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Conservation de l’éléphant d’Asie (Elephas maximus) par l’étude des interactions entre humains et populations sauvages et semi-captives d'éléphants : une approche intégrée des dimensions démographiques, génétiques, économiques et socioculturelles

Abstract : For thousands of years, the Asian elephant has played an important role in the culture, economy and construction of Asian nations. Almost a quarter of the population of this emblematic and threatened species consists of so-called captive elephants. However, both national legislation and conservation programmes tend to treat captive and wild populations separately. In Laos and Myanmar, the tradition of elephant handling by villagers and the interactions between wild and village elephants still persist.The objective of this thesis is to qualify and quantify these interactions to better understand their dynamics and roles in the survival of the species. I described the factors driving the socio-ecological system between humans, village and wild elephants and its resilience through an interdisciplinary and integrative approach.Based on an ethnoecological study, I analyzed the recent evolution of the human-elephant socio-ecological system in Laos and its consequences on human-elephant relations, husbandry practices and the perception of the species among elephant owners. The emergence since 2000 of the commodification of nature and the restriction of access to forests has led, on the one hand, to the segregation between wild and village elephants and, on the other hand, to the transition from a traditional to an intensive keeping system of village elephants. Community perception and tolerance towards wild elephants is linked to the principle of reciprocity. Owners having access to wild males to sire their females accept the presence of wild elephants contrary to mahouts engaged in logging activities.I then built a bio-economic model to quantify the effects of socio-economic strategies on the long-term viability of village elephant population in Laos. I demonstrated that fecundity is impacted primarily by the dynamics of the wild population through reproduction between village females and wild males. Second, the fecundity is impacted by the financial incentive of elephant owners tobreed their animals instead of working. Thus population viability is highly dependent on socio-economic conditions in the short term and the efficiency of wild elephant conservation in the long term.A population genetics study showed that the genetic diversity of wild and village elephant was high and differentiation was weak between Laos and Myanmar. The isolation of wild populations and the increasing segregation of village elephants will lead to genetic loss and inbreeding that can be managed by promoting gene flows at the regional level and between the two populations. The study suggests considering both populations from the two countries as a unique management unit. These two studies illustrate that resilience of the socio-ecological system is the result of multiple factors acting at different levels or scales, sometimes in opposite ways.Finally, this thesis allows to discuss the conditions of resilience and long-term viability of the human-elephant socio-ecological system and to explore potential scenarios including the on-going domestication process of the species.
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  • HAL Id : tel-01834575, version 1

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Gilles Maurer. Conservation de l’éléphant d’Asie (Elephas maximus) par l’étude des interactions entre humains et populations sauvages et semi-captives d'éléphants : une approche intégrée des dimensions démographiques, génétiques, économiques et socioculturelles. Sciences agricoles. Université Montpellier, 2018. Français. ⟨NNT : 2018MONTG011⟩. ⟨tel-01834575⟩

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