Thursday, February 23, 2017

Restless Star classifications done!...but still LOTS of chimps to match and name!

Thanks to everyone for helping us complete our 12th site on Chimp&See!!! You make it all possible :D

In total we had 63,428 video clips classified - one of our biggest sites yet!

Restless Star took us to east Africa and was jammed packed with chimps, gorillas and some tourists! we also had a few surprises along the way like a red duiker and l'hoests monkey hanging out (found by ksigler), some great galago/bushbaby vocalizations and bounciness (found by AnLand), gorgeous red duiker and black-fronted duiker selfies (found by Snorticus and daleh), a melanistic golden cat named Hootch (this clip for example as found by jwdiness), some sweet elephants (found by Snorticus) and a pretty perfect jackal portrait (thanks to Snorticus and zoogirl1).

Not only did we have some mega chimp groups but we were also treated to calmer moments like super peaceful David, just hanging out on a vine (found by Corcaroli and named by puddock) and the sweetest juvenile gorilla hug ever (found by AnLand)!

Restless Star has also been super exciting since it seems we have multiple large chimp groups caught on the cameras! You can check out the evidence in the discussions like this one and this one.

Check out our best of Restless Star highlight reel:

Chimp Matching at RestlessStar!
A whopping 98 (!!!) chimps have been identified and 45 of them matched and named at Restless Star! There are still LOTS of open discussion boards and 53 unnamed chimps waiting for people to weigh in on! You can find the discussions needing attention by checking out the Restless Star Discussion Board and looking for the discussions highlighted with asterisks ** (make sure to check out all the pages on the board!)

If you are new to chimp matching this is a great way to start. Check out the discussion, look at the proposed matches and see if you think the chimps match or not, then post with your thoughts and comments :) every person's opinion helps and very often we let people who help with the discussions give the names to the chimps - so join in!

An extra big THANK YOU and pant hoots to our science team mod Maureen McCarthy who has been overseeing all the chimp matching at Restless Star! And as always a big round of pant hoots to our amazing mods who keep everything running smoothly every day! Thank you ksigler, AnLand, jwidness, yshish and Quia

What's next?
Right now classification focus will continue at our west African site "Aged Violet" for a little while longer. But we hope to be uploading another site as soon as possible! So go to and classify some videos today!

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

#ElephantTuesdays: Sense and sensibility; our big-brained fellows 🐘

The animal psychology defines intelligence as the ability to solve problems, to learn and to deal with new situations, and the size and complexity of the elephant´s brain certainly reflect this fact.

The elephant brain is the largest among terrestrial mammals, and weighs between 4,5 and 6,5 kilograms. The brains of both African and Asian elephants exhibit features comparable to those of some of the cetaceans and the great apes, including humans. 

 Decades of scientific research have been showing that elephants are among the most intelligent and emotionally complex animals.

According to Dr. Jane Goodall, “A tool-using performance in an animal or bird is specified as the use of an external object as a functional extension of mouth or beak, hand or claw, in the attainment of an immediate goal. This goal may be related to the obtaining of food, care of the body, or repulsion of a predator, intruder.”. In this sense, the ability of elephants to manufacture and use tools to solve problems creatively is a good example of intelligence. They use a wide variety of tools both in wild and captive scenarios, for example to reduce ectoparasites, for thermoregulation and to get and manipulate food by using their finger-like tip of their prehensile trunk

In the following video, the adult female is removing some ground and taking a sand bath for thermoregulation and/or reducing parasites; according to the tool use definition, it wouldn´t be appropriate to talk about tool use in this particular case as she is not using any external object to achieve her goal, but it is interesting how she uses her right leg as a shovel to fill up her trunk with sand:

original video: ACP000cg74

Like humans, great apes and dolphins, as large-brained species showing a greater developed cerebral cortex, elephants have the amazing capability to learn complicated tasks and retain that information for longer. They have been seen sticking wood pieces between their trunk and a tusk and keeping them for the right moment to be used; this fact reflects the planning skills of intelligent species:

Original video: ACP000cgv8

The empathic behavior in elephants is another sign of intelligence, and can be seen for example in allomothers assisting a female while giving birth by surrounding her and the newborn in a protective and supportive manner

Consciousness is one more potential proof of intelligence; apart from humans and apes, dolphins and elephants are also known to possess the capacity to recognize themselves in a mirror (a standard test of self-awareness).

