African elephants (c) Karen McComb
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Elephant cull effects last decades

African elephants' decision-making abilities are left impaired by culling operations that ended decades ago, according to research.

Scientists from the University of Sussex found that elephant herds that had lost adults to culls during the 1970s and 1980s were less able to respond appropriately to other elephants' calls.

To study this, the researchers compared the behaviour of two herds of elephants: those in the Amboseli National Park, in Kenya, which have been relatively undisturbed by culling operations and a population in Pilanesberg National Park, South Africa.

Pilanesberg was founded from young orphaned elephants introduced during the early 1980s and 1990s, after management culls of adult and older juvenile animals in the Kruger National Park.

Here, Prof Karen McComb explains how the team used recordings of elephant calls to test the animals' reactions.

She and her colleagues say this this is the first "systematic evidence that fundamental social skills may be significantly impaired by man-made disruption".

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