Oral presentation- Open Session 12th International Mammalogical Congress

Intraspecific home range variation of African elephants (Loxodonta africana) in response to resource availability (#501)

Rhea Burton-Roberts 1 , Line S Cordes 2 , Rob Slotow 3 , Abi T Vanak 4 , Maria Thaker 5 , Graeme W Shannon 1
  1. School of Biological Sciences, Bangor University, Bangor, Gwynedd, United Kingdom
  2. School of Ocean Sciences, Bangor University, Bangor, Gwynedd, United Kingdom
  3. School of Life Sciences, University of KwaZulu-Natal, Durban, South Africa
  4. Ashoka Trust for Research in Ecology and the Environment, Centre for Biodiversity and Conservation, Bangalore, India
  5. Centre for Ecological Sciences, Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore, India

Animals utilise space and make movement decisions on the basis of interactions between multiple intrinsic (e.g. energetic and nutritional demand) and extrinsic (e.g. surface water and forage availability) factors. For species that live in highly dynamic environments, such as African elephants (Loxodonta africana), understanding the drivers of intraspecific variation in home range size and fidelity enables us to better predict the effects of pronounced fluctuations in resource availability on movement and space use over time (e.g. between years, within years and within seasons). Furthermore, there are currently very few studies that have considered the intraspecific variation in home range of large herbivores across different temporal scales. Consequently, our aim was to evaluate the effects of spatiotemporal variation in environmental conditions on home range fidelity of African elephants, whilst ultimately clarifying the main drivers of home range variation. In this study, we analysed home-range overlap for thirteen elephant family groups in Kruger National Park (2006-2013), across multiple temporal scales (annually, seasonally and monthly), as a function of environmental conditions (including vegetation index and rainfall data). The results from this study play an important role in determining the intra-specific responses of African elephants to resource scarcity at multiple temporal scales. An improved understanding of such individual strategies is important for predicting how elephants may respond to future environmental changes. For example, by understanding the susceptibility of this species to specific climatic variation, better-informed management practices can be implemented, ultimately aiding species conservation.