June 13, 2014

With tusks weighing more than 100 pounds each, Kenya's "great tuskers" are prime targets for illegal poaching.     Photo: Madhav Pai/Flickr

World's Largest Elephant Poached in Kenya

Killed with a poisoned arrow

After weeks of speculation, Kenya Wildlife Service has confirmed that Satao, the world's biggest elephant, was killed with a poisoned arrow to his left flank on May 30. The death has shaken Kenya and unleashed a countrywide conversation about what went wrong with anti-poaching efforts.

"Today I had to write my official report to KWS and confirm to them that Satao is dead," wrote Richard Moller, executive director of the nonprofit Tsavo Trust, in an interview with the Guardian. "It was the hardest report that I have ever written. I couldn't see past a wall of tears." Moller found Satao's body in a Tsavo East National Park swamp on June 2.

Moller reported that poachers hacked off Satao's face and tusks. Moller was only able to identify him by his large stature, cut-free ears, and the fact that mud caking the body mirrored mud seen on Satao days before his death. Satao was last seen alive on May 19. 

Kenya has deployed significant personnel and resources to protect what are known as the last "great tuskers," large bull elephants carrying genes that make their ivory outgrowths reach weights of more than 100 pounds per side. Tuskers, whose protection is promoted by the nonprofit Tsavo Trust, are beloved by Kenya's countrymen, who see them as biological gems—Tsavo has the last collection of tuskers, about a dozen, in the world. But resources are slim, and poachers love tuskers just as much—for different reasons.

It is reported that Satao, who many say was exceptionally intelligent, had come to "hide" his large tusks in bushes, as he understood they put him in danger. "I am appalled at what that means—that the survival skills that the bull has painstakingly learnt over half a century have been rendered useless by the poachers' use of mass-produced Chinese goods; GPS smart-phones, cheap motorcycles and night vision goggles," wrote wildlife filmmaker Mark Deeble in a blog post.

According to KWS, 97 elephants have been poached within the country so far this year.

Satao's death could not have come at a worse time: Kenya is supposed to showcase the country's successful conservation efforts at the UNEP Governing Assembly beginning June 24.

"For the last 18 months, KWS and TSAVO TRUST jointly monitored Satao's movements using aerial reconnaissance, and KWS deployed ground personnel in his known home range,” the Tsavo Trust said in an incident report. "But with today's mounting poaching pressures and anti-poaching resources stretched to the limit, it proved impossible to prevent the poachers getting through the net.

"Understaffed and with inadequate resources given the scale of the challenge, KWS ground units have a massive uphill struggle to protect wildlife in this area. … Tsavo is our home, our passion and our life's work but, as the untimely death of Satao so tragically proves, we cannot win every time."

For the full incident report, please refer to the Tsavo Trust's Facebook post

More Poaching Coverage from Outside

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Jornet ran up and down Denali's frigid terrain as part of his "Summits of My Life" project—and because he can.     Photo: Nic McPhee/Flickr

Kilian Jornet Sets Denali Speed Record

Ultrarunner shaves 5 hours off fastest time

Human lung and star ultrarunner Kilian Jornet has nabbed the fastest known time (FKT) for ascending and descending Alaska's 20,237-foot Mount McKinley, completing the West Buttress route in June 2014 in a thigh-frying 11 hours, 40 minutes. Though records on McKinley are only loosely tracked, the previous FKT was 16 hours, 46 minutes, set by Ed Warren in 2013.

Jornet used skis and crampons to ascend about 13,000 feet of icy passes. In total, the Spaniard covered 33 miles.

The recent record is part of Jornet's four-year endurance project he calls "Summits of My Life." He's already set records on Mont Blanc and the Matterhorn. Jornet is now eyeing Mt. Elbrus, Aconcagua, and—wait for it—Everest.

