Elephant movements and human-elephant conflict in a transfrontier conservation area

Von Gerhardt-Weber, Katharina E. M. (2011-03)

Thesis (MScConEcol)--University of Stellenbosch, 2011.

Thesis

ENGLISH ABSTRACT: In this thesis I explore how elephant movements are impacted by human activity within the context of the proposed Kavango-Zambezi Transfrontier Conservation Area (KAZA TFCA) in southern Africa. Being a wide-ranging species, the movements of elephants could be an excellent indicator as to the success of TFCAs in supporting species persistence in an anthropogenic matrix. Understanding which areas beyond protected area boundaries are of heightened conservation importance can provide managers and governments with insights for the management of the elephant population of KAZA TFCA, and assist managers and governments in prioritising conservation efforts. Satellite radio collar data were used to model long-range elephant movement within KAZA TFCA. Movement was compared between land use types (protected and nonprotected areas). Home ranges, core areas and seasonal ranges were calculated from collar data. Core and non-core areas were tested for significant differences in distance to settlements, rivers, protected area, AFRI and elevation as these spatial and ecological variables are believed to play a role in elephant habitat selection. Short-range elephant movements were examined in a heterogeneous, patchy landscape mosaic of settlements and agricultural fields, remnant forest patches, and secondary forests which were surrounded on three sides by protected areas. Elephant penetration of the anthropogenic matrix through the use of pathways was explored through ground-based surveys, and the impact of pathways use on human-elephant conflict calculated. I found that elephant behavioural plasticity allows for their persistence in a spatially heterogeneous landscape. Elephants, especially bulls, penetrated the landscape matrix beyond protected area boundaries. Land use planning initiatives are needed to identify and protect reachable core zones/stepping stones of quality habitat outside of protected areas, particularly in riparian zones. Differing male and female ranging behaviour within the landscape matrix may require separate land use management strategies: bulls travelled at night in non-protected areas at speeds that were four times faster than in protected areas, and made use of core zones necessary for species persistence in a fragmented landscape. A habitat corridor in the Zambian West Zambezi Game Management Area was identified. I found that during short range movements in heterogeneous environments, elephants made use of pathways. Pathways may facilitate penetration of the anthropogenic matrix and optimize foraging strategies by connecting predictable resources, such as crop fields, with landscape features such as preferred shelter/ resting areas, crossing points at roads and preferred drinking spots. Pathways were found to be the only significant spatial variable in crop-raiding. Elephants foraged randomly while in homogenous crop patches, but when travelling through a heterogeneous environment (entering or leaving agricultural locales), movement was directional and non-random. Lastly I suggest that crop attractiveness may be enhanced by water availability. Results indicated that at both the landscape and the regional scale, repeat elephant movements to core zones and along elephant pathways provided landscape ecological variables that need to be considered by conservation managers in land use planning. In addition, research on spatial awareness and navigational capabilities with regards to pathway use by elephants should be encouraged, as this research topic has been largely unexplored in the scientific literature.

AFRIKAANSE OPSOMMING: In hierdie tesis verken ek die moontlike impak van menslike aktiwiteite op olifant beweging binne die beoogde Kavango-Zambezi Oorgrens Bewaringsarea (KAZA TFCA) in suider-Afrika. Olifante is wydlopende spesies, en dus kan hul ruimtelike strekking ‘n uitstekende indikator wees van die sukses van oorgrens bewaringsareas in terme van die ondersteuning wat dié programme bied om spesies se volharding in ‘n antropogeniese matriks te verseker. Besturrders en regerings kan insig verkry deur te besef watter areas buiten die in beskermde gebiede, van verhoogde bewarings belang in KAZA TFCA is. Hierdie insig verleen ook bystand aan bestuurders en regerings met die prioritisering van bewarings inisiatiewe. Satelliet-radio nekband data was gebruik om olifante se langtermyn ruimtelike beweging binne die KAZA TFCA te modelleer. Olifant beweging was vergelyk tussen verskillende grondgebruik tipes (beskermde en onbeskermde areas). Tuistestrekking, kern areas asook seisoenale strekking was bereken vanaf nekband data. Kern en nie-kern areas was getoets vir betekenisvolle verskille in afstand vanaf nedersettings, riviere, berskermde gebiede, AFRI, en hoogte bo seevlak, omdat hierdie ruimtelike en ekologiese veranderlikes ‘n belangrike rol mag speel in olifant habitat seleksie. Kortafstand olifant bewegings was bestudeer in ‘n heterogene, gelapte landskap mosaïek van nedersettings en landbougrond, oorblywende woudareas, en sekondêre woude waarvan drie sye grens aan bekermde areas. Olifant indringing binne die antropogeniese matriks deur die gebruik van weë/toegangsweë was verken deur middel van landgebaseerde opnames, waarvolgens die impak van olifante se gebruik van hierdie paaie op mens-olifant konflik bereken kon word. My bevindinge wys dat plastisiteit in olifant gedrag dra by tot hul voortbestaan in ‘n ruimtelik heterogene landskap. Olifante, maar meer spesifiek olifantbulle, penetreer wel die landskap matriks buite beskermde area grense. Grondgebruik beplannings inisiatiewe word dus benodig om bereikbare kern areas van kwaliteit habitat buite beskermde areas te identifiseer en te beskerm – veral in rivieroewer sones. Verskille in bul en koei ruimtelike strekking gedrag binne die landskap matriks, mag afsonderlike bestuur stratgieë vereis: bv. bulle beweeg vier keer vinniger in die aand in onbeskermde areas teenoor in beskermde gebiede, daarby maak hulle ook gebruik van kern areas wat kardinaal is vir die voortbestaan van spesies in gefragmenteerde landskappe. ‘n Habitat deurgang was geïdentifiseer in die Zambiese Wes-Zambesie Wildbestuurarea. Die studie het gevind dat olifante gedurende kortafstand bewegings in heterogene omgewings gebruik maak toegangsweë. Toegangsweë mag penetrasie van die antropogeniese matriks fasiliteer, en verleen ook dat olifant weidingstrategieë die optimum bereik deur voorspelbare hulpbronne soos gewaslanderye te konnekteer met landskap eienskappe soos voorrang skuiling/rusareas, kruisingspunte by paaie, asook voorrang drinkplekke. Toegangsweë was gevind om die enigste betekenisvolle ruimtelike veranderlike in gewasstrooptogte te wees. Olifante wei lukraak in homogene gewaslanderye, maar in teenstelling, wanneer hulle deur ‘n heterogene omgewing beweeg het (binnegang of uittog uit landbou lokaliteite) was die beweging gerig. Laastens, die studie stelvoor dat gewas aantreklikheid verhoog kan word deur water beskikbaarheid. Resultate dui aan dat by beide die landskap- en streekskaal verskaf herhaalde olifant beweging na kern areas en langs olifants togangsweë, landskap ekologiese veranderlikes wat in ag geneem moet word deur bewaringsbestuurders tydens grondgebruik beplanning. Bykomend, navorsing op die ruimtelike bewustheid en navigasie vermoëns van savannah olifante met betrekking tot die gebruik van toegangsweë, moet aangemoedig word aangesien hierdie onderwerp grootliks onverken is in wetenskaplike literatuur.

Please refer to this item in SUNScholar by using the following persistent URL: http://hdl.handle.net/10019.1/6724
This item appears in the following collections: