Captured Elephants Die Up to Seven Years Sooner Than Those Bred in Captivity
Myanmar’s wild-captured elephants exhibited median lifespan three to seven years shorter than that of captive-born creatures
Today, one third of the world’s Asian elephants—numbering roughly 15,000—live in captivity. Some are housed in zoos or research facilities, while others are held by private owners. The largest population of these creatures, however, exists in Myanmar, where roughly 5,000 elephants form the backbone of the country’s timber logging industry.
Myanmar’s captive-born and wild-captured timber elephants live side-by-side, working by day and scavenging for food by night. Both are tamed and trained prior to entering the workforce, and both are subject to government regulations regarding workload and rest periods—including holidays, maternity leave and a mandatory retirement age. Still, a new study published in Nature Communications suggests that the two groups face vastly different risks, with wild-captured elephants exhibiting higher mortality rates than those bred in captivity.