The Lives of Elephants: The life history and ecology of Asian and African elephants

Hannah Mumby


Elephants are valued by humans across the planet as religious symbols, draught animals, keystone species in conservation and the owners of ivory tusks. But what really interested me about them was that they’re big and slow. I wanted to know how they made evolutionary sense and also what their long lives could tell me about human evolution. In this talk I’m going to present an overview of my past and current research; it’s a talk of two halves. After a general introduction to why I chose elephants as a study system, we’ll be off to Myanmar. I’ll discuss my studies on how environmental conditions are associated with Asian elephant mortality and fertility. Then, I’ll describe my current work, which takes us to Africa and the social and genetic relationships of male elephants. Although male elephants can be seen as at risk, because of their extensive home ranges, conflict with humans and large tusks, there are fewer studies of their behavioural ecology than female breeding herds. I’ll describe how I aim to integrate my work into elephant conservation. I’ll present some very preliminary data and plans for next steps, as well as some stories from my last fieldwork stints.