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Capturing Elephants From the Wild Drastically Shortens Their Lives

Capturing Elephants From the Wild Drastically Shortens Their Lives

New research shows that elephants taken for use in logging industry live up to seven years less than their captive-born counterparts.

Capturing Elephants From the Wild Drastically Shortens Their Lives

All over the world elephants are taken out of their natural habitats and kept as tourist attractions, for religious purposes and are even submitted to the workforce. However, a new study shows that taking elephants out of the wild cuts their lives short.

Humans have captured elephants for years. There are now only 15,000 remaining Asian elephants, and a third of them are held in captivity.

They are used for all sorts of different things, for example, in forested parts of Southeast Asia humans use elephants to haul timber around for the logging industry, because of their considerable strength. These timber elephants were the focus of the new study, researchers wanting to understand how the act of capture impacted their long-term health. They compared captured timber elephants to those raised in captivity and found that those that had been born free lived up to seven years less than the others.

This finding is very significant because even though elephants are considered endangered, more than half of elephants in zoos are taken from the wild.

The method of capturing elephants is another factor that affects their long-term health. Catching an elephant is not easy, and methods used range from sedating or lassoing single elephants to driving entire groups up against pre-constructed barriers. Unsurprisingly, this process can be incredibly stressful, and the scientists suggested the long-term stress is responsible for the huge dip in their lifespans.

“Our analysis reveals that wild-captured elephants had lower survival chances than captive-born elephants regardless of how they’d been captured,” said Dr Mirkka Lahdenpera, the lead author of the study.

“This means that all these methods had an equally negative effect on the elephant’s subsequent life.

“We also found that older elephants suffered the most from capture; they had increased mortality compared to elephants caught at younger ages.”

Though they accept that capture is sometimes necessary for conservation, anti-poaching or veterinary purposes, the researchers warn of the risks associated with such activities.

“We ought to find alternative and better methods to boost captive populations of elephants,” said co-author Dr Virpi Lummaa of the University of Turku.

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