Photo courtesy of Paolo Camera
Elephants have mysteriously long generation cycles which make breeding efforts all the more difficult. New research detailed in Proceedings of the Royal Society B has made vital progress in elephant conservation and breeding projects.
Recent research detailed in Proceedings of the Royal Society B has made vital progress in elephant conservation and breeding projects.
Elephants’ 680 day pregnancies have so far been a mystery to scientists and researchers. The long pregnancy period allows elephants to be born with a high, complex level of brain development which allows them to survive in the wild hours after birth.
These much need traits of baby elephants are of particular use in the wild. They are able to understand, nearly instantly, the complex social structure of their herd and how to feed themselves. Elephants, which are considered highly intelligent and sociable mammals, benefit from immediately fitting into the herd.
Dr Imke Lueders of the Liebniz Institute of Zoo and Wildlife Research in Germany, said: "It is very important to study the reproduction of elephants [...] the increased knowledge that we gained through this research can help in the future with elephant breeding management because we have an idea of how the pregnancy is maintained."
The advent of new and advanced ultrasound methods developed specifically to monitor elephant pregnancies should make a positive contribution to breeding programmes in zoos and elephant sanctuaries globally.
Dr Dennis Schmitt, the Director of Research and Conservation at the Centre for Elephant Conservation, believes that this new research will help boost the population of the endangered Asian elephant. The long gestational period (22 months), the similarly large interval between elephant births (4-5 years), and lengthy generation intervals (20 years) have all made managing declining populations of the species even more difficult. The new research comes as a relief for conservationists who now have more knowledge to assist their efforts.
The research is not only useful for endangered species of elephants. Elephant populations which have grown rapidly in the past few decades; the research could help develop contraceptives to keep elephant populations balanced.
Frontier offers you the opportunity to become a wildlife conservation volunteer.
By Dana Beltaji