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David Hancocks on Elephants......

Discussion in 'General Zoo Discussion' started by patrick, 19 Jun 2006.

  1. Kifaru Bwana

    Kifaru Bwana Well-Known Member

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    Zoo_Boy,

    So, all elephant males have been evaluated. That leaves a breeding male at Melbourne and one at Perth, isn't it. Perhaps Heman could be used for AI (this has been tried with an ageing bull at Amsterdam zoo before).

    patrick,

    Can you tell me which elephants are to be imported from Thailand (genetic make-up). That has not been all to clear for me.

    I guess also that if the legislative has put forward that housing is prime, that one way or other the Asian elephants will be moved out to Dubbo. Perhaps they could have the Indian rhino at Taronga instead?
     
  2. patrick

    patrick Well-Known Member

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    jelle.

    we have discussed the possibilty of heman breeding before on this forum, but if you look at him (there are photos on zooki-pah's webshots page) he's pretty old looking (and at 50 why wouldn't he be) and i don't think its been considered - nor is it really required with two other young bulls at melbourne and perth. both melbornes elephants and perths come from malaysia and thus are the same mainland subspecies elephas maximus indicus as the thai elephants (is that whatyou mean by gentic makeup?).

    personally i think AI is stupid since elephants breed if you put them in the right social situations...
     
  3. Kifaru Bwana

    Kifaru Bwana Well-Known Member

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    To add another note: the age at first breeding is very important. Must be below 25 otherwise hormonal atrophy will set in the reproductive tract. On the other had the Ramat-Gan zoo for instance has a breeding female at 48. Several other cows (Kobenhavn and Rotterdam) are in their middle to late 30's. So, age may not be that important.

    Whether or not elephants will breed is something of a lottery, I guess. What is important however is that ALL elephants of prime breeding age and those even in their 30-40's must be reproductively evaluated if the breeding programme is to have any true meaning. From that perspective the breeding programme can be moved forward. Also, it is imperative than to decided on a breeding and non-breeding location. Females that are deemed able to reproduce and not have access to a bull must be moved to a location where a proven bull is available for breeding (she may return to the zoo that is holding her in the first instant, but perhaps it is better to leave her long-term in a breeding capacity to increase the chances of reproductive success). Alternatively, take bull sperm and inseminate on site (this requires much technical skill and a restraining chute for the female to be handled (and not forget the training!!!).
     
  4. patrick

    patrick Well-Known Member

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    yeah, i'm aware about the need for elephant cows to become pregnant befor they hit their late 20's or generally their reproductive systems shut down. this is what has happened with melbourne cow, who is only 31(ish) but already sterile.

    the situaion in australasia isn't quite the same as europe - remember we have only a handful of zoos with elephants. melbournes plan is to introduce the 3 new very young cows to the existing female in the hope of them bonding to form a small group. this situation worked well at perth who imported a 3 baby elephants (a male and two females) in the very early 90's and successfully bonded her with their existing (and only) much older female. personally, i see no reason why female elephants should be split from their bonded groups and sent out on breeding loan to other zoos. instead i think it should be the bulls that are transferred, since they are the ones that often live solitary in the wild. if the aim is to create strong bonded, multi-aged, family groups then i think it is both stressfull and unnesserscary to seperate females from one another - even short term.

    here in australia the plan is to have 3 zoos all with one bull and 3-4 females. however with taronga importing such an immature male (and apparently at least one close to breeding age cow) i cannot make sense of what it is they are trying to do.
     
  5. Kifaru Bwana

    Kifaru Bwana Well-Known Member

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    patrick,



    The current zoo stock is:
    Melbourne
    1.0 31 (fertile)
    0.1 30 (post reproductive)

    Perth
    1.0 17 (fertile)
    0.1 17 (fertile)
    0.1 16 (not evaluated, just health issues, perhaps candidate for AI)

    Dubbo
    1.0 50 (not evaluated)
    0.1 54 (post-reproductive)

    Beerwah
    0.1 ?
    0.1 ?
    0.1 ?

    Do you have any indication as to exact age composition of the imports?

    As to my remark regarding transfers. I meant that in the current situation it is a method for transferring females into breeding situations in Europe (where they M-F ratios are so diverse). I am not aware in what way the Ozzie elephants are bonded or those in Thailand (I suspect the latter a great deal more). If we follow your lead then the Thailand imports would be divided over 2 zoos with the third to take up the cows of breeding age that cannot be put with a male at their zoo. In Europe now, males travel to entire breeding groups and not to individual elephant females (that's far too costly and logistically a nightmare). Instead breeding males are designated at zoos and females termed reproductively able are put with one of these males. Thus, when breeding groups of females with matriarch get bigger they are split sideways with matriarch+daughter staying and daughter-daughter moving to new location. It is all an option and not a must, as far as I am concerned.
     
