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Category Archives: Agricultre & Vet Science

Captive elephants in Laos face extinction

The captive elephant population in Laos will be extinct in just over a century if current management practices do not change, a University of Queensland study has found.

It is estimated that only 480 captive elephants remain across Laos, and the study shows that changes to conservation management are necessary to prevent extinction.

The study’s lead author, Dr Ingrid Suter, from UQ’s School of Geography, Planning and Environmental Management, said captive elephants were an important part of Lao culture and supported the livelihood of many rural communities.

“Elephant ownership has long been associated with Lao culture and national identity,” Dr Suter said.

“Extinction of this population would lead to loss of income for the mahouts (elephant owners) and their communities, impact on tourism and the logging industry, and would mean the end of thousands of years of elephants and humans working alongside each other.”

The study shows the captive elephant population in Laos is declining as the elephants are not allowed to breed at a rate sufficient to sustain the population.

Female elephants require at least four years off work to produce and wean a calf, an unaffordable length of time for mahouts.

UQ researchers collaborated with ElefantAsia, a non-government organisation which aims to overcome this barrier through the Baby Bonus program.

The program works with mahouts to provide alternative income while their elephants are on “maternity leave”, and to ensure the calves are well cared for.

UQ’s School of Geography, Planning and Environmental Management’s Dr Greg Baxter, senior author on the study, said a wider management approach was needed to prevent further population decline.

“The small number of breeding-age females is limiting the growth of the captive Laos elephant population,” he said.

“Increasing the breeding rate through programs such as the Baby Bonus is a good start, but it is unlikely to prevent population decline over the next 100 to 200 years.

“Establishing a rental agreement with other countries would allow the import and exchange of elephants for the purpose of breeding and provide benefit to all countries involved.”

The research was published in Endangered Species Research this month.

Contact: Dr Greg Baxter, 07 3365 8064 and +61403174149, gbaxter@uqg.uq.edu.au; Dr Ingrid Suter, +31 6 2730 3026 ingrid.suter@uq.edu.au .

Size matters for dog’s behaviour. And so does skull shape

A variation of Short Man’s syndrome applies to man’s best friend, new evidence from the University of Sydney suggests. The shorter the dog, regardless of breed, the more likely it is to march to the beat of its own drum, according to the University led research on the relationship between a dog’s shape and itsContinue Reading

Scorpions take sting out of pain

Australia is home to many venomous creatures and boasts some of the world’s most deadly, but a particular group of venomous Aussies had been almost entirely ignored. The University of Queensland has led an investigation into the venom composition of a wide range of previously unexplored scorpion species, finding compounds with tremendous potential for useContinue Reading

Mystery sharks off Rottnest shed new light on species

The discovery of two sharks never seen before in Australian waters is set to re-write scientists’ understanding of the species. Shark biologist Ryan Kempster, of The University of Western Australia’s Oceans Institute, said the rare sharks were caught off Rottnest Island two years ago at a depth of 430 metres by local recreational fisherman SteveContinue Reading

Two new lizards discovered in Townsville area

Two new lizards discovered in Townsville area

A James Cook University researcher has helped uncover two new lizard species in the Townsville area. Dr Conrad Hoskin from JCU’s School of Marine and Tropical Biology, and Patrick Couper from the Queensland Museum discovered the two new species: the Elegant Rainbow Skink (Carlia decora), and the Orange-flanked Rainbow Skink (Carlia rubigo). Dr Hoskin saidContinue Reading

Disease ‘threatens’ fastest-growing food production industry

Disease ‘threatens’ fastest-growing food production industry

Two leading marine ecologists have warned that, without strategic management, disease has the potential to threaten food security in tropical aquaculture. Aquaculture is currently the fastest-growing food production industry in the world, and is rapidly replacing wild fisheries in supplying the world’s population with fish and shellfish. However, infectious disease continues to pose a majorContinue Reading

Our food security challenge

Our food security challenge

Swinburne University of Technology researchers are working with the Royal Botanic Gardens Melbourne to unlock the genetic secrets of the Acacia plant as a way to fight the threat of dryland salinity. The National Land and Water Resources Audit estimates that 5.7 million hectares of Australia are at high risk from dryland salinity, and byContinue Reading

New garden removes pollution

New garden removes pollution

Lovely space is good for our environment too When it rains, stormwater flows over roads, car parks, sports grounds and other surfaces. This water picks up litter, sediment, fertiliser and other pollutants that can harm wildlife and pollute our waterways. In 2011/12, a ‘rain garden’ was designed to collect and treat stormwater from the UniversityContinue Reading

Boost for food crisis research

Plant scientists at the Research School of Biology (RSB), part of the ANU College of Medicine, Biology & Environment, have been awarded up to $7 million to add their scientific expertise to a new Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation grant. The five-year project aims to enhance photosynthetic efficiency in crop plants to tackle the loomingContinue Reading

Wildlife attacks uncovered at Fitzroy River

Wildlife attacks uncovered at Fitzroy River

A Murdoch University researcher has uncovered a series of brutal attacks on wildlife living in and around the Fitzroy River, including a number of slaughtered sawfish – a species identified recently as facing extinction. Dr David Morgan from the Freshwater Fish Group saw the aftermath of the attacks on a goanna and sawfish while workingContinue Reading

Novel underwater noise study maps critical wildlife habitats

Novel underwater noise study maps critical wildlife habitats

Researchers from Curtin University’s Centre for Marine Science and Technology (CMST) have completed a study mapping underwater sea noise levels along the coast of British Columbia. The study used modelling tools developed at Curtin and mapped noise from thousands of ships over one year. It aimed to identify noise exposure levels in critical habitat forContinue Reading

Future grim for ‘biggest, most magnificent trees’

Future grim for ‘biggest, most magnificent trees’

Across the world, big old trees face a dire future globally from agriculture, logging, habitat fragmentation, exotic invaders, and the effects of climate change, warn leading scientists in an article published this week in Science magazine. Professor William Laurance, an ecologist at James Cook University in Cairns, Australia, reveals a dramatic decline among the world’sContinue Reading

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