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The Elephant After Death
February 18, 2011 6:18 AM   Subscribe

Ever wondered what happens to an elephant's body after it dies in the wild? Now you know.

The British TV station Channel Four teamed up with researchers in Tsavo National Park, Kenya to film exactly what happens to the 6 million calories contained in an elephant's body after it dies. The documentary is available online for the next 28 days, though not to users in the US (I'm not sure what countries it is available in - presumably around the UK).

The male elephant used in the project was injured by poachers and euthanized by veterinarians. The Kenya Wildlife Services report an increase in the elephant population in several national parks, though there have been recent increases in poaching and a rising demand for ivory. CITES, the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Flora and Fauna, maintains several special programs to monitor elephants and the ivory trade across African range states.
posted by ChuraChura (34 comments total) 10 users marked this as a favorite

 
Mmm. Decomposing elephant.
posted by him at 6:22 AM on February 18, 2011 [1 favorite]


I also thought this was an awesome object lesson in the ways that processes which occur after an animals death can complicate the fossil record - bits and pieces of that elephant are going to be ALL OVER Tsavo National Park, and if they end up fossilized, future paleontologists will have a difficult time piecing them all together as part of the same elephant, or inferring information from fragmented remains. It can be done, but it's a meticulous process.
posted by ChuraChura at 6:23 AM on February 18, 2011


Homer, don't you think it's about time you threw that sandwich away?
posted by Slarty Bartfast at 6:23 AM on February 18, 2011 [6 favorites]


Ever wondered what happens to an elephant's body after it dies in the wild?

Executive summary: Hyenas.
posted by logicpunk at 6:23 AM on February 18, 2011 [8 favorites]


A honey badger turns up and starts stealing it's extra skin.

Ew! Nasty-ass honey badger. Stealing elephant skin...
posted by longbaugh at 6:25 AM on February 18, 2011 [12 favorites]


My favorite part was where they broadcast lion kill noises to signal the kill and draw animals o the elephant's carcass.
posted by cashman at 6:25 AM on February 18, 2011


I didn't see the part where the humans come to snatch the tusks.
posted by arveale at 6:28 AM on February 18, 2011


.
posted by joost de vries at 6:31 AM on February 18, 2011


A honey badger turns up

I did not see a honey badger there. Honey badgers are badass and go after snakes in trees and take on angry bee colonies. A dead animal is of no use to the honey badger because they are badass.
posted by jsavimbi at 6:32 AM on February 18, 2011 [1 favorite]


"The horror! The horror!"
posted by Fizz at 6:33 AM on February 18, 2011


So this one didn't make it back to the graveyard?
posted by Ghidorah at 6:34 AM on February 18, 2011 [1 favorite]


Elephant death rituals. Also, a long NYT article about serious human stresses on elephants.
posted by curious nu at 6:34 AM on February 18, 2011 [3 favorites]


Nice, needs more Yakety Sax, though.
posted by bouvin at 6:41 AM on February 18, 2011 [3 favorites]


I had two, simultaneous, contra-indicating meta-thoughts:
1) I'm not nearly as sad about this as I ought to.
2) That's even sadder than I expected.

It was voyeuristic, and philosophical, and...well, I'm squeamish as all get out, but skeletons just fucking *fascinate* me - the structure upon which the flesh of us (and other critters) is hung.
posted by notsnot at 7:00 AM on February 18, 2011


The elephant goo on day 3 and onward really made me feel sorry for the hyenae. Bad enough eating raw elephant, but 3 days dead and half-rotten in the African sun?
posted by DU at 7:02 AM on February 18, 2011 [1 favorite]


Ain't no party like a hyena party because a hyena party don't stop and worry about things like "disgust" and "dignity."
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 7:03 AM on February 18, 2011 [13 favorites]


That was as amazing as it was difficult to watch. An elephant (and any herbivore, really) is just a method of converting plant material into an edible form for carnivores.
posted by Cat Pie Hurts at 7:12 AM on February 18, 2011 [2 favorites]


We know the real story.
posted by FatherDagon at 7:16 AM on February 18, 2011 [1 favorite]


Funny that this part wasn't included in the Circle of Life montage in The Lion King.
posted by dry white toast at 7:32 AM on February 18, 2011 [6 favorites]


...the 6 million calories contained in an elephant's body...

