Welfare at multiple scales: importance of zoo elephant population welfare in a world of declining wild populations
Cameron, EZ and Ryan, SJ, Welfare at multiple scales: importance of zoo elephant population welfare in a world of declining wild populations, PLoS One, 11, (7) Article e0158701. ISSN 1932-6203 (2016) [Contribution to Refereed Journal]
In-situ elephant populations have been in decline for much of the last 200 years, driven by an
inexorable combination of habitat loss and hunting for ivory, but with more recent and dramatic
declines primarily driven by hunting . Consequently, the distribution and sustainability
of elephant populations are now better predicted by human factors than ecological ones ,
underscoring the importance of societal factors in the ongoing survival of elephants. Despite
growing awareness of the conservation crisis, hunting pressure has not abated. Instead, there
has been a recent surge in harvest rates [3,4], more than doubling of harvest since 2007 .
The rates are staggering, escalating from an estimated 40,000 African elephants killed in 2011
 and 41 tons of ivory seized, to possibly more than 10% of the remaining populations in
2013 (summarised in ). In April 2016, the Kenyan Wildlife Service burned the biggest stockpile
of ivory since it began burning ivory in 1989, with 105 tonnes of ivory destroyed, representing
6000–7000 poached elephants [7,8]. Similar declines have been seen in forest [3,9] and
Asian  elephants. The current harvest rate of elephants is unsustainable, creating a conservation
crisis of global significance, with an immediate threat to their continued survival .
Novel genetic tracing techniques (e.g ) and strict anti-poaching law enforcement  are
vital to conserve the remaining free-ranging elephant populations.