Humans Are Stressing Out Elephants

We humans are stressing out elephants, a study of wildlife at Serengeti National Park in Kenya and in Grumeti Game Reserve and Ikoma Open Area in Tanazania has found. Scientists discovered that elephants who stayed within the protected areas’ boundaries were less stressed than those who ventured beyond their borders.

There are no fences or barriers separating the preserves from adjacent lands so the elephants can roam in and out.

To determine stress levels, scientist measured levels of the stress hormone gluccorticoid in the animals’ dung. Samples inside the preserves revealed lower levels, while those taken outside the park had higher amounts. Elephants who ventured out of protected areas — perhaps for something tempting to eat — were most likely more stressed because of encountering more cars and other vehicles.

Even more, elephants outside protected areas show more stress because they have come to associate motor vehicles with people and hunting. As research team member Dr Eivin Roskaft of the Norwegian University of Science and Technology in Trondheim explains to the BBC, the reason the elephants exhibit higher stress is “probably that [they] try to avoid human-elephant interactions. Elephants probably remember where they are, and that bad experiences stress them.”

An earlier study has found higher levels of stress in elephants who leave preserves to eat farmers’ crops. Just the thought of coming in contact with humans who are very likely to be hostile is stressing out elephants.

Roskaft hopes to use the study results to help in the ongoing fight for elephants’ survival in Africa. With human development, and hunters, encroaching ever nearer the borders of parks, elephants have more reason to be anxious than ever.

Not only does the study, which is published in the African Journal of Ecology, show the extent to which human activity is deeply felt and experienced by animals. It also reveals (once again) that elephants never forget. When it comes to the species who is after them for their meat and ivory tusks, the memories are stress- and fear- inducing. Besides building roads and cutting down forests, we humans have left an invisible mark on wildlife and not one with pleasant associations.

Considering that, due to humans, some say that elephants in African could be extinct in ten years — Roskaft says this could happen even in five or six years — it’s hardly a surprise that Africa’s elephants are showing very, very clear signs of stress. If the thought of an elephant-less Africa worries you, we need to (in Roskaft’s words) ensure that “the world … find interest” in such a terrible prospect that, not too long ago, would have been unthinkable.

Related Care2 Coverage

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Will Africa’s Elephants be Extinct in 10 Years?

Photo from Thinkstock

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Duane B.
.2 years ago

Thank you for sharing.

Mark Jones
Mark Jones2 years ago

Considering that there are around 600 000 elephants in Africa, it will be an Almighty Catastrophe that sends them to their extinction in 10 years; as the article above states. That equates to 60 000 a year, which is roughly 1 644 a day! Now lets make this occur in five or six years as is said in the article? Not a chance.
I don't think we even reached that amount in the heat of the ivory wars during the 1970's and 80's, so lets not overly scaremonger here.
Lets also not use the word hunter where poacher is in fact the correct terminology, it creates wrong impressions (bearing in mind that Kenya banned hunting on elephants decades ago).
Not a lot of thought put into this article, lets hope the actual study released is better. Its all about speculation, wrong terminology and obvious reasoning.

Carrie Anne Brown

thanks for sharing

Bill K.
Bill K.2 years ago

humans stress me out too

David V.
David V.2 years ago

Humans are destroying everything on this planet...humans are the cause of everything bad happening to animals.

Waheeda S.
Waheeda S.2 years ago

We are terrible for the animals earthwide!!

Kristen Lowry
Kristen Lowry2 years ago

Superbug wipes out the human race & animals inherit the earth


No doubt humans are stressing and destroying all animals in the planet, sad true.

Robin R.
Robin R.2 years ago

Humans are toxic to everything we come in contact with. We need to stop thinking "we win" and start thinking "we are destroying our home." I don't consider self-destruction winning; too bad so many humans (including my own brother) do.

Melania Padilla
Melania Padilla2 years ago

Of course, it makes sense! We are not part of their habitat