Wildlife researchers working with the University of Sheffield in South Yorkshire, England now claim that, although poaching plays a major part in lowering the global Asian elephants population, climate change must not be ignored either.
After analyzing almost a century's worth of life and deaths records belonging to as many as 8,000 elephants from Myanmar, these specialists have reached the conclusion that low rainfall and extreme temperatures double a baby elephant's chances of passing away while still at a rather young age.
Given the fact that both of these weather manifestations are part and parcel of ongoing phenomena such as climate change and global warming, it need not surprise anyone that concerns are now being raised with respect to how the global Asian elephant population will be affected by them.
In case anyone was wondering, the elephants taken into consideration were all semi-captive ones (i.e. they were used by people working in the timber industry to push and drag logs), which is why the researchers are quite confident that the information they worked with was nothing if not accurate.
EurekAlert! quotes the study's lead author, Hannah Mumby, PhD student, who wished to draw attention to the fact that, “Overall, switching from good to bad climatic conditions within an average year significantly increases mortality rates of elephants of all ages.”
“The most dramatic example comes from baby elephants, whose risk of death before the age of five approximately doubles in the hottest weather in comparison to the optimal moderate temperature for elephant survival,” Hannah Mumby went on to add.
Apparently, most of the baby elephants that died within said time frame either suffered a heat stroke, or contracted an infectious disease.
Since elephants can neither pant, nor sweat in order to cool down, it is no wonder that such extreme weather manifestations affect them more than they do other animal species.
“These results could have important implications for Asian elephant populations both in western zoos, where they may experience unfamiliar climate, and in range countries where climate may be changing faster than elephants can adapt to it,” Hannah Mumby concluded.