Female elephants are fertile only 1-4 days every 4 months, so timing breeding is critical. However, elephants of both sexes often exhibit a lack of sexual interest, although much of that may be because individuals are not put together at the right time. The need to breed captive elephants in Laos is particularly urgent, because the females are aging and susceptible to problems such as uterine fibroids and ovarian cysts that may prevent conception.
The success or failure of any breeding program depends, in part, on using available technology to assess reproductive activity. Routine endocrine monitoring is now viewed as a valuable tool for making informed decisions about the management of elephants (J. Brown, Zoo Biology 19:347-367, 2000).
To meet our goal of increasing the number of elephant births in Laos, the Elephant Conservation Center proposes to set up an endocrinology laboratory to monitor the estrous cycle of the female elephants.
Encourage elephant natality
Our breeding programme aims at increasing the number of elephant biths in Laos
Provide an apropriate natural environment and quality care services to Lao elephants
Re-create social bonds within our elephant group at the 'Socialization Area'.
The benefits of the project will last for many years to come as improved staff capacity and new knowledge generated on the reproductive status of the elephants at the ECC will lead to more successful matings and births in future years. These births will directly address the inadequate replacement rate currently plaguing the captive elephant population in Laos, contributing to the conservation of this population in the future. In addition, habitat loss due to forest fragmentation is likely to increase the incidence of inbreeding within wild populations. Hence, breeding of captive elephants can play an important role in maintaining genetic diversity (Thitaram, 2009). Lastly, the ECC will become a leader in the reproductive management of elephants in Laos, creating a model for other elephant facilities in Asia to adopt.
In the future, we plan to use this laboratory for research purposes to include studies of stress, nutrition and their impact on health and reproduction.
The estimated cost to fund the laboratory and to train the biologist is 15 478$ and so far, we raised 5 550$.
We especially want to thank:
– Lynette and Rosemary Preston Hannah for financing the training of our head biologist (3 450$),
– Kelli and Ian Preston (500$),
– Basmati association (500$).