Catching an elephant from the wild can shorten its life by several years, a new study shows.
For the study, published Tuesday in Nature Communications, researchers studied records of 5,000 timber elephants in Myanmar to understand the effects of capture. They determined that capturing and taming wild-caught elephants resulted in a median lifespan that is 3–7 years shorter than their captive-born counterparts.
"Capturing elephants to sustain captive populations is, consequently, detrimental, because it not just reduces wild populations of this endangered species, but it also cannot provide a viable solution to sustain captive populations," said senior investigator Virpi Lummaa of the University of Turku in Finland in a press release for the study. "These wild-caught animals live shorter lives and reproduce poorly in captivity."
Potential reasons for their shorter lifespans are changes in their social environment and/or stress from capture, the researchers said. Methods of capture can include driving whole groups into a stockade, lassoing single elephants or immobilization via sedation.
The study is important because nearly one in three Asian elephants are kept in captivity, 15,000 in all.
"We ought to find alternative and better methods to boost captive populations of elephants. Even today, over 60 percent of elephants in zoos are captured from the wild and about a third of all remaining Asian elephants now live in captivity," lead author Mirkka Lahdenpera from the University of Turku said in the release.
The report comes before World Elephant Day on Sunday. The annual international event aims to bring attention to the plight of Asian and African elephants and advocates for their protection and conservation.
Asian elephants are not as threatened by the illegal ivory trade as African elephants. However, Asian elephants are under threat from the live elephant trade, primarily for Thailand's animal tourism industry, according to WWF.
India, Vietnam, and Myanmar have banned capture to help conserve wild populations but they are caught in Myanmar for the timber industry or the illegal wildlife trade, the WWF says.
Can We Protect Elephants by Eavesdropping on Their Underground Messages? https://t.co/PVjPJhUrIa @ConservationOrg @peta— EcoWatch (@EcoWatch)1527990902.0
- 5 Conservation Milestones to Celebrate on This International Day for ... ›
- Life After the Tourist Trade for Thailand's Elephants - EcoWatch ›
The Nature Conservancy is working with partners around the world on four main strategies to solve this complex crisis:
1. Increase Security
The conservancy is helping train and equip heroic wildlife rangers to be able to patrol millions of square miles of elephant habitat.
2. Secure Habitat
Elephants can travel up to 30 miles a day in search of food and water, so they need a lot of space. The conservancy helps protect large, connected landscapes and works with partners to implement creative solutions, such as building a highway underpass.
An African elephant with Mount Kilimanjaro in the background.The Nature Conservancy in Africa
3. Reduce Demand
Most illegal ivory is sold in China, where many consumers are unaware of its origins. The conservancy is mobilizing some of the country's most influential leaders to educate consumers and clean up the online marketplace.
4. Gain Local Support
The conservancy works with partners to ensure that elephants are worth more alive to the people living alongside them, such as by providing tourism-related job opportunities.
This World Elephant Day, you can Join the Herd here and commit to ensuring a brighter future for elephants in Africa.
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The bright patterns and recognizable designs of Waterlust's activewear aren't just for show. In fact, they're meant to promote the conversation around sustainability and give back to the ocean science and conservation community.
Each design is paired with a research lab, nonprofit, or education organization that has high intellectual merit and the potential to move the needle in its respective field. For each product sold, Waterlust donates 10% of profits to these conservation partners.
Eye-Catching Designs Made from Recycled Plastic Bottles
waterlust.com / @abamabam
The company sells a range of eco-friendly items like leggings, rash guards, and board shorts that are made using recycled post-consumer plastic bottles. There are currently 16 causes represented by distinct marine-life patterns, from whale shark research and invasive lionfish removal to sockeye salmon monitoring and abalone restoration.
One such organization is Get Inspired, a nonprofit that specializes in ocean restoration and environmental education. Get Inspired founder, marine biologist Nancy Caruso, says supporting on-the-ground efforts is one thing that sets Waterlust apart, like their apparel line that supports Get Inspired abalone restoration programs.
"All of us [conservation partners] are doing something," Caruso said. "We're not putting up exhibits and talking about it — although that is important — we're in the field."
Waterlust not only helps its conservation partners financially so they can continue their important work. It also helps them get the word out about what they're doing, whether that's through social media spotlights, photo and video projects, or the informative note card that comes with each piece of apparel.
"They're doing their part for sure, pushing the information out across all of their channels, and I think that's what makes them so interesting," Caruso said.
And then there are the clothes, which speak for themselves.
Advocate Apparel to Start Conversations About Conservation
waterlust.com / @oceanraysphotography
Waterlust's concept of "advocate apparel" encourages people to see getting dressed every day as an opportunity to not only express their individuality and style, but also to advance the conversation around marine science. By infusing science into clothing, people can visually represent species and ecosystems in need of advocacy — something that, more often than not, leads to a teaching moment.
"When people wear Waterlust gear, it's just a matter of time before somebody asks them about the bright, funky designs," said Waterlust's CEO, Patrick Rynne. "That moment is incredibly special, because it creates an intimate opportunity for the wearer to share what they've learned with another."
The idea for the company came to Rynne when he was a Ph.D. student in marine science.
"I was surrounded by incredible people that were discovering fascinating things but noticed that often their work wasn't reaching the general public in creative and engaging ways," he said. "That seemed like a missed opportunity with big implications."
Waterlust initially focused on conventional media, like film and photography, to promote ocean science, but the team quickly realized engagement on social media didn't translate to action or even knowledge sharing offscreen.
Rynne also saw the "in one ear, out the other" issue in the classroom — if students didn't repeatedly engage with the topics they learned, they'd quickly forget them.
"We decided that if we truly wanted to achieve our goal of bringing science into people's lives and have it stick, it would need to be through a process that is frequently repeated, fun, and functional," Rynne said. "That's when we thought about clothing."
Support Marine Research and Sustainability in Style
To date, Waterlust has sold tens of thousands of pieces of apparel in over 100 countries, and the interactions its products have sparked have had clear implications for furthering science communication.
For Caruso alone, it's led to opportunities to share her abalone restoration methods with communities far and wide.
"It moves my small little world of what I'm doing here in Orange County, California, across the entire globe," she said. "That's one of the beautiful things about our partnership."
Check out all of the different eco-conscious apparel options available from Waterlust to help promote ocean conservation.
Melissa Smith is an avid writer, scuba diver, backpacker, and all-around outdoor enthusiast. She graduated from the University of Florida with degrees in journalism and sustainable studies. Before joining EcoWatch, Melissa worked as the managing editor of Scuba Diving magazine and the communications manager of The Ocean Agency, a non-profit that's featured in the Emmy award-winning documentary Chasing Coral.