The Impact of Social Status, Age, and Climate on Reproduction in African Elephants (Loxodonta africana) (initiated 2005)
The objective of this research is to determine how social and environmental factors impact reproduction in both wild and captive African elephants. Efforts to increase reproduction are hindered by the fact that up to a third of reproductive-age elephants exhibit irregular or acyclic ovarian activity, identified through long-term weekly serum progestin analyses. While the cause of this ovarian dysfunction is unknown, efforts are currently underway to determine how captive husbandry and the social environment impact reproduction. Investigating how dominance status, age, and climate affect progestin concentrations (i.e., ovarian activity) in wild females could improve our understanding of acyclicity in captive African elephants and its relationship to socio-environmental factors. Databases on African elephants in Tarangire and Kruger National Parks will be examined for relationships between reproduction, climate, age, and dominance status that could indicate the prevalence of reproductive dysfunction in free-ranging females. At the same time, the affect of regional climate on progestin concentrations in captive African elephant will be investigated.