And Applebee's STILL serves it with a large fries and a salad coated with ranch dressing.

EAT THIS INSTEAD: Gazelle with mixed long grass, 32,000 calories, 1.5 kg fat, 500g sodium
posted by PlusDistance at 7:41 AM on February 18, 2011 [14 favorites]


FUCK YEAH DEAD ELEPHANT!
posted by East Manitoba Regional Junior Kabaddi Champion '94 at 7:46 AM on February 18, 2011 [1 favorite]


...Honey badgers are badass and go after snakes in trees and take on angry bee colonies...

It's a bee house, not a colony. Jeez.
posted by longbaugh at 7:52 AM on February 18, 2011


PlusDistance flagged as awesome.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 8:01 AM on February 18, 2011


It was interesting how the elephant seemed to be left alone during the day, and then, as soons as it got dark, it was a hyena feast.

I guess I have learned that mostly they come out at night.

Mostly.
posted by Astro Zombie at 8:03 AM on February 18, 2011 [4 favorites]


Dear AskMe: so, there's this giant elephant carcass out on the field. I nibbled a bit of it two nights ago and last night too, but now I'm wondering whether it's still safe to eat.

PS I am a hyena and my digestive system is different than yours.
posted by Deathalicious at 8:05 AM on February 18, 2011 [13 favorites]


ETMFA
posted by longbaugh at 8:09 AM on February 18, 2011 [3 favorites]


ETMFA

When did Andrew Zimmern show up?
posted by Cat Pie Hurts at 8:38 AM on February 18, 2011


Dear AskMe: so, there's this giant elephant carcass out on the field. I nibbled a bit of it two nights ago and last night too, but now I'm wondering whether it's still safe to eat.

no, it's really not safe to eat now

posted by Bad Ass Hungry Honey Badger at 12.03 AM on February 18 [+] [!]
posted by pyramid termite at 9:03 AM on February 18, 2011 [2 favorites]


Hyenas are fine. Just don't try to blow it up.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 9:08 AM on February 18, 2011


Dear AskMe: So, say you killed an elephant. What would you do with the body? I mean, it's not like I killed an elephant or anything, but I was just wondering...
posted by empatterson at 9:14 AM on February 18, 2011


Dear AskMe: So, say you killed an elephant. What would you do with the body? I mean, it's not like I killed an elephant or anything, but I was just wondering...

First, be smart from the very beginning. Pulverize all teeth, burn off f... ah fuck it, just leave it outside, the hyenas will take care of it.
posted by AceRock at 9:31 AM on February 18, 2011 [2 favorites]


That's what the 3-yr old son of my friends said, while scavenging olives out of the jar with his tiny fingers, one by one (authentic Southampton accent):
"Yummay in my tummay"

For the Hyenas: literally
posted by Namlit at 11:11 AM on February 18, 2011


DU wrote "The elephant goo on day 3 and onward really made me feel sorry for the hyenae."

Don't feel bad. Really. The hyenas don't care. They can eat rank putrid stuff that would kill an ordinary mammal and not even get so much as a little heartburn. I know folks who study hyenas and they all say that the things they eat are amazing. Like bones. An adult spotted hyena can bite through a giraffe femur to get at the marrow, for gods sake. They eat so much bone that their poop is white from the calcium. Not like lions and leopards who daintily scrape and snip the meat off the bones. No sir. Hyena isn't that patient. Just eat the damn meat, bones and all, and poop out what you can't digest.

Anecdotally heard a story about a dead elephant in Kenya. For days the hyenas kept eating it. They burrowed into its side and it turned into a dried skin-tent, just the skin and ribs left, the hyenas ate everything else. Coming and going through the hole in the side of the carcass until there was nothing left inside for them to eat. Eventually they started eating the skin too.
posted by caution live frogs at 11:31 AM on February 18, 2011 [2 favorites]


The female spotted hyena gives birth through her penis; eating elephant goo is nothing.

previously
posted by zippy at 2:01 AM on February 21, 2011


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