A few questions to Carrie :
Where were you at this time and why did you need to collect elephant blood ?
I was working in Etosha National Park, Namibia, on a large, collaborative project investigating the ecology of anthrax. Anthrax is an ancient disease (caused by a bacterium) found in endemic pockets worldwide, though the ecology behind anthrax outbreaks has been really poorly understood. There are yearly outbreaks of anthrax in Etosha, primarily in the wet season in plains ungulates such as zebra (my primary study animal). Elephants also experience anthrax outbreaks in Etosha, though typically during the dry season. While I primarily examined how zebra susceptibility to anthrax changed seasonally in this system, in conjunction with changes in things like stress, reproduction, and gut parasite loads, I also did some collaborative work on elephants.
A few other researchers in my group were putting tracking collars on elephants to figure out where they went during different seasons (they can travel really far!), where they were when plains ungulates were experiencing anthrax outbreaks, and how they were using resources. When these animals were anesthetized, I collected several other samples, including feces to look at parasite loads, and blood to look at basic immune functions and to look for anti-anthrax antibodies.
What happenned after the blood explosion?
I found the problem after I went to take my samples out of my luggage and put them in the lab. Quite a mess, but there was enough left over to do my work.
You never have security issues in the airplane ? We can’t bring shampoo but you have a suitcase full of blood packs ?
Ha, well, it’s common to carry samples back (with permits of course!) in checked luggage – the samples were in my checked bags, so I didn’t have to adhere to the 3oz rule going through security!
A story to tell ?
IATAS and ADR (international rules about transport of dangerous materiel, diffrent from rules about terrorism) are very restrictive regarding the transport of biological samples that may contain certain or potential. Even with authorizations to transport blood samples, very very specific transport boxes are mandatory (under penalty of heavy fines) … boxes just designed to withstand the pressure variation and to absorb the liquid in case of rupture of tubes! if it happened before 2009, you may be behind this international reinforcement of transport precautions. ^^;