Long-term effects of poaching: motherless elephants survive less

O poaching from elephants in Africa, it doesn’t just affect murdered individuals. Two new studies reveal that the impact of illegal captures on populations of these animals is greater than initially thought.

The results of both investigations show that, in general, the damage caused by poaching is severe and long-lasting.

To understand to what extent the persecution of these large mammals, of the order of the proboscis, conservation efforts so far have focused on macro-scale research of their populations, without relying on specimens from individual herds.

“If you really want to take more specific actions, you need to know which individuals are driving population increases or decreases,” he says. George Wittemyer, conservation biologist at Colorado State University in the US and author of the study published in the journal ecosphere.

For this reason, Wittemyer and his team, in parallel with the scientific Jenna Parker, from the same American university, author of another study published in Current Biology, they examined individual data of elephants collected over two decades by the organization save the elephants at the Samburu National Reserve, north of Kenya.

The results of both investigations show that, in general, the damage caused by poaching is severe and long-lasting.

Populations are not supported by orphans

Among the main conclusions, scientists reveal that orphan elephants are less likely to survive in a flock, and that losing them has a significant impact on population growth or decline.

“For social populations, poaching has a greater impact than previously thought, because you have to take into account the orphans who remain and who survive less because they don’t have a mother,” says Parker.

Scientists have found that the reduced survival of orphans further exacerbates the population decline caused by poaching. Furthermore, when it is more frequent, young people resist even less. Even orphans who are no longer dependent on breast milk have a lower survival rate than their living mothers, according to the study.

“In populations that we believe have suffered a lot from poaching, even when it declines, we must take into account their side and residual effects”, alerts the scientist.

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Young people are the future of the group

In George Wittemyer’s work, scientists analyzed how survival or different age groups affect elephant population trends.

Conservation biologists have long assumed that the oldest age group was most important to these trends, because elephants males Older adults tend to reproduce more than younger adults, and women older are the leaders of family groups and social units. But the study reveals that this is not the case.

By analyzing the impact of mortality at different ages on populations, the researchers showed that young elephants that begin to become independent from their parents are the most important for the dynamic of their populations. “If they survive well, the population will be well protected against decline. If they start to decrease, then we have serious problems”, says the expert.

The data also showed that human activity, especially that which injures and kills these animals, decreases the survival of individuals of all ages in a population. “Even in the case of newWe don’t think they are human targets for ivory, their survival is highly conditioned by the impact on the rest of the population,” explains Wittemyer.

Both studies reveal the impact of poaching on elephant behavior and, in turn, on elephant behavior. demography. “Killing an elephant is not eliminating an individual from a population; killing an elephant has ripple effects on the rest of the specimens that are attached to it,” the scientists conclude.


Jenna M. Parker et al “African elephant poaching indirectly slows population growth by reducing orphan survival” Current Biology

George Wittemyer et al.The differential influence of human impacts on age-specific demographics underpins trends in the African elephant population” ecosphere

Source: SYNC

Rights: Creative Commons.


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