Elephants show social and ecological memory: they recognize a large number of individuals in their own herd or in others. They remember resources such as the location of ephemeral water sources or food available.

Here´s a heart touching tale about elephants remembering their own kind:
Two elephants called Shirley (~53) and Jenny (~30) met in The Elephant Sanctuary in Tennessee after 23 years apart. Their reactions showed obvious signs that they knew each other. Shirley started to display mothering behavior, like protecting Jenny from the sun and harm. They spent the rest of their lives together like mother-daughter. It was then known that Shirley and Jenny had been together in a circus when Jenny was a calf. See what happens when they meet:


Self-recognition in an Asian elephant; Joshua M. Plotnik, Frans B. M. de Waal, Diana Reiss (2006)

Biology, Medicine, and Surgery of Elephants, Murray E., Fowler and Susan K. Mikota (2006)

Von Elefanten und Menschen, Kurt, Fred (2014)

Saturday, February 11, 2017

Happy #Caturday! African golden cats

Happy #Caturday! African golden cats (Caracal aurata) are small wild cats living in the forests of West and Central Africa. The fur coloration varies from grey to reddish-brown and melanistic (black) individuals are also known. The Chimp&See camera trap footage shows some of these variations.

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

#ElephantTuesdays: About Emotions 🐘

Elephants are known to have the ability to express emotions. In the same way like humans and chimpanzees do, they can express sadness, empathy, stress, anger, joy, etc. 

Adolescents and juveniles can get easily annoyed or angry with each other. In the clip below, the adolescent in front of the camera gets annoyed by the juvenile approaching from behind, trying to put it away with its trunk from what it was first exploring on the ground, ears flapping. The juvenile leaves bothered with its tail up: so the sequence here would be: adolescent finds something interesting on the ground, juvenile wants to check it too with its trunk but the adolescent gets annoyed by it; juvenile leaves bothered like saying: "ok, it´s all yours!": 

original video: ACP00001vl

We have already talked about their strong social bonds, but have a look at this sequence: there´s a young individual afraid of something in its way and not daring to go through. Tail up, and walking stressed back and forth. The next individual (a juvenile, I would say female) rapidly approaches and touches it with its trunk in a comforting way. The third one does the same thing, trunk touch and approaching to explore the potential danger; it´s a male, excited by the situation with his penis out and flapping ears. Look at the first individual´s reaction when it´s touched by the trunks! it just calms down, accepts to keep walking and follows its `saviors`. Interesting video showing fear, stress and empathy resulting in protection, support and guidance: 

original videos: ACP000cb8k ACP000cb8l ACP000cb8n 

See how they react when they experience a stressful situation (in the case of the video below, the camera is the stressing factor). Tails up, ears flapping. If male, penis out, and if brave enough, ears out and walking in the direction of the potential danger in a threatening way:

original videos: ACP0000b7b , ACP000chqo 

They are as well known to show a special interest when it comes to a relative´s death. 
I´m sure you have heard about the elephant´s graveyard story; it tells that elephants have “graveyards” where they go when they feel that their end is coming closer, and it is certainly a beautiful story to believe in. However, let me just play the “killjoy” here. The reality is that as they get older, they start to lose their molars (remember?) and they need to feed on soft and wet plants that they can easily chew. So they go to the river sides where there are plenty of those plants. They would stay there until they die of starvation and then their bodies flow down the river and end up in a dryer place where the water can´t drag the body anymore. If there were some elephants dying near the same river, the result is a gather place with dead elephant bodies. That´s what local people see, and this fact along with the belief in the elephant´s huge intelligence make this beautiful graveyard story.

