Supplementary information from Long-term trends in wild-capture and population dynamics point to an uncertain future for captive elephants.
journal contributionposted on 22.03.2019, 03:45 by John Jackson, Dylan Z. Childs, Khyne U. Mar, Win Htut, Virpi Lummaa
Maintaining sustainable populations in captivity without supplementation through wild-capture is a major challenge in conservation that zoos and aquaria are working towards. However, the capture of wild animals continues for many purposes where conservation is not the primary focus. Wild-capture hinders long-term conservation goals by reducing remaining wild populations, but the direct and long-term indirect consequences of wild-capture for captive population viability are rarely addressed using longitudinal data. We explored the implications of changes in wild-capture on population dynamics in captivity over 54 years using a multi-generational studbook of working Asian elephants (Elephas maximus) from Myanmar, the largest remaining captive elephant population. Here we show that population growth and birth rates declined between 1960 and 2014 with declines in wild-capture. Importantly, wild-caught females had reduced birth rates and a higher mortality risk. However, despite the disadvantages of wild-capture, the population may not be sustainable without it, with immediate declines owing to an unstable age-structure that may last for 50 years. Our results highlight the need to assess the long-term demographic consequences of wild-capture to ensure the sustainability of captive and wild populations as species are increasingly managed and conserved in altered or novel environments.