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No. 77: Sep-Oct 1991

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Valleys Of Death And Elephant Graveyards

Legend has it that elephants near death separate from their companions and trek alone to ancestral graveyards, dying only when they reach these special places. The truth is that accumulations of elephant bones have indeed been discovered, but no one seems to have followed expiring elephants to these boneyards. We hope someone will tell us otherwise, but the tale seems apocrythal.

The piles of elephant bones could, in fact, be the work of mazukus. (Mazuku means "evil wind" in Swahili.) It seems that there are places on this earth where CO2 and other deadly gases emitted from volcanic vents accumulate. J. Lockwood and M. Tuttle investigated three mazukus known to natives in East Africa. In these low-lying areas, they came upon the remains of small mammals and birds that has been asphyxiated by concentrations of CO2 dense enough to snuff out burning kerosene-soaked rags. Unfortunately for the elephantgraveyard legend, they found no elephant bones. (Anonymous; "Elephant Graveyards," Discover, 12:10, May 1991.)

Comment. It would be interesting to know if other species of animals are found in the elephant graveyards. So-called "valleys of death" are found elsewhere in the world, including Yellowstone.

Reference. Other "valleys of death" are cataloged in ESC5 in Anomalies in Geo logy, described here.

From Science Frontiers #77, SEP-OCT 1991. 1991-2000 William R. Corliss