Saturday, December 31, 2016

Thank You for a great year of Chimp&See!

It's the last day of this year! 

Thank you all so much for working on Chimp&See with us. I hope you all know how amazing you are! You wow us daily with your keen observations, excellent questions and various insights and dedication! The Science Team is MASSIVELY grateful to you guys and we hope you have even half us much fun as we do discussing African wildlife together!

We're really looking forward to 2017 with you all and hope to get some new "faces" here too so we can get through even more videos :) So spread the word about!

Thank You, Dankeschoen, Merci, Gracias, Grazie, DΔ›kuji!!!

PS: our amazing mod Kris (ksigler) has been hard at work preparing all the videos for our best of 2016 voting!! Stay tuned next week for the link to watch al the nominees (like the gorgeous silverback below) and vote for your favourites!!!

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Chimp matching features: balding and eyebrows

In our chimp matching discussions, the most often described facial features of a chimp are the balding pattern of the forehead and the form of the eyebrows. We put together two collages for these traits to give you a visual idea what kind of differences you can expect and discuss to propose a match.

We have still many ongoing chimp matching discussions in both open sites Restless Star and Aged Violet and accordingly lots of infants to name when we have finished the sites.

Come over to Chimp&See and try to match chimpanzees or just help with descriptions to assist others in the identification process! 


Baldness patterns

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

#ElephantTuesdays: the elephant´s trunk 🐘

The respiratory system of the elephants has several unique features. However, despite all the studies about elephants that have been made so far, there are very few scientific publications regarding their respiratory system; for example, the African elephants are known to have more flexible trunks than the Asians, and the reason remains still unclear. 

The trunk is one of those unique structures; it consists of the nose and the upper lip, more or less 80.000 muscles, 2 separated nostrils (or passages) and no bones. 

Their trunks are so important, that an elephant couldn´t survive with an amputated or hardly damaged trunk. They are used not only for breathing, but they also have several other functions like:

Soak organ: unlike many people might think, elephants don´t drink with their trunks, but use them to soak up water and then blow it into their mouths (up to 10 liters at once!).

“Body-care” organ: they use it to clean their eyes and ears, or to blow sand and mud over their bodies to clean themselves or to cool down, as a sun protection or as an insect repellent. 

Tactile function: playing, fighting, laying it on other´s back as a dominance signal, or touching mom:

Original video: ACP000bfq1

Original video: ACP000bfo0

Prehensile organ: The African elephant has two opposite prehensile finger-like appendages (“fingers”) at the tip of its trunk which are used to grab and/or manipulate objects and smaller items. The Asian elephant has only one finger at the end of its trunk:

Communication, producing sounds (trumpets, etc.), and also by using a large range of trunk displays to communicate, for example when encouraging to play (see this beautiful video :-) ). 

As a “weapon”: rolling it to push a potential danger (for example, other elephant or a safari car), they use it to throw objects against it, etc. When a chained Asian "working" male elephant is in musth, he would aggressively throw stones, sand, his own dung and food away as an expression of the frustration that arises from the lack of movement and the situation itself (high testosterone levels). 

To threaten: by swinging it in the direction of an adversary, ears wide open and running towards the potential danger. typically while blowing forcefully out through it.

Olfactory function:
Original video: ACP0002p30

Elephants are very curious animals, and they use their trunks to satisfy their curiosity by touching the object in particular with their trunk and then placing the trunk in their mouth. Like many other animals such as mice, rats, cattle, dogs, cats, goats and pigs, elephants have a Jacobson´s organ (vomeronasal organ) in the roof of their mouth. They transfer chemo sensory stimuli by touching this organ with the trunk finger.  

Curiosity: the elephant trunk is amazingly flexible and extremely strong at the same time: it can pick up a grain of rice and also lift a tree trunk. 


Murray E. Fowler, Susan K. Mikota (2006): Biology, Medicine, and Surgery of Elephants
Simon, Verne A. (2010). Adaptations in the Animal Kingdom
Pflumm Walter (1996): Biologie der SΓ€ugetiere

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

#ElephantTuesdays: the elephant´s teeth 🐘

Although there might be voices against it, elephants are assumed to be generalized grazers in the wild. Their feeding preferences are attributed to different factors like season or habitat; the conversion from woodland to grassland as a result of habitat degradation leads the elephant feeding habits from browsing (feeding on leaves, soft shoots, or fruits of high-growing, generally woody, plants such as shrubs) to grazing (feeding on grass).

Their food intake varies in percentage, and the most prevalent food is reported to be grass. But they also eat shrubs, leaves, twigs, roots, fruits, seeds, herbaceous plants, soil and stones (incidentally swallowed with soil).

The elephant´s oral cavity is actually fairly small compared to its body size. The tongue is unable to protrude from the oral cavity as the tip is attached to the floor of the mouth. The tongue can form a fold in the center that helps pushing the food into the end of the mouth:

Young elephants develop deciduous tusks that provide the orientation of the future permanent tusks. Tusks are observed both in female and male in African elephants, and in male Asian elephants, although female Asian elephants may as well develop short vestigial tusks called tushes that often won´t come out completely. 

checking Buria´s (an Asian female) tusk cavity for tushes

Elephant´s teeth erupt from the back to the front (horizontally). They have 6 sets of molars during their whole life (they undergo dentition 6 times!!), and when one tooth breaks off, another one pushes forwards to replace it. Their teeth are made up of ridges (lamellae) and when these lamellae are old and worn down, they need to break to fall down, and this is one of the reasons why wood is an important part of their food intake, playing an essential role in the elephant´s teeth regeneration. By chewing hard branches and bark, a lamella breaks off and falls down or is swallowed until the whole tooth is replaced by the next molar coming from the back (broken molars of elephants can be found on the ground or in their dung). Once all their teeth break off, the elephant will die of starvation (or malnutrition). In fact, if elephants kept in zoos are wrongly fed, for instance if they are not given branches daily, they will suffer from teeth deformations as well.

Eating bark and branches is not only important when it comes to teeth regeneration, but also elephants can easily take profit of its nutrients; unlike humans, they possess specialized digestive systems and the necessary enzymes to break down huge macromolecules like cellulose into smaller molecules that can be assimilated.  

Original video: ACP000chqq

Sometimes they don´t eat it, but use it as a tool instead. In the video below, the elephant keeps a piece of wood between its trunk and tusk to use it later:

Original video: ACP000cgv8

There are considerable differences between the Asian and the African elephant teeth, with the lamellae being diamond-shaped in Africans and parallel in AsiansGuess which species it is in the picture below (*).


As a curiosity:  the elephant´s first molar is so big as a matchbox, and the last one (6th) is as big as a brick. 

*it is an African elephant πŸ‘


Murray E. Fowler, Susan K. Mikota (2006): Biology, Medicine, and Surgery of Elephants

Friday, December 9, 2016

Best of 2016!

Winner for Favorite Chimp 2015
We've had another wonderful year at Chimp & See, thanks to all of our awesome volunteers! As we did in 2015, we thought a "Best of" event would be a fun way to close out the year and share some of our favorite clips with each other. Did you have a favorite chimp in 2016? We saw lots of camera reactions - which was the best? Share the best and most memorable clips of 2016, and then we'll vote!

We want to see the best clips in the following categories:

  • Favorite chimp
  • Funniest clip
  • Best camera reaction
  • Creepiest clip
  • Cutest clip
  • Biggest surprise

To learn more and nominate your favorites, join us in the Best of 2016 event at Chimp & See!

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

#ElephantTuesdays: The elephant´s feet 🐘

Free-living African elephants are estimated to walk 30 – 60 km daily (Asian elephant herds can walk 20-30 kilometers per day). They walk on different terrain types, rocks, mud, vegetation, they go through escarpments, they use their feet to dig up roots from the ground, etc. All this daily activity allows them keep their feet healthy (although to be fair enough, they might as well suffer from fractures, lacerations or even injuries resulting from landmines in the wild).  

However, if we talk about non-free living elephants, we find that foot problems are seen in more than 50% of captive Asian and African elephants at some point of their lives. The inactivity, malnutrition and unsuitable ground (concrete), very often trigger foot diseases. Although some of the foot problems could be treated, they often result in serious disabilities or even euthanasia. That’s why an appropriate foot care of the captive elephant´s feet is critical. Because of their body weight distribution, captive elephants happen to show more foot disorders on their front feet (Asians more than Africans).  

Some of the most common foot diseases in captive elephants are:
Cuticle feathering and nail abscesses

Nail cracks (source

Nail overgrowth

The elephant feet are very interesting structures, with unique mechanical and sensory functions. They are designed to support the weight of the largest land mammal with the help of subcutaneous cushions, which distribute forces when walking or standing. While standing, the weight distribution of a large African male elephant (6000 kg) is 60% (3600 kg) on the front feet and 40% (2400 kg) on the back feet. 

Besides, they are equipped with sensory receptors (Vater–Pacinian corpuscles and Meissner corpuscles) that make them the most sensitive part of an elephant's body. Elephants can detect seismic vibrations that deform the layers of the Pacinian corpuscles, sending a nerve signal to the brain. 

Both mechanical and sensory functions of an elephant's limbs enhance their ability to move through and analyze their physical environment. In the video below, the female elephant is checking the ground with her front limb.

Original video: ACP000bia8

It is thought that when elephants move their feet with a slight horizontal tendency, they are 'listening' to infrasounds, and if the movement is more vertical instead, they are just recognizing the ground. In this case, we see her moving her foot up and down.

A very interesting point here: she is using her trunk to collect something on the ground and her foot to check the plants, and this is a good example for independency, meaning that they can use their trunk and limbs simultaneously for different things.

As a curiosity: the elephant toenails grow approximately 0.5 to 1.0 cm. per month, while in humans the growth rate of toenails is 1.62 mm/month. 

Murray E. Fowler, Susan K. Mikota (2006): Biology, Medicine, and Surgery of Elephants. 
Csuti, Sargent and Bechert (2001): The Elephant's Foot: Prevention and Care of Foot Conditions in Captive Asian and African Elephants

Monday, December 5, 2016

Welcome New Chimp&See Citizen Scientists!

Hi everyone,

We had a nice spike in user and classifications last week - thank you all for your hard work!

November 14th - December 5th 2016 C&S stats

Welcome to all the new citizen scientists and if you have any questions at all please visit us on Talk  where our amazing team of mods will be happy to answer any and all of your questions!

Some other news this week is that Zooniverse has an advent calendar and day 1 marked the start of their photo competition - so please feel very encouraged to submit some of the best video screen grabs that chimp&see has to offer. For some ideas of how to get started if you do not already have a favorite photo visit this discussion on Talk :)

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

#ElephantTuesdays: Elephant life stages 🐘

If you have small kids, the idea of them someday leaving home is painful and scary in a way. But then when they reach adolescence and start to be irrational and dramatic for apparently no reason, and walk dragging their feet all over your place, the idea of them leaving gets not only reasonable but also urgent J . So, if one thinks of their age when they finally get independent it might appear to be quite late compared to other mammals.

All mammals are dependent on their mothers for a species-specific period of time, ranging from a few weeks to a few years; but have you ever wondered how long do elephant calves stay with their mothers?

The elephant calves have extremely emotional brains and need mom in order to learn how to behave within their own society and to cope with specific situations and stress. They have shown to share emotions and behavior traits with humans, and like humans, the elephant calves stay dependent on their mother (and others in the herd) for survival during quite a long time: after a pregnancy period of about 22 months (my goodness! the longest gestation period in mammals) they start to suckle since they are born until 3.5 – 5 years, and they can even share mom´s milk with a newborn. The elephant calves depend entirely (that is, physically and psychologically) on their mothers for three to five years. However, the bonds between mother and offspring remain strong afterwards, and in the case of mother-daughter they even last a lifetime.

During the infancy, the `mother figure´ is extremely important. The maternal behavior (the care giving behavior given by female mammals) includes: suckling, nurturing, providing shelter, passing on traditions, and protecting from danger among others:

Original video: ACP0002p3f

This video shows a typical `mother behavior´, where the females are protecting the infants from a potential danger (the camera) by pushing them aside with their body and trunk. Like the chimpanzees, allomothers (caring females in the herd other than mothers) can be not only other adult females (frequently called `aunts´), but also young females and the infant´s own siblings. The chance of taking part in an infant´s development period is hugely important to these young future mothers, as they will gather experience for the moment when they have their own offspring. The importance of allomothers is such, that if the biological mother happens to die leaving unweaned offspring, they will do her job (allonurse) by producing milk even if they had no offspring of their own.

This matriarchal system involves not only the obvious maternal responsibilities, but also plays a role in protecting the herd, making daily decisions on movements, feeding and drinking places, etc.

As a curiosity: elephants are thought to be born hairless, but actually they do have most of their `lanugo´ or embryonal hairs on their backs and heads after their birth and keep it for some years:

The adolescence occurs at the age of six to fifteen when they reach sexual maturity. Now is the time when the herds break and form; young bulls gather in bachelor herds and females stay in the matriarchal group.

In the case of adolescent males, this period implies the separation from the matriarchal herd to join other males; youngs gather together and sometimes they join other adult males that can teach them. This phase thus implies male encounters, fights, musth (it usually occurs at the age of 10-12 the first time) and the search for females to mate.
The females, however, stay in their group where they meet their maternal instincts, developing social tasks like caring for the infants.

Finally, the adulthood starts at the age of 15-17, when the families are formed. It´s time to settle their role in the matriarchal system (in the case of females), made up by a head female, mothers, daughters, sisters and aunts. 

Females have a reproductive life very similar to humans, continuing reproducing until midlife and experiencing a post-reproductive phase similar to menopause in women. They give birth to a single calf (twins are very rare) with two to four-year intervals. The moment of the birth is followed by rumbles and trumpets, gland secretions and really high excitement performed by other females of the group.

The African elephants are the land mammals with the longest lifespan under ideal circumstances (not being poached for example): they can reach an age of 60 to 70 years…amazing for wild animals!

According to Weihs (2002), the elephant life stages could be summarized as follows:
Over 15

Adult, juvenile and infant
Original video: ACP0002crh

How curious we humans are: we place ourselves right at the top of all living creatures thinking that we are so different from the others; but if we lowered ourselves to come down from our throne and have a closer look at other species like elephants and chimpanzees, we will realize how similar our natures actually are. It´s a good humility exercise.

Dietmar Jarofke (2007): Jarofkes Elefantenkompendium; Haltung, Zucht, Verhalten und Krankheiten der Elefanten.

Weihs; W. (2002): Molar growth and chewing frequencies as age indicators in Asian Elephants.

Fred Kurt, Marion E. GaraΓ― (2007): The Asian Elephant in Captivity. A Field Study.

Elephant Information Repository:

Monday, November 21, 2016

#ElephantTuesdays: Male or female? 🐘

The sexual dimorphism is a condition that some species have when the two sexes show different characteristics. In some animal species, these differences can be very obvious (for example in Mandrills), being manifested by color, size, presence of certain features like breasts, etc.

In the case of African elephants, however, the sexual dimorphism is unfortunately not so clear. Even sometimes for the most trained eyes it can be tough to tell the gender. Even the genitals can be misleading as both penis and vulva hang ventrally. Besides, the male´s testes are located in the abdominal cavity, which makes the assumption even harder.

There are cases when the sex is more than evident: 

but If you don´t get to see an elephant erect, here are some very general tips that will help tell an African elephant´s gender apart.

Overall body shape: Males are more robust and in general bigger than females.

Head: an adult male´s head (forehead) is usually wider than an adult female´s.

Trunk: an adult male´s trunk is pretty thicker/wider than a female´s, especially the base of the trunk.

Tusks: usually longer and thicker in males than in females; a broken tusk might be as well the result of a fight between males.

Breasts: adult females have two breasts between their forelegs: 

As a curiosity: again Can, our African forest elephant in the Abidjan zoo, was thought to be a male for 20 years!!, until we saw her urinating; when males urinate, the penis comes out and then you have a good chance to claim the sex; 

Can urinating:

male urinating: 

 Original video: ACP000ciji


Monday, November 14, 2016

#ElephantTuesdays: Elephant species 🐘

 Although there used to exist species of elephants on earth, we can unfortunately confirm three occurring currently in Asia and Africa:

Elephas maximus (Asian elephant)
Loxodonta africana (African bush elephant)
           Loxodonta cyclotis (African forest elephant)

Sometimes it might appear easy to distinguish between all three species, or at least between the African and Asian sp., but actually it can be sometimes tricky. If you have a look at the following table, you will notice that in general, African sp. are a bit bigger and heavier than their Asian relatives. But if you are not in Asia or Africa, but in front of an elephant far from their natural habitat (like a zoo) this feature alone can be confusing, as it obviously depends on the individual´s age and physical condition. So one thing that usually helps is the size of their ears, and their head´s shape. In African elephants, their ears reach up over the neck, and the head shape is basically round.

The main morphological differences between the African and Asian elephant species are:

Loxodonta sp.  
Elephas maximus
4.000-7.000 Kg
Height (shoulder height)
3-4 m.
2-3,5 m.
Relatively smooth
Existing in both sexes
Females have no tusks or only rudimentary
2 fingertips/ very wrinkled/more flexible
1 fingertip/less wrinkled/less flexible
Shape of the back
Convex (sometimes even straight)
Forelegs: 4 (sometimes 5)
Hind legs: 3 (sometimes 4)
Forelegs: 5
Hind legs: 4 (sometimes 5)
Belly shape
slopes diagonally downwards towards its hind legs
Round/straight, horizontal
Head shape
Two bulges

Interesting as it might be, yet our concern here is not about how to differentiate between African or Asian ele. but how to tell apart the two African species.

Just a short summary of physical African elephant traits:

Loxodonta africana
Loxodonta cyclotis
4.000 - 7.000 Kg
 2.000 - 4.500 kg
Height (shoulder height)
3-4 m.
2 - 3 m
wrinkled/ less and shorter hairs
Smoother/long hairs, long eyelashes
cuts usually are individual; the older they get, the more folded the ear can be

shape of the African continent
cuts usually are individual; the older they get, the more folded the ear can be

both sexes

males have stronger ones

usually curved, thicker
both sexes

males have stronger ones

more or less straight downwards, thinner
2 finger tip
2 finger tip
Forelegs: 4
Hind legs: 3
Forelegs: 5
Hind legs: 4

Asian elephant:

 African bush elephant (Source):

African forest elephant:

Original videos: ACP00022ho, ACP0002cpg

But these are only numbers and approximations, necessary when it comes to taxonomy, but in nature things don´t always work that way; in fact, there´s been controversy between taxonomists when claiming differences between both African species. 

 As a curiosity: years ago, local people and hunters, claimed to exist another species of elephants occurring in Africa, the Pygmy elephant. There was some controversy about this fact, some researchers agreed, some didn´t, and years later those individuals that were seen and thought to be pygmy elephants, happened to be the infants of the African forest species, so the new “discovery” was finally rejected. 

We have been often asked if there is a difference in behavior between all three species, and honestly, we are never really sure what to say. There are plenty of different opinions: some believe that Asian elephants are thought to be more docile than the African species, others don´t; the Africans are thought to be a bit more “dirty” than the Asians (they like to take their own poo and put it on their backs). It is also said that the African forest elephants tend to accumulate food on their backs, while the African bush elephants don´t do it that often… and we have witnessed it: see what the lovely forest elephant Can from the Abidjan zoo likes to do with her food:

Call them what you will, we personally don´t mind if they have big or small ears, thin or thick tusks, if they are clean, dirty, docile or fierce… 

Kalinga Animal Shelter: