Monday, June 19, 2006

Animal of the Week June 19, 2006 -- World Cup Nations 2 (Sweden)

Hello all,

This week's animal is the unofficial animal of Sweden, Alces alces (elk, Älg [Swedish]). In North America these animals are known as moose (from the native American Algonquian word 'moos' meaning 'leaf eater'), but, as we are on Sweden this week for our World Cup nations themed animal of the week, it's elk all the way. With a population of 250 000 elk, Sweden has the highest density of and the best chance of spotting this magnificent creature anywhere in all the world.

Elk are the largest member of the deer family alive today and, in many places where they occur (as in Sweden), the largest terrestrial animal. They are also quite dangerous, males during the rut and females when with a calf have been know to attack people. By far the greatest danger to human beings posed by elk is that of road accidents. With a high centre of gravity, upon impact with a car the spindly legs snap and 500 kg of venison and antler shoot through the windshield with disastrous consequences for elk and motorists. The Älgtest (Elk-test) was developed to test rapid cornering of cars to simulate navigation around an elk in the road at high speeds. Saab's elk test includes simulated collision with elk to test their reinforced windshield.

Across their range, road signs warn of this risk; attached is the Swedish interpretation. Like a nation of drunken students, German tourists find these warning signs hilarious and make trips to Sweden to gather them. The Swedes have made it a criminal offense to take the roadsigns and instead have produced a range of tourist tat bearing the roadsign image. Postage stamps in the form of the warning sign were even developed to appeal to the German tourists sending postcards home. The elk warning sign is Sweden's equivalent of our royal family.

Stepping away from Sweden, in Fairbanks Alaska, it is illegal to give a moose alcohol. One wonders why they had to instigate this law at all but also why here and nowhere else?

If you should meet an elk, here are some simple survival tips.

1. If you meet an elk on a path, turn around and walk away, this is what elk do when recognising another elk's superiority.
2. Never get between a cow and her calf.
3. Try to get behind a tree if an elk charges. You can run around the tree better than it can.
4. Remember, if you see its ears laid back and/or the hair on its "hump" stand up, it's angry or afraid and may charge.
5. Elk can kick with their front legs as well as their back.
6. If there is an elk in the road in front of you, be patient, wait for it to move.

It occured to me that I should be preempting England matches rather than covering the nations retrospectively. So, unfortunately, Trinidad and Tobago gets skipped. But look out for a T&T special when the world cup is over.

Remember to play safe and enjoy/endure the World Cup responsibly and with respect for your fellow human beings.


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