regulations are clear. Also, smuggling large tusks internationally is highly conspicuous. Hippos offer a cheaper and, in many ways, “easier” ivory option. The simple truth is that they are not high on the priority list of the international conservation community. Find a group of wild-living African elephants and, often, they will either be tracked with radio collars or will be the focus of long-term conservation research, intensive ecotourism or determined law-enforcement efforts. Not so with hippos. Unlike their famous savannah cousins, they don’t come with a protective human entourage, meaning poachers can take their time. Additionally, they are not protected especially well at either a national or international level.

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Rescue of the olive ridley sea turtle

Of the millions of eggs laid by the endangered olive ridley sea turtles on one Costa Rican beach, few survive both predators and poachers. But how could allowing local villagers to harvest the eggs be a solution?

Dawn on Costa Rica’s Pacific coast and the dark figure of a man at the water’s edge gradually becomes distinct under a pinkening sky. I switch off my torch. Jairo Quiros Rosales and I are the only people to be seen on this broad black beach, the volcanic sands of which stretch north for several miles. Jairo is beckoning, so I hurry down to him, scanning the beach and murky shoreline. As the light grows, I make out the funereal vultures flecking the distance, and assorted mutts appear from the gloom to sniff the night from the sands.

And then I see them: about 100 metres further up the beach, like strange, regularly humped stones, hundreds of olive ridley sea turtles are making their way from the ocean on to the beach to lay their eggs. This is the arribada. It means “the arrival” in Spanish, and I have been waiting more than a month to see it.

Her shell heaves with obvious effort and her eyes stare unresponsively as she enters a trance-like state

The poachers have turned violent, threatening and attacking, even killing the environmentalists

All around me, local men and women are dancing a tarantella on the sand, stamping gently in bare feet to find nests

Related: The pioneering vets who save rhinos left for dead by poachers – in pictures

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Elephants unchained: ‘The day has gone by when this was entertainment’

As our understanding of the minds of our fellow species improves, will we increasingly look back at the way we have treated them in horror and repulsion?

  • Photographs by Karine Aigner

Water streams off the edges of her giant ears, runs in rivulets down the wrinkles of her slate-grey skin. She presses her whole head into the hose’s force, the spray welling into her mouth. As she drinks, she rubs her skin against the steel fence, her eyelids drooping luxuriously, her trunk relaxing. If ever I’ve seen a captive elephant happy, it’s Flora this morning.

There are no people laughing or pointing here at the Elephant Sanctuary in Tennessee. There are no infants crying, no children arguing. The public are not allowed into the sanctuary, whose unofficial motto is, “Allow elephants to be elephants”: give them the freedom of choice, the freedom of large areas to explore, the freedom from human gawkers (apart from via the online elecams) while still providing the kind of care that comes with a zoo.

In Indonesia, activists have photographed an elephant in a zoo that lives alone with its feet tied together by a chain.

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The week in wildlife – in pictures

Eurasian wolf cubs, a wreathed hornbill and an elephant crossing the road are among this week’s pick of images from the natural world

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How did whales become so large? Scientists dive into marine mystery

Changes in food distribution and not falling ocean temperatures could hold key to shift towards giant lengths

The blue whale has a body the length of a jet airliner, a heart the size of a car, and a tongue the same weight as an elephant.

Now researchers say they might have solved the mystery of why baleen whales – a group that includes these blue beasts, the largest animals on the planet – became so large.

Related: 36m-year-old fossil discovery is missing link in whale evolution, say researchers

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Secret footage obtained of the wild elephants sold into captivity in Chinese zoos

Animal welfare advocates have filmed some of the wild elephants captured in Zimbabwe last year and shipped to China

Last year more than 30 young elephants were captured from the wild in Zimbabwe and flown by plane to China. The elephants – some reported to be as young as three – were dispersed to a number of zoos throughout the country, including the Shanghai Exhibition Park, the Beijing Wildlife Park and the Hangzhou Safari Park, according to conservationists.

But what are their lives like now?

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Join us at the March for Science

Peter LaFontaine Apr 3 2017 This Earth Day, we can prove that knowledge is powerful. read more

The week in wildlife – in pictures

Cactus flowers, a former circus bear and a baby elephant are among this week’s pick of images from the natural world

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Why Can’t We Protect Elephants?

They need our help, not an easier way to make their carcasses into trophies.
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For Now, Trump to Keep Ban on Importing Elephant Trophies

The president reversed his own administration’s decision in an evening tweet, prohibiting trophies of killed elephants from being brought into the country.
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Trump Bags Another Anti-Obama Trophy: Dead Elephants

The administration is lifting a ban on importing elephant parts severed as trophies after the animals are shot in Zimbabwe.
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Trump Administration to Lift Ban on ‘Trophy’ Elephant Imports

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service said it planned to reverse a ban on the imports from Zimbabwe, following its earlier move to allow them from Zambia.
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Lions next in line of fire as US rolls back curbs on African hunting trophies

The Trump administration’s lifting of restrictions on importing elephant body parts from Zimbabwe and Zambia is not the last gift to hunting interests

Hunting interests have scored a major victory with the Trump administration’s decision to allow Americans to bring home body parts of elephants shot for sport in Africa. Another totemic species now looks set to follow suit – lions.

As the US Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) was announcing it was lifting a ban on the import of elephant “trophies” from Zimbabwe and Zambia, it also quietly published new guidelines that showed lions shot in the two African countries will also be eligible to adorn American homes.

Related: Trump sons' hunting in focus as US lifts import ban on African elephant trophies

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Trump sons’ hunting in focus as US lifts import ban on African elephant trophies

  • Obama administration imposed ban because of conservation concerns
  • Donald Trump Jr and Eric Trump are enthusiastic big game hunters

The Trump administration’s decision to loosen restrictions around the import of elephant trophies from Zimbabwe and Zambia has turned attention back to the president’s family’s own connection to the controversial sport.

Donald Trump Jr and Eric Trump are prolific big-game hunters and during the 2016 campaign, images re-emerged of the pair on a 2011 hunting trip posing with animals they had killed on safari, including an elephant, a buffalo and a leopard.

The GOP. Here's Donald Trump Jr. holding the tail of an elephant (party symbol) that he killed. #TrumpSacrifices pic.twitter.com/FIGkcH2F0t

What went so wrong with Trump sons that they could kill this beautiful creature pic.twitter.com/L1gquLQrRz

Related: 'There's no sport in that': trophy hunters and the masters of the universe

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US to allow imports of elephant trophies from Zimbabwe

Campaigners fear move by Trump administration will damage global efforts to end the ivory trade

Donald Trump’s administration plans to allow imports of elephant trophies from Zimbabwe into the US – a move campaigners fear could damage global momentum on ending the ivory trade.

In 2014, US big game hunters killing elephants in Zimbabwe were banned from bringing their trophies home, on the basis that the country had failed to show that it was taking elephant management seriously.

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Animals Strike Curious Poses by Elena Passarello review – brilliant essays on immortal beasts

The meanings of Dürer’s rhino, Mozart’s starling, Darwin’s tortoise and others explored with wild imagination and pyrotechnic prose

Elena Passarello starts this extraordinary book with the image of Yuka, a woolly mammoth chiselled from the softening permafrost by Siberian tusk hunters in 2010. First a rounded hoof comes into view, then a hollowed-out eye and finally the flank still bearing evidence of the gash that must have done for young Yuka – she was no more than 10 years old when she died – nearly 40 millennia ago. Most surprising of all, though, is the burning smoulder of her pelt, which has kept to its unconvincing ginger-red despite the passing centuries. Whoever knew that woolly mammoths shared their hair colour with dime-store dolls?

As Yuka is flopped on to the snowmobile it is not her odd dislocations – most of her spine is gone although her legs remain rigid – that qualify as one of the “curious poses” of the book’s title (taken incidentally from a line in “When Doves Cry” by Prince). It is what happens next, Passarello suggests, that stretches and shrinks Yuka into something truly strange. First she becomes the object of hard financial bargaining as the tusk hunters hide her carcass in a frozen cave and wait for the highest bidder. Then, when the scientists finally get their hands on her, she morphs into the poster child for a “rewilding” initiative that aims to make extinct breeds live again by splicing their ancient DNA into the embryo of their nearest living relatives.

Passarello moves between musicology, biography and the golden throat of a bird brain with virtuosic ease

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The week in wildlife – in pictures

Pintail ducks, an elephant seal pup and an osprey in action are among this week’s pick of images from the natural world

Continue reading...
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A green tree frog and an erupting volcano: Friday’s best photos

The Guardian’s picture editors bring you a selection of photo highlights, including a baby elephant and Melania Trump on the Great Wall

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Man jailed after rhino horns and elephant tusks are found in attic

Abbas Allawi is sentenced to 14 months for trying to sell on Instagram endangered animal parts worth up to £2m

A would-be trader in endangered animal parts has been jailed after rhino horns, elephant tusks and hippo teeth worth up to £2m were discovered by specially trained search dogs in a police raid.

Abbas Allawi, 52, was arrested when officers from the Metropolitan police’s wildlife crime unit searched his home in Gisburne Way, Watford, on 19 October last year.

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Man jailed after rhino horns and elephant tusks are found in attic

Abbas Allawi is sentenced to 14 months for trying to sell on Instagram endangered animal parts worth up to £2m

A would-be trader in endangered animal parts has been jailed after rhino horns, elephant tusks and hippo teeth worth up to £2m were discovered by specially trained search dogs in a police raid.

Abbas Allawi, 52, was arrested when officers from the Metropolitan police’s wildlife crime unit searched his home in Gisburne Way, Watford, on 19 October last year.

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