  6. Kifaru Bwana

    Kifaru Bwana Well-Known Member

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    Auckland

    0.1 38 ?
    0.1 24 ? (prime candidate for a transfer to a breeding location)
     
  7. Kifaru Bwana

    Kifaru Bwana Well-Known Member

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    The Dubbo option gives cause for concern for health reasons. As African elephants are immune to herpes infections, Asians are not. If ever the Asian breeding programme is moved to Dubbo the Africans should leave a.s.a.p. for another zoo for health reasons. Even better the Africans must be moved now in order to stall any potential for transmitting the infectious agents to the Asians and later on to the younger gen's.
     
  8. MARK

    MARK Well-Known Member

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    Jelle, the three females at Beerwah are quite old girls they are almost 50 now and are on lease to this zoo, they are former circus elephants, and as you pointed out the younger (breeding age female) at Auckland zoo should be in a herd in Aust, Why cant they just send her here before its to late for her to breed????.
     
  9. jay

    jay Well-Known Member

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    Mark
    I'm glad that you informed us of the age of the elephants at Australia Zoo. I knew they were too old but not how much. And forget breeding the second young female at Perth. She has severe bone problems which means that her skeleton cannot support any extra weight, no matings, no carrying babies.
    Jay
     
  10. Zoo_Boy

    Zoo_Boy Well-Known Member

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    well many zoos areound the world- like seattle woodland park zoo, breeds elephants, with an african female in the enclousure so its not really a big prob. thou at dubbo, the keepers have to be in full dress to go in woth eles, gumboots (2 sets each 1 for the african barn 1 4 asian barn) so theres little chance of spread
     
  11. patrick

    patrick Well-Known Member

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    as far as i am aware all the elephants in australia, be them african or asian are disease free anyway. there have been no recorded cases of TB or herpes in elephants in australia so far as i know. the thai elephants have been in quarrentine for so long, and our rules so strict, that i am sure we can be sure that we have and will continue to have a disease free population. so those issues, that are a problem (particuarly in the states) with animals OS, may not nesserscarily apply here.

    although aucklands younger female may be breedable, i am not sure if she has yet had a proper asessment. there is an additional elderly female at perth that you forgot to mention jelle also. currently in the whole of australia, there is just two males and one female who are suitable for breeding. as metioned, the other younger female at perth has a weakened skeleton apparently (i assume she has low bone density?) so it would be potentially detrimental to her health to take the weight of of bull on her back or the additional weight and stress of carrying a baby.

    the thai elephants vary in age, but none are much older than 10 and the youngest are only about 5 years old.

    as you mentioned jelle, the 8 will be split between melbourne and taronga (who have no elephants), taronga gets a 1.4 and melbourne 0.3. this gives each zoo group of 1.4 animals in total (since melb already has a pair).

    melbourne will be looking at breeding soon with their bull and the eldest thai female, taronga will have to wait since they were only interested in baby elephants it seems. apparently the individual 2 groups have "bonded" with eachother though in all photos of the animals in thailand they are all still interacting together so they seem to be at least somewhat bonded as a larger group as well.
     
  12. Nigel

    Nigel Well-Known Member

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    Auckland s elephants

    The last I heard was that the zoo planned to try and get the younger female to concieve by AI , but I have sent the zoo an email asking for updated news .
    I agree that Auckland zoo should ship its elephants to a suitable size zoo for breeding attempts in Australia , in exchange for a couple of older females for retirement / display purposes .
    I suspect that if Aucklands elephants went to Taronga , they will get bored pretty quick unless they were part of the gardening/maintainance/building teams of human workers . The keepers use every opportunity/excuse to get the elephants out of their enclosures and to get a good solid workout doing manual work in the zoo .

    I have been busy on other issues in the last week or so , but when I get a reply from Auckland Zoo , I will post it on the forum . Please bear with me .
     
  13. MARK

    MARK Well-Known Member

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    Thanks Nigel.
     
  14. patrick

    patrick Well-Known Member

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    nigel, you often metion the work that the elephants do at auckland zoo and i agree that it is a great idea. melbourne currently get their female to perform tasks (lifting a shifting logs etc..) for excercise, but it just seems more logical when they are employed to dosomething that s actually useful. and to be honest, its seems kinda sweet that these gentile giants lend a helping hand, or trunk as it may be....
     
