January 21, 2022 5:26 pm

Long-term effects of poaching: motherless elephants survive less

The poaching from elephants in Africa it does not only affect murdered individuals. Two new studies reveal that the impact of illegal captures on the populations of these animals is greater than was initially thought.

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

To understand the scope that the persecution of these large mammals, of the order of the proboscídeos, conservation efforts have so far focused on macro-scale research of their populations, without relying on the specimens of each of the herds.

“If you really want to carry out more specific actions, you have to know which individuals are driving the increases or decreases in populations,” he says. George Wittemyer, conservation biologist at the 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 to the scientific Jenna Parker, from the same American university, author of the other study published in Current Biology, they examined individual data of elephants collected over two decades by the organization Save the Elephants on the Samburu National Reserve, north of Kenya.

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

Populations are not sustained by orphans

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

Lower survival of orphans further exacerbates population decline caused by poaching

“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 do not have a mother,” says Parker.

The scientists found that the reduced survival of the orphans further exacerbates the decline in populations caused by poaching. In addition, when it is more frequent, young people resist even less. Even orphans who no longer depend on their mother’s milk have a lower survival rate than their individuals with a living mother, according to the study.

“In populations that we believe have suffered a lot of poaching, even when it decreases, we must take into account their collateral and residual effects”, Alerts the scientist.

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.

Killing an elephant is not removing an individual from a population; killing an elephant has a knock-on effect on the rest of the animals that are linked to it

George Wittemyer, biologue

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

By analyzing the impact of mortality at different ages on populations, the researchers showed that young elephants that are beginning to become independent from their parents are the most important for the dynamic of their populations. “If they survive well, the population is quite 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 youngWe do not think that they are targeted by humans 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 the behavior of elephants and, in turn, on their behavior. demography. “Killing an elephant is not eliminating an individual from a population; killing an elephant has chain effects on the rest of the specimens that are linked to it ”, the scientists conclude.


Jenna M.Parker et al “Poaching of African elephants indirectly decreases population growth through lowered orphan survival” Current Biology

George Wittemyer et al.Differential influence of human impacts on age-specific demography underpins trends in an African elephant population” Ecosphere

Source: SINC

Rights: Creative Commons.


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