By: Kelly Schwab
Zoo keepers and researchers are faced with a very big problem. African elephants in captivity are reportedly becoming obese, which could have serious consequences for the species.
Similar to what we see with humans, this obesity can lead to “the development of heart disease, arthritis, a shorter lifespan and infertility,” said Daniella Chusyd, M.A., a doctoral student in the University of Alabama at Birmingham Department of Nutrition Sciences. Because elephants in the wild are continuously threatened by loss of habitat and poaching, the infertility found in elephants in captivity is the most troubling side effect of the rising obesity issue.
Photo Credit: Thinkstock
With the threats that animals face in the wild, zoos remain one of the few ways to protect species from extinction. In the United States specifically, zoos need to average about six elephant births each year in order to maintain their current population. Currently, the birthrate is only about three births per year, which has raised worry that the elephants could disappear from zoos within the next 50 years, as reported by LiveScience.