Male elephants continue to grow throughout their lives, getting bulkier and broader. Older males enjoy a greater competitive advantage and higher reproductive success. Many have a characteristic time of year when they are seeking mates, and as they get older they increasingly advertise their state with strong-smelling chemical signals in their urine and temporal secretions in a condition termed ‘musth’. Younger bulls, who don’t appear to be signaling consistently or at all, may also try their chances when a receptive female is available. But they are prone to being chased off by the bigger, more dominant males.
My next stop is the University of Nottingham Malaysia campus, where I meet my colleague and friend Ahimsa Campos-Arceiz. A Spanish transplant in Malaysia, Ahimsa has spent the past year with great gusto setting up MEME (Management and Ecology of Malaysian Elephants). I recognize the energy, it’s the same enthusiasm shared by Benoit and George, my current supervisor. What all these people have in common is a firm belief in what they do, a single-minded determination that appears never to falter. Truly something to behold. Continue reading
Sukau, Sabah province – Borneo, Malaysia
Sukau is a sleepy little town on the eastern side of Sabah, tucked along the Kinabatangan river. What brought me here is an unlikely acquaintance made via Facebook. A few years ago I got a message from one Nurzhafarina Othman saying she was studying the social organization of Bornean elephants, and she had come across my thesis – could I answer some questions for her? Of course, I said, and so began a little exchange of emails about studying elephants. I grew curious to meet Farina, who seems an unlikely candidate to be traipsing around the forest given her otherwise conservative Malay Muslim background. Since I too come from the Sri Lankan Malay community, it seemed we had a lot in common. Little did I know. Continue reading