Osteoporosis, not man, killed the mammoths?

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A mammoth graveyard in southern Russia shows no sign of significant human activity according to a new documentary.  The documentary also reveals that 40 percent of woolly mammoth bones indicate osteoporosis.  While this doesn’t let early man off the hook in terms of hunting mammoth populations elsewhere, it shows it wasn’t a factor in this case.  The other interesting aspect of this news article from The Siberian Times what may have drawn mammoths to the site:  salt.

Paleothithic man ‘not the main cause of deaths at vast mammoth graveyard’

By Olga Gertcyk

22 February 2016

Experts say no sign of any human settlements close to ‘largest necropolis in Asia for the extinct beasts’.

While a few human implements have been found at Mammoth village, there is a striking lack of man’s presence at the probably most recent known large cemetery for the ancient giants, according to a new documentary from Tomsk State University.

The film appears to clear Paleothithic man of having much to do with the demise of the species here, although the creatures were clearly filleted for meat and hide, and their tusks were purloined some 10,000 to 14,000  years ago.

All the implements were not made of local stone, and in fact came from hundreds of kilometres away from the site in Novosibrisk region that may hold the key to why the the mammoths finally died out. They were less weapons than butchering tools, it is believed.

So man did not live close to a place where the ailing mammoths came to die, but visited to raid the enfeebled animals after they tramped here from huge distances.

Paleontologists want to massively extend excavations at the site, known as Volchya Griva at Mamontovoye – or Mammoth – village after a dig in 2015 resulted in the discovery of more than 600 bones and teeth.

Eminent Soviet archeologist Aleksei Okladnikov in 1969 noticed how at the site ‘bones were lying at the same level horizontally – and had no marks of any sort of catastrophic influence’.

The short documentary cites a number of leading experts noting the lack of human presence at the site. Academician Dr Vyacheslav Molodin, an archeologist, one of the first researchers at Volchya Griva, said: ‘Of course when I went there I was hoping to find some human dwelling. But, unfortunately, we didn’t find it.’

Dr Vasily Zenin, of the Institute of Archeology and Ethnography in Novosibirsk, said: ‘It was expected to find a Paleolitic dwelling there, perhaps, some religious constructions.’ However, ‘when we started digging, it became obvious that presence of humans was very limited. There were no conditions for a permanent settlement in Volchya Griva or around it.’

Equally, the half dozen mammoth remains found during research in summer 2015 all appeared to have died relatively young. The creature had a lifespan of 60 to 80 years, but of the six animals found here included two that died between one and 12 years old, one under a year old and two between 12 and 25 years. Two were older than 25.

Intriguingly, some 40% of the woolly mammoth bones found here show signs of bone diseases.

The Siberian Times has examined previously the theory of Dr Sergey Leshchinsky, head of the Laboratory of continental ecosystems of Mesozoic and Cenozoic of  Tomsk State University, that osteoporosis was a key factor in the demise of the animals, and that the reason they came to this site was because it was a ‘salt lick’ offering them the chance to rectify mineral deficiencies…

Elephant sanctuary in Brazil reviews toxic plant risks

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The Global Sanctuary for Elephants is developing a new refuge for elephants in Brazil, involving everything from installing steel pipe fences to assessing whether the local flora pose any health risks to elephants.

GSE reports that five countries in South America have banned elephant performances in circuses and shows.  This has resulted in elephants literally being sent to pasture, sometimes with inadequate care.  The goal of GSE is to complete a 2,800 acre natural refuge for a small herd of elephants.  Elephant Sanctuary Brazil is said to be the first and only elephant sanctuary in South America.

On their blog, GSE recently reported on an interesting consideration, which is that toxic plants could pose a risk to elephants who grew up without being exposed to that vegetation.  But GSE looked into it and found that elephants seem to have an instinctive understanding of which plants are dangerous even though their mothers never taught them to avoid them.  Check out what they learned from an elephant sanctuary in Tennessee:

http://www.globalelephants.org/elephants-and-toxic-plants/

The sanctuary will offer the opportunity to researchers to learn more about this behavior.

Tourist climbs 20 feet to elude tiger for 2 hours

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Shah and Vaan Laan

Krishna Shah (middle) and Gerard Van Laar (right). Photo from The Katmandu Post.

Tour guide Krishna Shah was injured while attempting to distract a Bengal tiger in Bardia National Park in Nepal.  His client, a tourist from the Netherlands, climbed a tree for safety.  The tour guide returned a couple hours later with backup to save Gerard Van Laar.  Kudos to Mr. Shah for returning to the site despite his own injuries to save the Dutchman!