  15. Michelle

    Michelle Member

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    It has been interesting reading the discussion so far. There are some points I want to add.
    1. Tarongas older elephants moving to Dubbo. My understanding (as discussed previously the african elephant carrying the herpes virus)that the asian elephants that are now at Dubbo can now never leave as potentially they may have been infected with this virus. With the asian elephant breeding program none of the asian elephants can go to Dubbo while the african elephants and the resident asian elephants are there.
    2. my understanding of the breeding program at Melbourne Zoo is that it is going to be AI and it is sex selection. Because they do not have the facilities to house any more bulls. When the german AI team came to collect Bong Su's semen they could not get a good sample as his training was not up to scratch. Also it means that the females will need training for insemination.
    3. There has been alot of talk from Zoos and this forum and financial contributions to wild elephant conservation. Wild elephants in Asia have limited space and that will be the downfall of their existence. With fragmented populations due to loss of habitat and also the increasing human elephant conflict I ask the questions what are Zoos financially doing to support the domestic elephant in Asia as these animals hold the key as to whether these animals will be around in the future.
    The australian zoos have said their research and techniques for breeding will be shared with their asian partners. Lets not reinvent the wheel. Domestic elephants in Asian countries are perfectly capable of breeding and do breed the only disincentive for the individual elephant owners is that it is a huge financial burden if their elephant can not work for 2-3 years whilst they are nursing their calves. We have had 23 successful births in less than 6 years. And we have another 10 to 14 pregnant females. This is all natural mating.
    As we are committed to conserving the asian elephant we are prepared to create other means to financially support this. However it is a huge financial burden that will require outside funds to continue. And yet there has been no financial support offered from the Zoos even though three of the elephants are from here. The zoos paid thai prices for their elephants and spent millions on everything else. In fact they even spent more on the shipment crates then they did on the elephants themselves. If the zoos had been seen to support thailands elephants in a financial way the controversy now surrounding the acquisition would barely exist.
    The reason many zoos in the past have not had successful breeding is because the elephants were obtained at young ages before they had a chance to learn how to breed. Here young bulls are given the opportunity to mate and learn what they are doing and they see the more mature bulls in action. Most of the time these matings with the younger bulls are unsuccessful but it is about giving them the chance to learn.The mahouts train the bulls and cows to mate.
    4. The australian zoos acquired elephants under the pretence of cultural exchange. Thailand gave their elephants (whoever said it was a privilege was right) because they were under the impression that 5000 years of living and working with elephants was worth something to the west. Unfortuntely the only cultural exchange that has occured is that Thailand's elephants may be going to australia. Living and working with elephants for so long, the acquired knowledge is of immense value to keeping elephants in captivity. It is sad to say that this knowledge remains untapped by the australian zoos.
    5. It is ironic and highly unfortunate when speaking about Thai elephants and criticising them earning a living in the tourist industry. Just how many tourism awards have australian zoos recieved to date? say no more.
    One last thing, Patrick, it is good to see you havent changed and you continue to try and make the zoos accountable for their actions.
     
  16. Kifaru Bwana

    Kifaru Bwana Well-Known Member

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    Michelle,

    I would like to raise several points following your mail.

    1. The Dubbo Zoo has stringent veterinary guidelines concerning wild animal health care and has certified quarantine facilities. Thus all wild animals - in this case both the Africans and Asians - have been screened before being introduced to their exhibit on site. Furthermore, staff have been instructed to ensure that no cross contamination may take place. In no way did I imply that the Africans were in fact carriers or infected and so you cannot maintain that are. If patrick says so, I believe that to be the case.
    2. I am somewhat puzzled to this AI thingy. Bong Su is at a perfect breeding age and well capable of mounting females 15-20 years younger his age. In fact most bulls do that by natural inclinement anyhow.

    I personally would support that the Melbourne Zoo should operate protected contact and conditioning training for reproductive and pregnancy evaluation. B) I secondly support that the Melbourne Zoo should opt for a contact free breeding enclosure where the male and females can breed of their own accord (which is done with lots of posturing and trumpetting).

