Stanford University’s Artificial Intelligence Laboratory holds the world’s first video game competition, the Intergalactic Spacewar Olympics. About 24 participants competed for the grand prize of a year’s subscription to Rollingstone
If you’re a thief, you don’t ring up law enforcement, promise a share of the loot, and compliment their work. But that’s exactly what one man did for Absan Saman. The warden of Tun Mustapha, Malaysia’s largest marine park, remembers the call he received from a poacher last year, offering him a fifth of the eggs from two illegally-raided nests on Tigabu Island in appreciation of his conservation efforts.
Saman is a prominent personality in the area. The former fish-bomber stretches his arms wide as he describes the catch two days of fishing could bring in decades ago. Today, though, Sabah waters suffer the same
Size: Life Span: Location: Notable Trait:
Up to 3.4m tall (males) or 2.9m tall (females) Up to 70 years India and 12 countries in Southeast Asia Males typically grow tusks, while cows have small incisor teeth called tushes
Woolly mammoths – the Ice Age giants that capture our imagination in movies and books – live on today in the rainforests of South Asia.
Whether revered as a god, used for labour, or roaming free in isolated pockets of wilderness, their closest cousin, the Asian elephant, possesses the same majestic characteristics: an awe-inspiring size and a set of massive to-the-ground tusks, each weighing 70 kilograms and up to three metres long. The tusks are key, for only specimens with these ploughing spears of ivory may assume the title “great tusker”.
Compared to their African and woolly Arctic cousins, Asian tuskers have slightly slimmer, lighter and shorter teeth. Where big tuskers once ruled the Asian elephant’s range from Sri Lanka to China, years of “man-made reverse selection” (as opposed to natural selection) have stripped these bulls of their tusks, creating a large imbalance in the natural ratio of great tuskers to maknas, or elephants with small or non-existent tusks.
Bull elephants reach their prime late in life, at about 40 or 50 years old. This is the same time that their tusks see exponential growth. Tusks are useful: They debark trees, dig for water, defend against opponents, and impress the ladies. Big tusks are a sign of superior genes, long life and health; females prefer males with big tusks to father their offspring.
But the targeting of tusks for ivory by trophy hunters and poachers, and the practice of systematically catching wild bulls and isolating them in captivity, have locked away these formidable genes. Less than half the Asian elephant population survived the last two decades, and today, only some 40 great tuskers exist – about 30 African and 10 Asian. Of the latter, just one lonely animal remains in the wild. But even captive great tuskers lack proper reproductive opportunities, meaning their DNA is quickly vanishing from the species’ genetic pool.
Preserving this iconic tusk strain for future generations, and reversing the effect of human influence, requires an effort almost as massive as the tusks themselves. Quality surveillance, constant armed guards, adequate medical treatment, and targeted artificial insemination programmes need to be put in motion for great tuskers – and potentially emerging great tuskers – to conserve their breed and restore natural tusk length. With cave paintings, bones and frozen tissue as all that remains of the prehistoric mammoths, this may be our last chance to preserve Nature’s original design of the glorious pachyderm. ag
a hairy situation
ȑȑlong hair is a cultural norm for men. It’s tied in a knot at the nape of the neck and covered with a scarf for outings
ȑȑbarbers ply streets. Shorter hair for men starts trending in South Vietnam, inspired by French colonial cuts
ȑȑvietnamese returning from university overseas during the French Indochina period further popularise short cuts
ȑȑstreet barbers reach peak popularity. At the end of the century, the government abolishes street peddling
ȑȑbarbers who can afford it open their own barbershops. Others continue operating illegally off pavements