Asian elephants don’t carry photo identification, so scientists from the Wildlife Conservation Society and India’s Nature Conservation Foundation are providing the service free of charge by creating a photographic archive of individual elephants, which can help save them as well.
The researchers have developed a unique “photographic capture-recapture” survey method that identifies individual male elephants, specifically by the shape and size of their tusks, ears, and other features. This in turn can be used to monitor their survival rates and movement, according to a new study published in the current issue of the Journal Animal Conservation (10: 391-399).
“Unlike African elephants where both males and females have tusks, only male Asian elephants have valuable tusks, so they are specifically targeted by poachers,” said WCS researcher Varun Goswami, the study’s lead author. “In light of this fact, just counting all elephants with generic techniques isn’t enough. Our new method allows specific tracking of male elephant population dynamics, so it is a powerful conservation tool.”
Working in collaboration with the Karantaka State Forest Department in Nagarahole and Bandipur reserves, researchers systematically took more than 2400 photographs of individual elephants, sampling game roads and waterholes over an 80-day period. Male elephants in particular were given special treatment, with the scientists recording data such as tusk length, thickness, angle, arrangement, as well as other characteristics ear shape, shoulder height, tail length, and scars. These data revealed some 134 individual male elephants in a population of 991 elephants, with an adult male/female ratio of 1 to 4.33. The data were analyzed using advanced ‘open capture-recapture models’.
The new method complements traditional survey techniques, which can gauge overall elephant densities and sex ratios at population levels, but are unable to monitor demographics of male elephants with a degree of rigor attained by studies that focus on data from individual animals. More importantly, such accurate assessments of male elephants can help conservationists monitor poaching rates over the long term. Also, elephant carcasses can be compared with archival photos to identify individuals and even to aid in law enforcement efforts.
In addition to poaching, another threat to male elephants comes from human farmers defending their food resources from crop-raiders. Recognizing individual males that are prone to crop-raiding can inform better management interventions. At present, exactly how many male elephants engage in crop-raiding is unknown.
“The rigor of this technique can help us achieve real conservation success with the Asian elephants, which are threatened across their 13 country range,” said Dr. Ullas Karanth, a co-author of the study who pioneered the use of the photographic capture-recapture method to study tigers earlier. “We believe this method can be expanded to answer other questions relevant to Asian elephant conservation across their entire range.”
John Delaney | EurekAlert!
Upcycling of PET Bottles: New Ideas for Resource Cycles in Germany
25.06.2018 | Fraunhofer-Institut für Betriebsfestigkeit und Systemzuverlässigkeit LBF
Dry landscapes can increase disease transmission
20.06.2018 | Forschungsverbund Berlin e.V.
A new manufacturing technique uses a process similar to newspaper printing to form smoother and more flexible metals for making ultrafast electronic devices.
The low-cost process, developed by Purdue University researchers, combines tools already used in industry for manufacturing metals on a large scale, but uses...
For the first time ever, scientists have determined the cosmic origin of highest-energy neutrinos. A research group led by IceCube scientist Elisa Resconi, spokesperson of the Collaborative Research Center SFB1258 at the Technical University of Munich (TUM), provides an important piece of evidence that the particles detected by the IceCube neutrino telescope at the South Pole originate from a galaxy four billion light-years away from Earth.
To rule out other origins with certainty, the team led by neutrino physicist Elisa Resconi from the Technical University of Munich and multi-wavelength...
For the first time a team of researchers have discovered two different phases of magnetic skyrmions in a single material. Physicists of the Technical Universities of Munich and Dresden and the University of Cologne can now better study and understand the properties of these magnetic structures, which are important for both basic research and applications.
Whirlpools are an everyday experience in a bath tub: When the water is drained a circular vortex is formed. Typically, such whirls are rather stable. Similar...
Physicists working with Roland Wester at the University of Innsbruck have investigated if and how chemical reactions can be influenced by targeted vibrational excitation of the reactants. They were able to demonstrate that excitation with a laser beam does not affect the efficiency of a chemical exchange reaction and that the excited molecular group acts only as a spectator in the reaction.
A frequently used reaction in organic chemistry is nucleophilic substitution. It plays, for example, an important role in in the synthesis of new chemical...
Optical spectroscopy allows investigating the energy structure and dynamic properties of complex quantum systems. Researchers from the University of Würzburg present two new approaches of coherent two-dimensional spectroscopy.
"Put an excitation into the system and observe how it evolves." According to physicist Professor Tobias Brixner, this is the credo of optical spectroscopy....
13.07.2018 | Event News
12.07.2018 | Event News
03.07.2018 | Event News
23.07.2018 | Health and Medicine
23.07.2018 | Earth Sciences
23.07.2018 | Science Education