African elephants Orphaned decades ago have still not coped with kins deaths

January 22nd, 2009 - 5:00 pm ICT by ANI  

Washington, Jan 22 (ANI): While the ban on the killing of African elephants has been in place for decades, offspring of the previously killed animals have still not coped up with their kins deaths.

African elephants rely heavily on matriarchs to lead groups and keep families together.

The scientists have said that an African elephant never comes out of the death of its kin and thus finds it difficult to create bonds with other groups.

“Our study shows that it takes a long time upwards of 20 years for a family who has lost its kin to rebuild,” said lead researcher Kathleen Gobush, Ph.D., a research ecologist for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Agency.

Before the 1989 ban on ivory trade, nearly 75 percent of all elephants in Tanzania’’s Mikumi National Park were killed. Poachers targeted those with the largest tusks particularly older matriarchs.

“A lot of these females lost their sisters and mothers, and were left living a solitary existence. So the question became, what are the long-term impacts on the genetic relatedness of groups? said Sam Wasser, Ph.D., director of the Center for Conservation Biology at the University of Washington.

For their study, the scientists tracked more than 100 groups of elephants living in Mikumi National Park.

They assessed the lasting effects of poaching on group size, relatedness, and social bonding by comparing information about each group with previous reports of protected populations.

It was found that elephants in Mikumi formed unusually small groups, with nearly a third of the females living alone.

Interestingly, some of the elephants chose to forge new bonds with unrelated groups after their own kin had perished.

“When we saw the solitary females, we initially thought that some lucky elephants still had their families, while other elephants had lost it all. But we actually saw a flexibility in their behaviour. Some elephants were able to find their way and create new bonds with unrelated female elephants, while others did not,” said Gobush.

The study is published online in the journal, Molecular Ecology. (ANI)

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