    3a. It is an interesting equation you give here. Whereas in principle I might support your idea, as an out out station zoo with educational as well as entertainment value. However, I disagree on the wild animal bit. It is quite a cynical approach to wildlife conservation, I believe. It IS extremely important that wild elephants are allowed to survive in safe havens in well secured protected areas. It is thus imperative that communities living close to wild elephant populations be involved at the grassroots level in elephant conservation. That not only means providing jobs in protected areas for locals, it implies educational activities in schools as to the importance of wild elephants and other wild- and plantlife. Crop raiding mitigation measures and securing boundaries to the protected areas, resolving land disputes.

    3b. I would like to learn more about the Ayutthaya site from you. You mention breeding on a regular basis with 23 births and 10-14 pregnant cows. Also more breeding age bulls on site available for breeding. And young bulls learning by example. That mahouts train their cows to mate with the bulls. That is an entirely new concept! Please tell me more about that.

    As to breeding at present in zoos: I come from an European perspective where Asian elephant breeding has taken off seriously since 1990 (the inception of our regional EEP programme for Asian elephants). At the moment 10-12 calves are born into the zoo population of 175 - 225 individuals each year (Where you must be reminded that it was a very ageing population to start with, so many individuals were past prime breeding age. Yet breeding has occurred and at an ever increasing rate with currently 15-20 proven bull facilities producing calves. With more young now reaching sexual maturity at 12-15 and having had experience of breeding with their herd socially adept individuals are starting to breed themselves).

    Looking forward to hearing from you Michelle.

    Jelle
     
    Last edited: 28 Jun 2006
  17. Zoo_Boy

    Zoo_Boy Well-Known Member

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    so michelle do u support the importation?
     
  18. Michelle

    Michelle Member

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    Jelle
    In response to your comments and questions
    1. Most reputable zoos are quarantine facilities. And australia has very strict quarantine regulations. I was not referring to an implication you made but to facts that I know. If the african elephants at Dubbo were tested for herpes virus and the results had come back conclusively negative, there would be no concern of cross contamination and the keepers would not have to take precautions. I have experience with quarantine procedures and they are not 100% foolproof this is why zoos have had outbreaks in various species that have led to fatalities.
    If you could tell me of one reputable zoo that already has elephants that would take the elephants at Dubbo knowing the full health history of the african elephants, I would like to know which one.
    2. The AI (artificial insemination) thingy. The facility at melb does allow for contact between the male and female eles. However Bongsu has never successfully mated with Mek Kapah to my knowledge even though he has attempted. Also Melb. Zoo are using AI and sex selection as they dont want to risk having male offspring.
    It was not clear what you were saying about protected contact. Did you mean they should move all their training to PC?
    3. If you do your research you will find that the prediction for the wild asian ele is that they be extinct in less than 50 years. This is a most unfortunate but realistic view of the near future. I wish that they would survive but they are dying quicker than they are breeding. And how do you make a secure haven? Asia does have national parks however the elephants migratory routes are increasingly being encroached on by humans and the human elephant conflict is increasing and their biggest threat today. Asia does not have the money the west does and anyway, conservation projects in the west often struggle for funding. Who is going to pay for these jobs and the fencing to secure these boundries and then the constant repairs when the eles push through them, let alone the relocation of escapees and the compensation to farmers who have suffered loss and damage from the eles. because we are talking wild eles and they dont understand that the fence is for their protection and not to stop them from getting to favoured grazing areas. If as has happened in africa there are areas where the population has exploded and they are now starving as they have eaten out their entire habitat. I am all in in favour of conservation in the wild, but it is not going to be solved in the short term and what I am suggesting is an immediate solution to an immediate problem that would cost the fraction of the price and guarantee the survival of the species.
    4. I am familiar with the EEP and there have been some great successes using AI in the past and now natural mating. However your statistics are rather puzzling. How many years have these annual 10-12 calves been born now and what is the survival rate and how many of them are asian? And it seems a sustainable population is still some years off given Burmese elephants have been imported this year for the program for genetic diversity.

    Zooboy
    I was initially a supporter of the aust. acqu. but unfortunately it has turned into a very expensive and messy saga. All of which could have so easily been avoided. But I do believe the elephants will receive good care if they go to aust. However there is a vast amount of untapped knowledge here in Asia and that would be of benefit to all if only people would look to the experienced experts.
     
  19. Kifaru Bwana

    Kifaru Bwana Well-Known Member

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    1. Probably none. However, several zoos Berlin maintain both species in close proximitiy (Tierpark Berlin, Paignton, Port Lymnpe) to oneanother. Yet they are aware of the potential health issues.

    Even so, Rotterdam Zoo with the University are now testing a new vaccine for herpes and early results are encouraging.