The Metro has the story:

A Dutch tourist managed to escape from a prowling Bengal tiger by hiding up a tree for more than two hours.

Gerard Van Laar was walking in a Nepalese national park with his guide when they suddenly heard a growling roar and saw the animal ‘heading towards us at full speed’.

His guide Krishna selflessly saved the tourist’s life by running into the jungle to draw the tiger’s attention, and telling Gerard to climb the tree.

Tigers are capable of climbing sturdy trees but it is relatively rare for them to do so.

Freelance engineer Gerard, 33, said he was lucky to be alive after the attack on Saturday.

He had been trekking in Bardia National Park, around 250 miles southwest of the capital, Kathmandu.

‘I would have been dead if it had not been for Krishna,’ he told The Associated Press.

Krisha was attacked and slightly injured after he saved the other man, but escaped to raise the alarm.

As Gerard waited in the tree, the tiger returned and started circling while the man in the branches tried to stay as still and quiet as possible around 20 feet above the ground.

Around two hours later the guide came back with help, shouting and using sticks to drive the tiger away…

Zoo makes Kevlar caps for elephant’s tusks

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Oh Billy.jpg

The Denver Zoo called an aerospace engineer for help with dental problem.  Bill the elephant kept wearing down his tusks which could lead to infection.  Zoo staff needed a solution other than metal caps that would distract the playful Billy.  The result was a lightweight, ivory-colored cap made of fiberglass and Kevlar.  Kudos to the team in Denver for their innovative solution to maintain Billy’s health!  From the Denver Post:

Denver Zoo develops advanced technology to repair elephant tusks

Now, the zoo is being contacted by zoos across the country, asking for tips of the tusk trade.

By Elizabeth Hernandez The Denver Post

Posted:   02/12/2016

Billy had the elephant equivalent of a cracked tooth that needed a crown.

The solution — part dentistry, part engineering — patched up Billy and could help zoo animals around the world.

Billy, a 7-year-old Asian elephant who came to the Denver Zoo in 2013, is considered a kid at heart who loves digging in the dirt with his tusks, eating melons, tossing logs around and swimming. The pachyderm’s playful spirit started taking a toll on his tusks — modified teeth that continuously grow throughout elephants’ lives.

When zoo staff members Rachael Chappell and Dennis Donovan and zoo veterinarian Betsy Stringer noticed wear and tear on Billy’s tusks last April, they wanted to take action before the inner tusk became exposed and infection set in.

The team knew they would have to cap Billy’s tusks to protect them, but pre-existing caps were a cumbersome eyesore, often made of an eye-catching metal that would distract a young, inquisitive elephant like Billy.

“We decided it’s 2016, and we’re the Denver Zoo,” Donovan said. “Rachael mentioned they make carbon fiber wedding rings that are durable, and it just went from there.”

They contacted a local aerospace engineer who designed a lightweight, nonintrusive cap in about two weeks that would be fitted to Billy’s left tusk and would take the brunt of his horseplay.

The cap — made of fiberglass layers — matches Billy’s ivory and looks like the head of a cotton swab stuck on the end of his tusk.

“Billy’s very ‘Ooh, shiny object,’ ” Chappell said. “With this cap, he’s less likely to mess with it.”

Other benefits of the innovation include the ability to X-ray Billy to check on his tusk growth, which is not possible with the typical metal cap…

Big data highlights big delays in veteran care

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The Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA) are capitalizing on the power of social media, analytics tools, and data visualization technology.  They’re using these capabilities not just to recruit and serve members, but to monitor and report on the quality of veteran care across the country.  These projects help public officials shift resources to underserved veterans.  The website 1to1 Media recently interviewed IAVA’s CEO about these initiatives:

Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America Gives Data a Seat at the Table

The nonprofit organization uses data visualization and social media tools to uncover insights about female veterans and more.

By Judith Aquino | Published 01/20/2016 in 1to1 Media

For-profit businesses aren’t the only organizations that are leveraging data analytics and online tools—nonprofit organizations like Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA) are also investing in better member experiences.

As the largest organization for veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, IAVA helps veterans successfully transition back to civilian life. 1to1 Media spoke with IAVA Founder and CEO Paul Rieckhoff about the organization’s use of data collection tools and social media.

1to1 Media: In what ways did your organization need help to better reach and engage veterans?