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The "honey" moon gives off an amber color as longer wavelengths of light scatter through dust and pollution in the atmosphere. What a beaut.     Photo: chrislitschka/Getty Images

Double Whammy: Full Moon and Friday the 13th

Is this the worst day ever?

Don't feel bad if all you want to do tonight is cancel your plans and hide under the covers. In fact, we'd advise it. Not only is today Friday the 13th, but there's also a full moon—and that won't happen again until 2049.

Seriously, though, we need to calm down. Unsurprisingly, as Vox explains, science doesn't back up the conviction that Friday the 13th is unlucky or that full moons make people go crazy. In fact, several studies found that stock markets actually seemed to do slightly better on Friday the 13th. And the only people going crazy over the moon tonight will be stargazers, because we'll be treated to a "honey" or "strawberry" moon that has a golden glow.

If you're still not convinced by science, take comfort in the fact that anyone west of the Eastern time zone technically won't see the full moon until Saturday. And at least some astronauts won't be earthbound for this disastrous evening—in fact, they seem to be having a pretty good time celebrating the World Cup in zero gravity. Lucky guys.

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Three's company—Alison Powers becomes the USA's first hat-trick titleholder.     Photo: Casey B. Gibson/USA Cycling

Hat Trick History for Alison Powers

Cyclist also holds lead in North Star Grand Prix

Cyclist Alison Powers has been the shining star of this week's North Star Grand Prix. Not only is Powers leading the six-stage race, held in the Minneapolis-St. Paul area, but she has also made cycling history.

Powers, who is sponsored by United Healthcare, posted the only sub-11-minute time for the 5-mile opening course. This earned her a first-place finish for the first time trial of the race. With her wins at the USA National Cycling Championships, Powers has earned the title of the first American rider to complete a hat trick. In the sport of cycling, completing a hat trick requires holding U.S. national titles in each of the three cycling disciplines—time trial, road race, and criterium. 

Powers was so busy winning that she didn't even realize she was on the cusp of such a monumental achievement until see saw three stars-and-stripes jerseys in her travel kit. In between wins in Chattanooga, packing for the Tulsa Tough National Criterium race, winning there, and then heading straight for the North Star Grand Prix, Powers didn't have time to take it all in.

The three stars-sand-stripes jerseys, along with her new record-holder title, are even more impressive considering that Powers almost retired in 2011. She sustained a serious elbow injury in a bad crash at the Redlands Bicycle Classic criterium. The following 2012 and 2013 season, Powers came back and collected the national criterium title. Now, a season later, she has accomplished more than she could have ever predicted.

"Hopefully I'm remembered forever," Powers told Cyclingnews. "But I'm just enjoying it now, and who knows what happens in the future. But this is what happened, and now I get to wear [the stars-and-stripes jerseys] for the rest of the year."

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A radar glitch or aliens? You decide.     Photo: Chris Waits/Flickr

13 Aircraft Mysteriously Disappear from Radar

Two separate blackouts of identical length

In two separate incidents, a total of 13 aircraft mysteriously disappeared from radar across Austria and its neighboring countries in what the nation's flight safety monitor calls an "unprecedented" incident.

According to Marcus Pohanka of Austria's flight safety organization Austro Control, the two incidents occurred on June 5 and June 10 and were each 25 minutes in length. In each case, multiple flights completely disappeared from air traffic control screens. Monitors in Germany and the Czech Republic both reported similar incidents.

The planes, believed to be passenger craft, were not entirely lost. They remained in radio contact, and air traffic control was done by voice alone. Pohanka says the planes were never in any danger, and extra controllers were immediately brought in to assist in establishing radio contact and plotting new flight corridors. "Voice communication guaranteed that we knew everything about the planes in Austrian air space and allowed air traffic controllers to do their jobs," he told the MailOnline.

Although experts have said that the problem was probably an issue of interference between the aircraft and transponders on the ground, the mysterious similarities between the two incidents will likely fuel speculation of the extraterrestrial variety. In other words, they're not saying it's aliens.

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