The Elephant Song Reminds Me of Elephants

From Reuters: “The most comprehensive elephant genome study ever conducted, covering seven living and extinct species, is offering some surprises about the family tree of the world’s largest land animal while also settling a debate about Africa’s elephants… “

African Savanna Elephant

Putting aside the fact that our need for a comprehensive elephant genome study asymptotically approaches zero as time marches ever onward, I need to know who DEBATES anything about Africa’s elephants? The only debate that I can imagine would be “Resolved: Do we scare the elephants out of our crops with loud noises or do we use small arms gunfire?”. I doubt even elephants want to debate any aspect of their existence. They just don’t seem very introspective…

So, what IS the debate? The debate is whether the two types of African elephant are two different species or two subspecies of the same species. We need to know this because, until we do, we won’t know if we have to choose a favorite. And, it turns out that the African Savanna Elephant and the African Forest Elephant ARE two different species. Did I just rock your world? I did? How sad…

African Forest Elephant

A National Geographic article I saw on this subject describes the two as “wildly different” in the same way that Coke and a two-liter Coke are wildly different. They are both super-intelligent giant cows with long noses; but, the Savanna Elephant is a bigger super-intelligent giant cow with a long nose. But, bigger does not make you a different species. Nor, does parting your hair on the other side…

Now, the usual way to determine if two creatures are of the same species is to see if they can breed; however, if you already BELIEVE that two animals are of different species, you simply call their viable offspring a “hybrid” and you are off the hook. Is calling an elephant a hybrid hurtful? Perhaps… I’m not an elephant, despite what you may have heard. And, because they now believe them to be two species, they are calling elephants from the unholy union of a Savanna Elephant and a Forest Elephant “hybridizations”. Talk about stigma…

If you are looking for a motive behind all of this, listen to this: In a rare feat of zoological gerrymandering, when the species becomes two species, suddenly one of them, the Forest Elephant, is critically endangered. Zoologists hope that this will highlight the plight of the Forest Elephant or at least de-emphasize everything about it that ISN’T plight. This is a shame. Yes, poachers are bad… blah blah blah; but, some people depend on them. As a devotee to scrimshaw, I already have enough trouble getting my hands on some ivory. Any new efforts to stop poaching and I might have to take up a hobby that DOESN’T rely on the extinction of a species. And, besides free-climbing and weaving, I cannot think of a single hobby that doesn’t…

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