Can a wild elephant change its interaction patterns with humans?

Rivaldo is a symbol

We recently published a paper in Gajah (here) that suggests that an elephant may have changed his behavior after being fed by humans. In general, wild elephants that are habituated to be fed become a permanent nuisance. But left alone, this particular elephant slowly went back to his old feeding habits. Actually, more recent observations apparently confirm our conclusions. Rivaldo, the elephant in question, when not fed, tends to avoid villages.

This is rather good news: this indicates that if we humans are willing to stop encouraging elephants for any reasons (tourism, “friendly” behavior), some elephants may simply stop being problematic. This is why it is very important to respect the law regarding feeding animals.

Jean-Philippe Puyravaud

Culling promotes poaching


We recently wrote a paper in Oryx1 showing that a model proposed to cull elephants was flawed and should be discarded. This model was used to justify culling, giving it a sort of scientific imprimatur: “it is okay to cull the Asian elephant – theoretical biology says so.” Whatever. When we distributed our Oryx paper, some of our colleagues warned: “we must speak the same voice”, meaning: you publish what you like, but the correct attitude of (serious conservationists) is to be easy on culling in order to satisfy the public. Of course, we have no intention to change our tune which is: “let us manage the environment properly.”

Little did we know that at approximately the same time, a paper in the Proceedings of the Royal Society2, said that culling DECREASES tolerance towards wildlife. The lesson is: gather information and make your own opinion.

The superb picture of wolves (culled in North America) was from Science3, where the Royal Society paper is also mentioned.

Jean-Philippe Puyravaud

1Jean Philippe Puyravaud, Priya Davidar, Rajeev K. Srivastava and Belinda Wright. Modelling harvest of Asian elephants Elephas maximus on the basis of faulty assumptions promotes inappropriate management solutions. Oryx, available on CJO2016. doi:10.1017/S003060531600003X.