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Wildlife Conservation Society
Wildlife Conservation Society

Zoos Are Folding 35,000 Origami Elephants to Raise Poaching Awareness

Wildlife Conservation Society
Wildlife Conservation Society

An average of 96 African elephants are killed every day as part of the illegal ivory trade, according to the Wildlife Conservation Society, the organization that runs all of New York City’s zoos and aquariums. This year, in honor of today’s World Elephant Day, the WCS’s anti-poaching campaign 96 Elephants is looking to raise awareness in a different way: with folded paper.

Next month, 96 Elephants is trying to beat the Guinness World Record for the largest display of origami elephants, collecting folded paper elephants from origami-focused nonprofits and some 40 participating zoos around the country. The goal is to eventually display 35,000, the approximate number of African elephants killed each year for their tusks. The current record—set by the UK's ZSL Whipsnade Zoo in 2014—is 33,764 paper elephants.

Elephant origami at the Bronx Zoo. Image credit: Julie Larsen Maher

Earlier this summer, the U.S. banned almost all ivory sales in an effort to protect dwindling elephant populations. The U.S. currently considers African elephants "threatened" rather than "endangered," but populations are still in decline. Though there has been a slight decrease in poaching incidents over the past few years, the international organization that monitors elephant poaching, the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora, said in a report earlier this year that poaching levels “remain unacceptably high.”

Don't worry—the elephant origami stunt is not a marathon. The WCS will be collecting paper art over the course of a month. You can volunteer your paper folding skills, following one of four set patterns of varying difficulties, and mail in your work anytime before September 16. However, the organization notes that “your origami elephant MUST resemble an elephant,” so a tiny bit of skill is required.

The origami elephants will be on display at the Bronx Zoo on September 22, which is National Elephant Appreciation Day—because one day is not enough for the majesty of elephants

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Animals
Where Do Birds Get Their Songs?
iStock
iStock

Birds display some of the most impressive vocal abilities in the animal kingdom. They can be heard across great distances, mimic human speech, and even sing using distinct dialects and syntax. The most complex songs take some practice to learn, but as TED-Ed explains, the urge to sing is woven into songbirds' DNA.

Like humans, baby birds learn to communicate from their parents. Adult zebra finches will even speak in the equivalent of "baby talk" when teaching chicks their songs. After hearing the same expressions repeated so many times and trying them out firsthand, the offspring are able to use the same songs as adults.

But nurture isn't the only factor driving this behavior. Even when they grow up without any parents teaching them how to vocalize, birds will start singing on their own. These innate songs are less refined than the ones that are taught, but when they're passed down through multiple generations and shaped over time, they start to sound similar to the learned songs sung by other members of their species.

This suggests that the drive to sing as well as the specific structures of the songs themselves have been ingrained in the animals' genetic code by evolution. You can watch the full story from TED-Ed below, then head over here for a sample of the diverse songs produced by birds.

[h/t TED-Ed]

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NOAA, Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain
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Animals
Watch the First-Ever Footage of a Baby Dumbo Octopus
NOAA, Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain
NOAA, Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

Dumbo octopuses are named for the elephant-ear-like fins they use to navigate the deep sea, but until recently, when and how they developed those floppy appendages were a mystery. Now, for the first time, researchers have caught a newborn Dumbo octopus on tape. As reported in the journal Current Biology, they discovered that the creatures are equipped with the fins from the moment they hatch.

Study co-author Tim Shank, a researcher at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution in Massachusetts, spotted the octopus in 2005. During a research expedition in the North Atlantic, one of the remotely operated vehicles he was working with collected several coral branches with something strange attached to them. It looked like a bunch of sandy-colored golf balls at first, but then he realized it was an egg sac.

He and his fellow researchers eventually classified the hatchling that emerged as a member of the genus Grimpoteuthis. In other words, it was a Dumbo octopus, though they couldn't determine the exact species. But you wouldn't need a biology degree to spot its resemblance to Disney's famous elephant, as you can see in the video below.

The octopus hatched with a set of functional fins that allowed it to swim around and hunt right away, and an MRI scan revealed fully-developed internal organs and a complex nervous system. As the researchers wrote in their study, Dumbo octopuses enter the world as "competent juveniles" ready to jump straight into adult life.

Grimpoteuthis spends its life in the deep ocean, which makes it difficult to study. Scientists hope the newly-reported findings will make it easier to identify Grimpoteuthis eggs and hatchlings for future research.

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