Paul Rieckhoff: Our veterans’ population is young—the average age is in the late 20’s. They’re also digital natives, but extremely geographically and ethnically diverse. One of our biggest challenges is trying to connect 3 million people who are spread out across the world. Technology provides their connection to home.

We began working with Salesforce six years ago and they’ve empowered us to do a lot from a shoestring budget, from getting the veterans connected to their families, building an online community, and collecting information to better understand a veteran’s needs. On Veterans Day, for example, we organized 144 events around the country in one week. Salesforce allowed us to do everything from marketing to check-ins to social media integration to getting people in touch with a therapist.

Do you have an example of an insight about your members that you discovered and were able to implement to improve your service?

Our generation of veterans is different in a lot of ways but one aspect in particular is that 20 percent of our members are women. And they’ve had unique challenges accessing healthcare and getting child care support. We were able to drill down and find out what their experiences were like in the Veteran Affairs system.

What we found out was a female veteran’s experience was much worse than their male counterparts in getting support. We were also able to share that data with Congress. We testified before Congress at least 18 times [in 2015]. Every time we go before Congress, we use this data to share what’s happening on the ground for women veterans.

In some ways we have better data than the Secretary of Veteran Affairs. We’re able to explain to him where the gaps are and what women veterans are looking for from the VA. Many of our women members are also frustrated in getting recognition as veterans. So it’s a cultural transformation that has led all the way to women registering as rangers and the military allowing women into combat roles. We’re part of that movement in making the case that women can do anything that men can.

How do you gather data?

We have systems in place that allow us to connect with the veterans on their cellphones or via social media. For instance, if a woman is having challenges getting healthcare, and she reaches out to us on Twitter, one of our case managers can get in touch by phone, email, or social media within 24 hours. That gets entered into a case that goes into our systems.

We get other data on a regular basis from web traffic, phone calls, and donations. A lot of it is user generated…

New Israeli drone provides air rescue

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Unmanned aerial vehicles can play a role in medical evacuation of wounded troops and search-and-rescue missions.  This would be especially useful in areas that helicopters can’t reach.  From Daily Dot Tech with a tip of the hat to Barry Roskin Blake:

This ambulance drone can carry two people out of dangerous situations
By AJ Dellinger
Jan 22, 2016

When it comes to military conflicts, drones are best known for killing. But the AirMule is built for saving lives, and it recently completed its first successful flight.

The autonomous vehicle, built by the Israeli company Tactical Robotics, serves as an airborne ambulance. The unmanned craft, which can take off and land vertically, can travel to terrain unsafe for human rescue personnel—like a battlefield.

The AirMule is designed to carry two people at a time and can lift nearly 1,000 pounds and travel over 30 miles. A single engine powers the drone, and the rotors are entirely internal. Its design presents opportunities for emergency rescue craft and cargo-carrying vehicles.

The AirMule test run occurred at a facility in Megiddo, Israel, after the Israeli Civil Aviation Authority cleared the company for unmanned flight. Future tests, including demonstrations of its cargo-carrying capacity and beyond-line-of-sight flights, are planned for later in 2016.

Thanks to its internal rotors, the AirMule is capable of traversing areas unreachable by emergency vehicles and helicopters. Because of this design, the drone can get closer to structures and navigate tight confines…

City denies disabled vet’s plan for iPad-controlled smart home

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Taylor Morris, a Navy veteran who was injured defusing a bomb in Afghanistan, and his wife want to build a “smart home” in Cedar Falls, Iowa, that he can operate with a mobile device.  The property they want to buy is zoned for agriculture.  The Cedar Falls city council has denied the Morrisses’ request to have it rezoned residential.

It’s hard to judge a rezoning application without seeing the actual plans.  However, the reasons for the denial (as reported by the Waterloo-Cedar Falls Courier) are flimsy.  The main reason cited is that approval would have “set a bad precedent.”  This is specious because there probably isn’t a backlog of rezoning applications from quadriplegic war veterans in the Cedar Falls zoning department.  If a similar application came through by somebody without a disability, the city could justify a different decision based on the difference circumstances of the applicants.

The second stated reason for denial is that the property is too difficult to access for providing public services.  That is probably a legitimate concern assuming the site is tricky for trash pick-up, police, fire service, etc.  However, the city has in their long-term plans an objective to rezone the area to residential anyway.  Wouldn’t approval help Cedar Falls make progress toward their own plan?

I really hope that city officials will redouble their efforts to work with the veteran and his wife.  Mr. Morris is trying to take advantage of technological innovations on the market to live a more comfortable life with his family.  It’s the kind of residential development that most communities would want to promote.