Blogging About Critters Since 2007

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Study Shows Shorter Life Spans for Zoo Elephants

Do elephants born outside of captivity live longer? The results of this study are pretty clear...and pretty controversial.

Elephants born in European zoos die at much younger ages than those bred in protected spaces, says a new study that's adding fuel to an already fractious debate over the welfare of the animals in captivity.

The research, to be published Friday in the journal Science, found that endangered Asian elephants born in zoos had a mortality rate two times higher than those born in parks or working in the logging industry.

....Animal rights groups argue that the size of the enclosures - usually less than a square kilometre, {report co-writer Georgia} Mason said - severely restricts the movement of animals that would travel thousands of kilometres annually in the wild.

They say that leads to obesity, atrophied muscles and cardiovascular problems, while the wet concrete they stand on can cause foot disease and lameness, which {Suzanne} Roy {of In Defense of Animals} said is the leading cause of euthanasia.

But zoo supporters dismiss the claims outright, arguing that competing studies have shown that captive elephants have life spans similar to those of animals living in the wild.

Steve Feldman of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums questioned the credibility of the Science report because it used data from 1960 when zoo husbandry practices were considered sub-standard. And it didn't include data on poaching, a major threat to wild elephant populations.

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