Conservation management & elephant tourism
The Asian elephant population continues to be in decline. An endangered species, Asian elephant population numbers face continued threats and challenges. Wild populations remain vulnerable to poaching, human-elephant conflict, habitat decline and encroachment from concessions and plantations. Snares and other traps often leave wild elephants being permanently disabled. Threats facing wild population are currently very difficult to mitigate and control.
Unfortunately wild elephant populations can not be relied upon to support a viable, sustainable Asian elephant population into the future. The captive elephant population however can be managed in a way that benefits elephant conservation and species perpetuity. Much more is known about captive elephant demographics. The vast majority of captive elephants are microchipped, and information is known about each elephants’ age, sex, location and breeding history. This places the captive elephant population in an attractive position for conservation management; safeguarding the entire species from extinction.
Elephant-based tourism can play a vital role in captive elephant conservation and species growth. Of course this may alter from country-to-country, as specific needs must be considered. But captive breeding is considered vital in countries like Laos where only 400 wild elephants remain throughout the entire country. Wild Sumatran elephants (Elephas maximus sumatras) also face incredible stresses, and captive breeding can act as a genetic reservoir for this subspecies.
As conservation managers we are all hopeful for positive changes for protected areas and species management. Hopefully in a generation or two many of the current issues facing wild elephants will have been phased out. Until that time, captive elephants continue to play a vital role in Asian elephant conservation.