It´s been often documented that when an elephant dies, its group (or a different group) stays around the dead body for a while (sometimes even days), just standing and exploring it with their trunks and feet. If you think of the elephant´s need of feeding during many hours a day to get all the nutrients that they need, the fact that they just stay beside a body for hours, "wasting" their precious feeding time, is very surprising. 

Although there are plenty of images showing that they express emotions in front of a relative´s dead body, still there´s little scientific evidence of the reasons why they do it. But they do it… letting aside the scientific explanation, I myself have witnessed awesome scenes. 
Let me tell you a story that I heard about:

Some years ago, in a zoo in Germany, there was a group of female elephants living together for several years. So one day one of those ladies died. In order to avoid a macabre scene for the visitors, the workers in the zoo had to `prepare´ her body inside the elephant house to be transported in a truck out of the zoo. The other three elephants were of course outside during that procedure. The body was then transported in the food truck, and covered with a canvas. They had to drive the food truck with the covered dead elephant body all along the pathway in front of the elephant enclosure where the others stayed. Right when the truck was driving in front of them, all other females went close to the fence and stretched their trunks, sniffing the air. This fact alone was not that special, as they used to do it when the food truck was driving along every day. What was really surprising was that this time they started to trumpet out loud in the direction where their dead group member was being taken.  Amazing, isn´t it?


Save The Elephants: :

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Chimp&See: Bats and rodents

Did you know that together bats and rodents make up over half of all mammal species?  Not only that, but both groups can be found on all continents except for Antarctica, and in many different kinds of habitats.  But it's ok if bats and rodents aren't your favorite animals at Chimp&See, because they actually appear in only a small portion of all the camera trap videos.  Rodents are hard to catch on camera because many species are small and don't like to be out in the open.  Bats are tough because they fly so quickly that they're usually gone before the camera has a chance to record them. In fact, many of our videos with bats are actually triggered by another animal!  

Here are a couple of fun videos found by Corcaroli and DataDroid, each showing both a bat and a rodent.

Original videos: ACP000erzkACP0003wwl

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

#ElephantTuesdays: oh mama! a female´s role 🐘

It is generally known that elephants live in -large- groups, and even that these groups are leaded by a female. But how are they formed? How is the decision made? What are the duties of a leader in the group? There have been several studies on this interesting topic; a very relevant one is known to be the longest continuous elephant research project ever developed, was conducted at Amboseli National Park in Kenya

Elephants live in a fission-fusion society, accumulating social and ecological knowledge over decades, and with mother-offspring bond units to clans. These groups gather approximately 8-12 individuals (in the case of African Forest Elephants the groups might be smaller), are formed by related females and leaded by the matriarch, who is typically the eldest and largest female. All members feed, rest, move and interact in a coordinated way and have very close ties.

Family groups are active, as they constantly build up and break down, and therefore it´s usually difficult to distinguish a completely formed group, but generally speaking, four different kinds of units can be distinguished among elephant fission-fusion social structures:

Mother-calf units: both in Asian and African elephant societies, calves lie at the core of the elephant family with the matriarch serving as the head.

Familywithin the family group, young females (nulliparous) are engaged as the so-called allomothers

 original video: ACP0002hmo

Bond groups: herds can split in related groups, that might at some point gather in closely related families, also called kin groups. Bond group ties are weaker than family ties, but still bond group members assist and defend one another.
Clans, or assemblages of bond groups. Clans are defined as those families and bond groups that share the same dry season home range.

Mother-calf units and families are stable groups, while bond groups and clans are known to be seasonal.

As the eldest female of the group, a matriarchs is a `source of knowledge´ to the others, and in a female-led society, the individual role is the result of age, size, kinship and reproductive condition. The bonds to the matriarch are so strong, that the herd would possibly break after a matriarch´s death.

The matriarch´s tasks are:

·     To lead the group; she will decide when and where to wander, and as a result, what to feed on. She also knows where to go to find the best water sources. However, suggestions are often made by any other member of the group, typically by adults.
·      Protection; she keeps the group away from threats, like human settlements, etc. She will place herself in front of the potential danger, so that she will be attacked first. She will then be protected by the other females of the group, confirming their strong family bonds.
·      She controls the group, noticing where other members are to gather them in case or danger.
·      She educates the group: by teaching the next matriarch.

