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Male elephants get 'photo IDs' from scientists
Date:8/15/2007

Asian elephants dont carry photo identification, so scientists from the Wildlife Conservation Society and Indias Nature Conservation Foundation are providing the service free of charge by creating a photographic archive of individual elephants, which can help save them as well.

The researchers have developed a unique photographic capture-recapture survey method that identifies individual male elephants, specifically by the shape and size of their tusks, ears, and other features. This in turn can be used to monitor their survival rates and movement, according to a new study published in the current issue of the Journal Animal Conservation (10: 391-399).

Unlike African elephants where both males and females have tusks, only male Asian elephants have valuable tusks, so they are specifically targeted by poachers, said WCS researcher Varun Goswami, the studys lead author. In light of this fact, just counting all elephants with generic techniques isnt enough. Our new method allows specific tracking of male elephant population dynamics, so it is a powerful conservation tool.

Working in collaboration with the Karantaka State Forest Department in Nagarahole and Bandipur reserves, researchers systematically took more than 2400 photographs of individual elephants, sampling game roads and waterholes over an 80-day period. Male elephants in particular were given special treatment, with the scientists recording data such as tusk length, thickness, angle, arrangement, as well as other characteristics ear shape, shoulder height, tail length, and scars. These data revealed some 134 individual male elephants in a population of 991 elephants, with an adult male/female ratio of 1 to 4.33. The data were analyzed using advanced open capture-recapture models.

The new method complements traditional survey techniques, which can gauge overall elephant densities and sex ratios at population levels, but are unable to monitor demographics of male el
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Contact: John Delaney
jdelaney@wcs.org
718-220-3275
Wildlife Conservation Society
Source:Eurekalert

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