Zoos Track Elephant’s Fitness To Improving Their Health

Even elephants are getting on the quantified-self movement. The health of some zoo elephants is now being monitored through fitness trackers, according to NPR. It’s called the Elephant Welfare Initiative, a national endeavor to study how elephants in captivity are faring and what steps can be taken to improve their health and happiness.

As part of the program, caretakers keep detailed logs about their elephants’ activity and behaviors. (The animals aren’t wearing any devices a la Fitbit.) Fitness tracking software, developed by an organization called AWARE (Animal Welfare Assessment, Research and Education), then provides suggestions about how to change up the animals’ routines to benefit their well being.

AWARE found several important factors for elephant health while tracking hundreds of elephants for several studies published in July 2016. For instance, having more space doesn’t necessarily make elephants healthier,…

Learn Why The Lincoln Administration Turned Down a Chance to Populate the United States With Elephants

When a new president takes office, it’s normal to get showered with diplomatic greetings, gifts, and political overtures. But when Abraham Lincoln’s administration moved into the White House, they turned down what could have been the greatest gift of all: the chance to populate the United States with wild elephants.

In 1861, Lincoln received a pile of swag from King Somdetch Phra Paramendr Maha Mongkut of the country then known as Siam. You might know him better for his role in the hit musical The King and I, which fictionalized his relationship with English governess Anna Leonowens. What is true is that Mongkut was eager to “get to know” the West better—during his reign, he managed to open up and begin modernizing Siam.

The gesture wasn’t actually meant for Lincoln: In fact, Mongkut had sent the presents to “whomsoever the people have elected anew as chief ruler in place of President Buchanan.” He sent along a pile of lavish gifts, from a precious handmade sword to photos of himself and his daughter to two gigantic elephant tusks. But much more meaningful was the king’s offer to send along a generous stock of elephants that could be bred on American soil.

It’s no wonder Mongkut offered that gift: Pachyderms were not only native to what is now Thailand, but were also prized as important and valuable…