    2. I suppose that Bong Su and Mek Kapah have grown up like siblings really and yes bulls will mount. However, him not having bred to Mek Kapah does not imply he is no good for breeding at all. But I am concerned - gleaning from your short expose - that Melbourne is not thinking of natural mating. Also, the chance of male offspring can not be an excuse not too, I think. Please explain a little more about the plans!

    3. Yes, I am aware of the precarious situation of Asians all over the continent. True, funding for research and conservation has to be found quickly. However, the range countries themselves must be seen to be willing to conserve wild elephants. Corruption and government inadequacies need to be dealt with as they remain obstacles to efficient anti-poaching and illegal elephant killings.

    The prediction that within 50 years elephants will disappear IS a trend which must be stopped at all cost. We can not afford to become complacent and rest our laurels in dispair by simply letting things slip. That has been the pervasive attitude to date. We can become effective elephant conservationists if only we try. Sound research is a first step towards safe and secure elephant habitat. This should include concreate measures like creation of buffer zones, mitigation efforts and resolving human-elephant conflicts. I will look through the IUCN action plan tonight and give you some pointers to start with.

    Zoos within the EEP are encouraged to support wild elephant conservation programmes and this year a campaign is being run on rhino conservation that wil also facilitate elephant conservation in f.i. Assam (Kaziranga, Dudhwa). The coordinator is supporting research in Burma and elsewhere. The main channel for all projects is the IUCN specialist group for Asians. Thus European zoos are making a real effort here.

    4. Re breeding programme: AI is a relatively new phenomenon that is being used by some zoos so designated by the EEP and surely is not the favoured policy. Examples have been Jerusalem zoo where their bull is way too young to reproduce, yet cows of prime breeding age are present. The overall picture is of a developping elephant herd, allthough yet to reach a level of sustainability (but will be reached before long if current breeding rates keep up). The birth rate for Asians has been hovering at 10-12 births per year for the second year ending. In 2006 6 births have occurred already including alas 2 stillbirths. Survival rates are generally good with perhaps 5+% loss annually (mostly primiparous females).

    Michelle, you have yet to answer my query regarding how Ayyuthaya manages a breeding elephant camp. Can you explain a little more on the subject??

    Jelle
     
    Last edited: 29 Jun 2006
  20. Michelle

    Michelle Member

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    Jelle
    1. That is good news for herpes sufferers or those potentially that could be infected that vaccines are being researched. However sending the elephants to Dubbo does make the idea of caring about elephant welfare a valid reason to question Tarongas motives and I applaud melb for retaining their elephants for intergration
    2. Yes they have grown up as siblings and no I was not implying Bong Su was not suitable as a breeding bull at all, I was simply giving some information as the situation to date. He could very well learn with the stimulation of new female company and experimentation however management are not prepared to risk natural mating as, if the offspring are male they will not have the facilities to manage another bull and sending then off site is not an option at this stage as bull facilities are lacking in australia and extremely expensive to build and also there is a lack of expertise to deal with this now.That is why when first talking about aquiring elephants for melbourne zoo about 6-7 years ago there was the opportunity to import 2 females and their offspring from Emin Zoo but because the offspring were male this plan was ultimatley rejected.
    3. I am more than well aware of several wild elephant conservation plans in progress in thailand and basically their biggest obstacle is lack of funding and I ask again who will supply this money??? It needs to come from the organisations that talk about conserving species yet spend massive amounts of money in their own countries for a couple of babies.
    And I ask again what about supporting proven breeding programs amongst captive elephants in situ?
    And yes the IUCN is a very large organisation spreading itself rather thinly over the worlds problems and yes they do facilitate great research and sometimes do great practical work but this still does not answer my previous questions who will pay?
    As for government corruption, it is not the cause of declining numbers in wild elephant populations. I could argue that it is the publics ignorance in the west that they will not understand what they cant see (according to zoos hence the money spent on their acquisition and breeding programs)
    Please tell me how much money is spent on acquiring elephants, breeding elephants, management of elephants, building of facilities for elephants in zoos in comparison to the money that is spent on conservation in situ. then we will get a more accurate picture of the priorities.
    4. It depends on what you call a recent phenomenon. The beginnings of AI date back to the mid 1700's when a dog was artificially inseminated and successfully gave birth to 2 pups.

    Sorry I forgot to give you our website www.elephantstay.com I will be happy to answer any queries you have about what happens here.
    Breeding elephants is only one project albiet the most important for species survival. But the basis of here is to ensure the conservation of the species by creating a sustainable future.