Saturday, 16 February 2013

Early life care shapes African elephants' future

By Mark Kinver, Environment reporter, BBC News

An African elephants mother's ability to feed and care for its calf has "long-lasting consequences" into adulthood, a study has suggested.

Researchers identified a link between the quality of maternal care in the first two years of a calf's life and reduced growth and delayed maturity.

They added that projected climate change and habitat loss could have a profound impact on the species.

Details of the findings appear in the journal Biology Letters.

"Early maternal care in the first two years of life actually affects an elephant's survival over 40 years - it has long lasting consequences," explained co-author Phyllis Lee from the University of Stirling.

"It is a problem we tend to overlook, unless we are looking at humans: how animals respond over the very long-term to apparently small events that happen in their lives."

Prof Lee and colleague in the international team of researchers said inexperienced mums often provided "inappropriate care".

"Often, they are not only inexperienced but if an elephant gives birth aged 10-12, she's tiny so she does not have the physical resources to devout to the calf.

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