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Captive elephants dying out due to stress of young being taken from mothers for training




The dwindling numbers of the Asian elephants being held captive are a consequence of taking away the calves from their mothers, which has caused high death rates.
Scientists say that to preserve this endangered species – on which the industry relies heavily upon – we need to prioritise the welfare of the pregnant females and their young ones.
Of the many uses of elephants, dragging logs of timber and being a tourist attraction, are some well known ones, especially in countries like India, Myanmar and Thailand.
Presently, these nations have held one-third of all Asian elephants in captivity. However, the population’s sustainability still relies on the handlers which capture them from the wild.
The scientists worked alongside the Myanmar Timber Enterprise to track how trends in elephant capture influenced a population of 3,500 working elephants over 54 years.
“Our model suggests we may see declines in captive elephants for up to 50 years so we must now work to ensure that the captive population is sustainable,” said John Jackson from the University of Sheffield, who led the study.
“With so many Asian elephants in captivity, we must safeguard both captive and wild elephant populations and the people living and working alongside them for the future of the species.”
Practically, this suggests directing effort towards improving the welfare standards of captive elephants and reducing mortality rates in the young.
In Myanmar, when the calves turn around 5 years old or so, they are considered fit to commence training, learn commands and undertake light carrying work, and thus carried away from their mothers. This stressful process is thought to significantly contribute to the increased death rates.
Helping to improve infant survival by even 10 per cent would infer a growing captive elephant population, as propounded by the scientists.
This could be achieved by amending the training process such that it is not traumatic, decreasing stress levels of the females who are mature enough to reproduce, and conscientiously monitoring newly-born calves.
Measures, such as the one taken by Myanmar to ban captivating elephants from the wild since 1994, make it important to minimize the death rate of captive elephants. This would work in favour of the people dependent on elephants for labour work by ensuring that they continue to have working elephants in the future.
Previous work revealed that taking elephants from the wild drastically shortened their lives.
“The dependence of captive elephant populations on capture from the wild in the past is truly alarming,” said Professor Virpi Lummaa from the University of Turku, who also led the research.
“The problem with elephants is that they take so long to grow and reproduce and have very complex social lives, making them vulnerable to population declines when disturbed.”
The scientists noted that everyone can help in supporting the higher well-being standards among these populations, even the tourists who frequently encounter captive elephants on their trips to southeast Asia.
The results of the study were published in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B.

Captive elephants dying out due to stress of young being taken from mothers for training Captive elephants dying out due to stress of young being taken from mothers for training Reviewed by Tyler on April 08, 2019 Rating: 5

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