Can Asian elephants survive in the wild?
Good protection has led to an increase in wild elephant populations in many countries in Asia. We do have increases in China, Bhutan, Nepal, Thailand, parts of India, while Sri Lanka, Cambodia, Vietnam and Bangladesh have stabilized, Myanmar and Laos are lacking data but are possibly declining so do Indonesia, Malaysia.
So good news on first sight, but fast increasing populations could eventually lead to their extinction.
Population increases will lead to overpopulation and if this populations are not controlled will destroy their own habitat, leaving them with a reduction in food supplies, at the same time HEC (Human Elephant Conflict) will increase to a level, that will push authorities to reduce the number of elephants significantly (culling, as already done in southern Africa).
So what should be done?
- Accurate data on elephants in each habitat have to be established.
- Carrying capacities need to be evaluated.
- The possibility of increasing carrying capacities have to be studied (habitat improvement).
- Scientists and the pharma industry need to urgently start developing elephant contraceptives suitable for Asia. the currently available contraceptive PZP used in Africa is not suitable in Asia as it has to be administered repeatedly. What is needed is a “one shot contraceptive” that can take out one birth cycle in an elephant (this would lead to a reduced birth rate of about 16%). implementation should be gradual, to avoid “lost generations”. with proper monitoring and adjustments population sizes could be stabilized within 15- 20 years.
July 21. 2017 Nani Fouad and Andy Merk, Nature & Wildlife Association