A trunkful of news briefs

Birth, play, death: There was something for everyone in a big fortnight for elephants

Published September 11, 2023

An elephant calf born on Labor Day in Indianapolis touches his mother with his trunk.

"Hey mom! Hey mom! Hey mom! Hey mom! Hey mom! Hey mom!..." (credit below)

Questionist loves elephants. What’s not to love, frankly? They’re big and tough and they make fun noises. They serve as champions for the little guy, and tear-jerkingly sacrificial parents. (And yes, they really are afraid of mice. But so are we!)

But lately they’ve been newsworthy too, so let’s peek into the lives of those most mega- of the megafauna.

Two generations of veterinary wizardry

On Sept. 5, the Indianapolis Zoo announced a historic birth: The first time ever that an elephant calf conceived via artificial insemination was born to a mom who was conceived the same way. Mother Zahara had her 262-pound son after just 20 minutes of labor, the zoo said in a statement, and the as-yet-unnamed chonky boi stood up on his own 10 minutes after that. Appropriately enough, the whole thing went down on Labor Day.

Ancient hunters graduated from easy mode

On Sept. 7, the Times of Israel reported on an archaeology paper that suggests humans hunted Middle Eastern mega-elephants to extinction 400,000 years ago. The species was nearly twice the size of modern-day African elephants, and when it died out, the paper suggests, the ancient people had to up their game. Thus began the human arms race: they created weapons that would work against smaller, faster critters. (But then, what isn’t smaller and faster than a 13-ton pachyderm?)

It’s-a me! Elephant guy!

On Aug. 31, the video-game internet got its first good look at Elephant Mario, who’s set to descend on the wider world Oct. 20, when Super Mario Bros. Wonder  – the first Mario title in decades not to feature the voice work of Charles Martinet – comes out on the Nintendo Switch. The early impressions are good: “Mario can bash enemies with his trunk, soak up water to spray at friends and foes, and – from a crouching position – perform an incredibly impressive push-up to launch himself into the air,” Polygon reported. “Playing as Mario, as an elephant, was delightful.” Guess we should finally get serious about beating Ganondorf.

Featured photo: Indianapolis Zoo

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