BABY ELEPHANT WALK: This is a bit of a rewind, as we're finally getting around to reporting about our outing last Thursday night. It was the first Thursday of the month, and that meant it was movie night at Living Computers: Museum + Labs. We went plenty early to have plenty of time to play in their amazing new space. Come 6 o'clock, it was time for the movie, which was screened in the museum's well appointed new lab space.
I'll let the kids tell you more about the remarkable documentary. CJ's up first. ..
"When she loses everything, she'll win your heart."-Naledi: A Baby Elephant's Tale's tagline
Recently, my family went to the Living Computers Museum + Labs, a Paul Allen museum, for the fiftieth approximate time to see a documentary film made by Vulcan Productions, a film company founded by Paul Allen. The film in question is known as "Naledi: A Baby Elephant's Tale," which chronicles the story of Naledi from 2013 on and her story of survival throughout difficult times in central Africa, as well as a crew's efforts to find elephant herds throughout Africa (occasionally accompanied by graphic images of the desecrated corpses of elephants slain for their ivory).
Naledi was born in the Summer of 2013 in Abu Camp, an elephant research center and safari lodge in Botswana. For the first six weeks of her life, Naledi enjoyed an idyllic existence, where she partnered with her human caretakers and other female members of her herd. However, when her mother, Kiwi, unexpectedly died, taking care of Naledi suddenly went from a peaceful activity to a desperate struggle as Naledi's health began to fail. When Kiwi died, Naledi stopped eating, and she became very skinny and ill. Mike Chase, a biologist in Naledi's crew, worked with his colleagues to help save Naledi.
To help save Naledi from dying of malnutrition, the crew had to use a milk formula which was fed to Naledi through a bottle. In order to get Naledi to drink any of the formula, the crew had to put a black cover over the bottle, as Naledi refused to drink when she could see the bottle. If my memory is correct, eventually, Naledi drank milk from an adult elephant in her herd, even though that elephant did not have any children (normally, mammals only start producing milk once they have children).
Eventually, we are shown a clip of Naledi's first birthday celebration in 2014, where the crew actually made her a small birthday cake (I couldn't tell what it was made of, though). However, after this clip, the subject matter, while already pretty serious, suddenly takes a turn for the darker (and graphic). We see clips of the crew in helicopters, travelling across central Africa to look for elephant herds. While the crew do find some elephant herds across the continent, giving at least a little bit of hope, they also find multiple corpses of elephants, minus any tusks.
For quite a bit of time now, African elephants have been hunted and poached by humans attempting to harvest their tusks, usually to sell in the ivory trade. According to the film, on average, African elephants are killed by poachers at a rate of one per fifteen minutes, which can add up to thirty-thousand elephants slain every year. As a result of the hunting and poaching, elephant populations have been decreasing at an alarming rate. Myself, I find using ivory as a status symbol reprehensible, but I am glad to hear about people like the crew who help elephants like Naledi survive. Sources:http://www.vulcanproductions.com/our-work/naledi/http://www.vulcanproductions.com/assets/projects/NALEDI-Press-Kit-5-18.pdf
And here is what Annabelle had to say ...
"Naledi: A Baby Elephant’s Tale" is a movie about an elephant named Naledi born in Abu Camp, a rescue camp for elephants in Botswana. Only 6 weeks after birth, Naledi’s mother Kiti fell gravely ill and she was orphaned. Nadeli drank milk from another female in the herd, but that female wasn’t producing enough for Naledi, as she had never had her own calf. The handlers at the rescue camp attempted to feed her milk through a bottle, but as long as Naledi was with the herd, she would rather drink from a live elephant. So the only solution was to drive her away from the camp and feed her through the bottle in isolation. At first, she didn’t accept it, but eventually she was drinking from the bottle and could be brought back to camp.
After she was brought back, another tragedy happened: Naledi was suffering from severe constipation, and had to have surgery. The surgery was successful, and now Naledi lives a normal life as part of her herd.
The problem is, millions of elephants are orphaned because of poaching, and they can’t all be saved like Naledi. Their parents are killed in the wild for their ivory, and we don’t have researchers on hold everywhere to help them. In order to protect the elephants, we need to stop poaching of ivory. The elephant population is on the decline, and they need saving. It’s going to be nearly impossible to 100% get rid of poaching, but the best thing to do is at least try, for the sake of the elephants!
After the movie, Ted Schmitt, a member of Vulcan Productions' technical team gave a talk. He gave more detail about the Great Elephant Census, which took place in 2014. The final results from the census counted 352,271 African savanna elephants in 18 countries, which is down 30% over the last seven years. The census was done by flying small planes over the savanna. The speaker said that the total distance flown was more miles than if they had gone to the moon and back. (He noted that in the future, cube or nano satellites might be used to help with tracking.) You can read an article by Schmitt on the topic on the Great Elephant Census: http://www.greatelephantcensus.com/blog/2014/7/28/developing-new-technology-to-enhance-accuracy. The Great Elephant Census Web site is a treasure trove of information about African elephants. Check it out here: http://www.greatelephantcensus.com/
MEANWHILE, IN FLORIDA: I received a short email from Jeff Bezos this morning. He's the Amazon guru and founder of Blue Origin, an aerospace company with its headquarters in Kent, Washington, just south of Seattle. Bezos said the email was to update us on the 750,000 square-foot New Glenn rocket factory that's currently under construction at Florida's Space Coast.
Here's a photo Bezos shared of the first steel going up.
He also shared a drawing of what the building should look like by the end of 2017. Pretty cool - and quick, if they meet that deadline.
If you want to receive email from Jeff Bezos about Blue Origin updates, go to blueorigin.com/interested and sign up!
I couldn't help but notice Bezos concluded his email with Gradatim Ferociter! I didn't know what that meant, so naturally, I had to Google it. Turns out it means “step by step, ferociously,” and it's the Blue Origin company motto.
Speaking of spaceflight, we braved some chilly temps to watch a four minute flyover of the ISS a little before 5 tonight. One good thing about the days being so short is you get to see early ISS flyovers!