Movements and corridors of African elephants in relation to protected areas
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- Douglas-Hamilton, I., Krink, T. & Vollrath, F. Naturwissenschaften (2005) 92: 158. doi:10.1007/s00114-004-0606-9
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Understanding how mammals satisfy their need for space in fragmenting ecosystems is crucial for ecosystem conservation. Using state-of-the-art global positioning system (GPS) technology we tracked 11 focal African elephants (Loxodonta africana) in Kenya at 3-hourly fix intervals and collected between 34 and 406 days per individual. Our recordings gave a high spatio-temporal resolution compared to previous studies and allowed novel insights into range use. The actual ranges of the tracked elephants are smaller than usually represented. Moreover, the ranges in our sample were complex and not confined to officially designated protected areas, except where fenced. All the unfenced elephants in our sample had distinct ‘home sectors’ linked by ‘travel’ corridors. Within each home sector the elephants concentrated in favourite ‘core zones’. Such core zones tended to lie in protected areas whereas corridors typically crossed unprotected range. Elephants moved significantly faster along corridors than elsewhere in their range, which suggests awareness of danger outside the protected area. We conclude that understanding the complex use of an animal’s range is crucial for conservation planning aiming to balance animal interests with those of human beings that co-habit in their range.