Population management of zoo elephants



In Europe and North America the majority of Asian elephant Elephas maximus populations are not self-sustaining nor is the African elephant Loxodonta africana population in North America. About 75% of Asian elephants in North America are wild-caught or from semi-wild logging camps and are presumed to be unrelated to the other Asian elephants in captivity. The genetic potential of these populations is healthy and will remain so if the demographic constraints impinging on them can be resolved. In order to become self-sustaining the primary goal is to increase birth rates in the population, with a secondary goal of reducing infant-mortality rates. As populations of elephants in zoos metamorphose from those maintained by importation to self-sustaining groups maintained by captive breeding, there will be an increase in the number of bull elephants to be managed. This will require a significant change in elephant-management practices.