Wild elephants forced to live in captivity die seven years earlier

New research has revealed that wooden elephants captured in the wild in Myanmar (pictured) die on average up to seven years earlier than animals born in captivity

Wild elephants forced to live in captivity usually die seven years earlier than animals born of domestication, according to a new study.

According to the latest findings, humans have been involuntarily shortening the life expectancy of wild elephants for thousands of years by capturing them in the wild and moving them into captivity.

All elephant species faced the highest risk of death in the year immediately after the capture and the oldest elephants suffered the most, the study found.

Long-term stress due to capture and domestication could be one of the reasons for the shorter life, however, more research is needed to determine the exact cause.

The scientists looked at the records of more than 5,000 wooden elephants dating back almost a century to find the link between captivity and life expectancy.

Researchers believe that elephants caught in the wild may be exposed to more severe treatment depending on their age, sex and personality, compared to calves born in captivity.

New research has revealed that wooden elephants captured in the wild in Myanmar (pictured) die on average up to seven years earlier than animals born in captivity

New research has revealed that wooden elephants captured in the wild in Myanmar (pictured) die on average up to seven years earlier than animals born in captivity

Millions of wild animals are caught alive every year for a wide range of purposes.

While some species thrive in captivity and enjoy healthier lives, many have a worse performance as soon as they are taken from nature.

Elephants, for example, have a much greater risk of dying when they are held captive in zoos, compared to living in the wild.

According to the researchers who analyzed the records of wooden elephants in Myanmar, elephants captured in the wild have a higher risk of death than those raised in captivity.

This increased risk lasts for years after its initial capture, scientists say.

Researchers from the University of Turku in Finland and the Leibniz Institute for the Zoo and Wildlife Research in Berlin used detailed records maintained by local governments on animal husbandry.

"The long-term overall cost of capture and domestication resulted in an average life expectancy of three to seven years shorter than that of elephants born in captivity," said the study's principal investigator, Professor Virpi Lummaa of the University of California. Turku

"Capturing elephants to keep populations captive is, therefore, detrimental, because it not only reduces wild populations of this endangered species, but it can not provide a viable solution to sustain captive populations."

"These animals captured in the wild live shorter lives and reproduce poorly in captivity," he said.

All elephants faced the highest risk of death in the year immediately after the capture and the older elephants suffered more, the study found.

All elephants faced the highest risk of death in the year immediately after the capture and the older elephants suffered more, the study found.

All elephants faced the highest risk of death in the year immediately after the capture and the older elephants suffered more, the study found.

Although the risk decreases in the later years that they spent in captivity, these negative effects still last around a decade, according to the article published in Nature Communications.

"Our analysis reveals that elephants captured in the wild had less chance of survival than captive elephants, regardless of how they were captured, either by packing whole groups, elephants alone or immobilization by sedation," said Mirkka Lahdenpera, Senior author of the study at the University of Turku.

"This means that all these methods had an equally negative effect on the later life of the elephant.

"We also found that the oldest elephants were the ones that suffered the most, they had increased mortality compared to elephants captured at younger ages," he said.

Both the wood elephants captured in captivity and those captured in the wild in Myanmar live together in semi-captive populations.

Captive animals are also subject to the same government regulations regarding data logging, workload and rest periods (working elephants have vacations, maternity leave and a mandatory retirement age).

The data used date back almost a century and include the records of more than 5,000 wooden elephants (pictured)

The data used date back almost a century and include the records of more than 5,000 wooden elephants (pictured)

The data used date back almost a century and include the records of more than 5,000 wooden elephants (pictured)

Both captive and wild elephants are domesticated and trained before entering the labor force.

"We decided to rely on data from the logging camps because, apart from their capture, elephants captured in the wild and in captivity have very similar lifestyles," said Dr. Alexandre Courtiol, data scientist at the Institute's study. Leibniz for Zoo and Wildlife Research.

"This unique situation allows a comparison between these two groups without bias for other factors such as diet or exercise," he said.

According to the researchers, long-term stress due to capture and domestication could be to blame for the shortened lifespan.

Dramatic changes in the social environment when moving from nature to captivity were also highlighted as possible reasons for the increased likelihood of death, according to the study.

According to the researchers, more studies are needed to fully understand and assess how widespread are the negative effects of capture on other species.

These additional studies are also necessary to determine the reason for the fall in life expectancy.

The support and care of the animals is especially critical during the period immediately after the capture, the researchers said.

DO THE ELEPHANTS HAVE HUMAN PERSONALITIES?

New research has shown that the emotional characteristics of elephants are similar to those of humans.

It turns out that animals have different personalities.

They can be aggressive, attentive and extroverted.

For the study, the scientists asked the elephant jockeys, or mahouts, to answer questions about the behavior of the animals they worked with each day.

A new study has found that elephants, like humans, have different personalities. They can be aggressive, attentive and extroverted. In the photo, an elephant with its mahout, or rider, with whom the animal works every day in the Myanmar timber industry

A new study has found that elephants, like humans, have different personalities. They can be aggressive, attentive and extroverted. In the photo, an elephant with its mahout, or rider, with whom the animal works every day in the Myanmar timber industry

A new study has found that elephants, like humans, have different personalities. They can be aggressive, attentive and extroverted. In the photo, an elephant with its mahout, or rider, with whom the animal works every day in the Myanmar timber industry

Dr. Martin Steltmann, who worked on the new report, explained how his team defined the traits that classify elephants.

He said: "The attention is related to the way an elephant acts and perceives its environment.

"Sociability describes how an elephant seeks the proximity of other elephants and humans and how popular they are as social partners.

"Aggression shows how aggressively an elephant acts against other elephants and how much it interferes with their social interaction."

Dr. Steltmann's team hopes that the new research can help elephant conservation efforts.

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