ESR 24:1-7 (2014)  -  DOI: https://doi.org/10.3354/esr00578

Population viability of captive Asian elephants in the Lao PDR

Ingrid Colette Suter1,*, Gilles Pierre Maurer2, Greg Baxter1

1The University of Queensland, School of Geography, Planning and Environmental Management, St Lucia, Brisbane, Queensland 4072, Australia
2ElefantAsia, PO Box 3804, Vientiane, Lao People’s Democratic Republic
*Corresponding author:

ABSTRACT: Asian elephants Elephas maximus have been captured and trained by Lao mahouts for centuries. While captive elephants are losing their traditional relevance, they still play a significant role in the Lao logging and tourism industries. However, with only an estimated 480 captive elephants remaining nationally and only ~60 cows under 35 yr of age, the future viability of this population is uncertain. We assessed >80% of the captive elephant population and used VORTEX software to create 7 population viability analysis scenarios. Our results demonstrate that without changes to conservation management the current population is likely to be extinct in 112 yr (r = -0.099). Reduced mortality rates, increased reproductive rates and population supplementation will give the population an additional 108 yr of longevity, but will not, of themselves, prevent extinction. Management programs should direct efforts towards in situ breeding programs, a cessation in calf exportation, improved veterinary care and population supplementation. Since captive populations are also small and declining in other range nations, there is also a case for managing all Asian elephants as a single management unit.


KEY WORDS: Asian elephants · Captive elephants · Elephas maximus · Lao PDR · Population viability · VORTEX


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Cite this article as: Suter IC, Maurer GP, Baxter G (2014) Population viability of captive Asian elephants in the Lao PDR. Endang Species Res 24:1-7. https://doi.org/10.3354/esr00578

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