Slow birth rate found in African forest elephants

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Andrea Turkalo

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Scientists found that forest elephants start to breed at around the age of 23

African forest elephants have an extremely slow birth rate, putting them under greater pressure from poaching, research suggests.

Scientists have found that the animals start to breed at a later age and with longer intervals between calves than other elephant species.

The researchers say it means it could take decades for this species to recover from recent dramatic declines.

The study is published in the Journal of Applied Ecology.

Professor George Wittemyer, from Colorado State University and the chair of the scientific board of Save the Elephants, said: “I don’t think any of us realised how sensitive this species was.

“The basic biology of this species is designed for a system where they grow slowly, where they increase in number slowly, and the pressure we’re putting on them to harvest ivory is simply too much for them to bear.”

Image copyright
Andrea Turkalo

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The team monitored the elephants as they visited a mineral-rich clearing in the forest

African forest elephants inhabit the dense tropical jungles of central Africa. They are smaller than savannah elephants and rarer, but they have faced intense poaching.

A recent study estimated that their population declined by 65% between 2002 and 2013.

However until now, little has been known about their demographics.

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