The female in the group who is a potential matriarch is hard to tell apart; some elephants are natural born leaders, and they start to display their leading abilities at an early age, but sometimes not. As a general rule, a female will succeed in her attempts to be the matriarch if she is confident, well-connected and able to command the respect of others. And all these qualities must be proven all over the years, until the members of the herd are able to recognize her as their leader. So the wise matriarch will be a combination of both natural leadership qualities (“personality”) and long experience; thus, she needs to be genetically and socially well connected to all the members of the group.  

And what about the males? What is the male role in an elephant society? In former elephant posts we discussed about the different life stages of the elephants. When adolescence occurs (at the age of 6 – 15), males leave the matriarchal herd to join other males. Independent males are seen in small male groups, and will go from one family to the next during sexually active periods. The males can build strong bonds, but still not so strong like families.
Young males often gather in unstable bachelor groups (all-male groups), sometimes associated with an adult male. Solo males have already reached the adult age:

original video: ACP000c165 

* In the video below, could you tell who the matriarch is?


Murray E. Fowler, Susan K. Mikota (2006): Biology, Medicine, and Surgery of Elephants

Elefanten in Zoo und Circus, European Elephant Group (EEG), Das Elefanten-Magazin, January 2015.

Elephant Voices:

*answer here

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

#ElephantTuesdays: the elephant´s vision 🐘

The elephant´s eyes are quite small If one compares them with their body dimensions. Their sense of vision is moderate, as they lean more on their olfactory and auditory senses instead.

The eyes of an elephant are located on the sides of the head and therefore provide better peripheral vision, rather than binocular vision. 

Elephants (and especially African Forest elephants) have long eyelashes to protect them from the blowing sand, dirt, debris and the dense vegetation:

original video: ACP0002hmp

In addition to the upper and lower eyelids, and like many other animals, all elephants species have a third eyelid (the so-called nictitating membrane, from latin nictare, to blink) which moves horizontally across the eye, and which works for moisten and protection when bathing or dusting.

Some elephants develop a white ring that encircles the iris as they mature. This ring is similar to an age-ring that may develop in humans (as they age) called arcus lipoides, and does not affect vision.

Elephants are dichromatic; they have two kinds of color-sensors in their retina, one type of cones for *reds and another for greens. That means that they are "color-blind" when you compare them to humans (we are trichromatic: we have three kinds of cones: red, green and blue).

What is also interesting is that they are one of the animals that exhibit arrhythmic vision, that is, their vision changes within the daytime. At night, their eyes are most sensitive to violet light so they can see pretty well under the smallest amount of daylight when the prevailing color of the atmosphere is in the violet range. They have pretty sensitive rods as well (the higher density of rods in the retina, the more sensitive to light one can be), so elephants do a good job when it comes to night vision compared to humans.

The eyesight of the elephants is thought to reach a range of about 46 m. However, this can vary and be much shorter, probably because elephants use their vision sense less than their olfactory and auditory senses. When they focus on their vision, however, they show to react to the smallest ear movement of another elephant placed up to 50 m. in the distance. 

The elephant eyes are amazingly beautiful, and like humans, they can show different colors; the four most common eye colors are dark brown, light brown, honey and gray, but there are more tones like: blue-gray, gold, brown tones, green and yellow, and even the right and left eye of one elephant can be differently colored.

As a curiosity: There have been documented occurrences of elephant herds being led by a blind member, fulfilling amazingly its role as the herd leader.

*Some authors claim that elephants possess cones for reds and blues (deuteranopia) instead of reds and greens : Von Elefanten und Menschen, Fred Kurt (2014).


Murray E. Fowler, Susan K. Mikota (2006): Biology, Medicine, and Surgery of Elephants

Fred Kurt (2014): Von Elefanten und Menschen.

Seaworld Parks & Entertainment: