- Scientists have shown that African elephants raised in captivity can be released to the African savannah with relative ease and do fine. Trials done in Botswana give hope for re-establishing threatened elephant range states.
Canadian scientists around Kate Evans have investigated how African elephants raised in captivity and released onto the savannah in Botswana's Okavango Delta have managed to integrate and socialise with wild herds. Several released elephants were followed over three years and the researchers from the UK University of Bristol were surprised how well the release went off.
Evans and her team say that one of the main hypothesises was that elephants raised in captivity would create more problems towards human settlements. This however proved wrong during her observations. The released elephants did not locate closer to human settlements than their wild colleagues and did in no manner try to seek contact with humans.
The grade of shyness of the animals is a key issue in conservation projects. Proposed elephant releases often are met with protests by locals, fearing conflicts of interests with the giant mammals. Elephant can cause enormous damage to crops and infrastructure if they settle to close to humans. But the research in Okavango in Botswana indicates that there are no behavioural differences between wild and released elephants.
But an equally important question in the study was about animal welfare of the released beasts. Would they manage well on the savannah, and would they be able to integrate into the wild herds? Or would they become isolated individuals?
According to Evans, the most important issue is to make sure the animals kept in captivity are released in just the right age. Male elephants do best when they are released in adolescent years, just at the time when they naturally leave the herd to live on their own.
"Our data show that it is possible to release captive-raised male elephants without significant welfare concerns," writes Evans. The survival rates post-release would mostly be high, adds the scientist, and her study had shown that "they can integrate into the complex society of bull elephants."
Generally, Evans and colleagues found only minor behavioural differences between released and wild elephants. Beasts growing up in captivity had a tendency to seek to smaller herds than other elephant bulls, but turned out to have as much social interactions with other elephants as other animals. Another minor difference was that the released elephants established on a smaller range than animals growing up on the savannah, but this seemingly did not cause any problems.
Evans underlines that the findings could have important implications for the maintenance of elephant populations throughout Africa. "African elephants have disappeared from many of their range states, and there are likely to be significant conservation and ecological benefits from restoring flagship species to areas they cannot recolonise naturally," the study concludes.
But Evans adds that it is "important to release the right age mixture and sex ratio" to make sure that future elephant recolonisations projects will be successful.
afrol News - It is called "financial inclusion", and it is a key government policy in Rwanda. The goal is that, by 2020, 90 percent of the population is to have and actively use bank accounts. And in only four years, financial inclusion has doubled in Rwanda.
afrol News - The UN's humanitarian agencies now warn about a devastating famine in Sudan and especially in South Sudan, where the situation is said to be "imploding". Relief officials are appealing to donors to urgently fund life-saving activities in the two countries.
afrol News - Fear is spreading all over West Africa after the health ministry in Guinea confirmed the first Ebola outbreak in this part of Africa. According to official numbers, at least 86 are infected and 59 are dead as a result of this very contagious disease.
afrol News - It is already a crime being homosexual in Ethiopia, but parliament is now making sure the anti-gay laws will be applied in practical life. No pardoning of gays will be allowed in future, but activist fear this only is a signal of further repression being prepared.
afrol News / Africa Renewal - Ethiopia's ambitious plan to build a US$ 4.2 billion dam in the Benishangul-Gumuz region, 40 km from its border with Sudan, is expected to provide 6,000 megawatts of electricity, enough for its population plus some excess it can sell to neighbouring countries.