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My Summer Vacation: Three Weeks with Elephants

Magnificent animals. Extraordinary insights. Peeing in a Tupperware container. It’s all part of the deal for a research team in Namibia.

Stanford Magazine
Jun 21, 2018 · 21 min read
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Getting There

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CLOSE QUARTERS: The research tower’s proximity to the Mushara water hole enables daily observation and monitoring of behavior among family groups.

O’Connell-Rodwell and a team of volunteers are here to study elephants, whose numbers are declining and whose survival is threatened.

Field Students

Lion watch is mandatory. If anyone leaves the compound there must be at least one person on the research deck scanning 360 degrees with binoculars before the gate is opened.

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A Day (and Night) at Mushara

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The dung is full of detailed information that can reveal everything from the hormonal status of the elephant to genetic relationships within the population.

A loud grumble erupts from just outside the canvas walls of the ground-floor kitchen. “Is that a rhino or an elephant?” I ask matter-of-factly. It’s not a question I’ve ever posed before while making dinner.

Mousecapades

Who knew that in the midst of these enormous creatures and this remote, rough landscape, it would be the mice that would present one of the biggest challenges?

The Flying Vet

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GROUND-LEVEL VIEW: The “pill box” was originally built to help patrol the park but now offers special access for researchers.

Where to Go from Here

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TEAM MUSHARA 2017:Katie Lawlor; Julia Gimeno; Kelsey Jessup; Caitlin O’Connell-Rodwell; Caitlin Fay; Judy Wieske; Melinda Sacks.
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How Elephants Establish Who Is in Charge

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Do You Speak Elephant?

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Stanford Magazine

A Publication of the Stanford Alumni Association