Staff Publications

Staff Publications

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    'Staff publications' is the digital repository of Wageningen University & Research

    'Staff publications' contains references to publications authored by Wageningen University staff from 1976 onward.

    Publications authored by the staff of the Research Institutes are available from 1995 onwards.

    Full text documents are added when available. The database is updated daily and currently holds about 240,000 items, of which 72,000 in open access.

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Record number 507812
Title Prolonged drought results in starvation of African elephant (Loxodonta africana)
Author(s) Wato, Yussuf A.; Heitkonig, Ignas; Wieren, Sipke E. van; Wahungu, Geoffrey; Prins, Herbert H.T.; Langevelde, Frank van
Source Biological Conservation 203 (2016). - ISSN 0006-3207 - p. 89 - 96.
DOI https://doi.org/10.1016/j.biocon.2016.09.007
Department(s) Resource Ecology
PE&RC
Publication type Refereed Article in a scientific journal
Publication year 2016
Keyword(s) Carcasses - MaxEnt - Maximum entropy modelling - Mortality - Savanna - Seasonality
Abstract

Elephant inhabiting arid and semi-arid savannas often experience periods of drought, which, if prolonged, may cause mortality. During dry periods, elephant aggregate around water sources and deplete local forage availability. However, the relationships between adult elephant mortality and both high local elephant density and forage availability close to water during dry periods remain unexplored. We hypothesized that elephant mortality is higher: a) when dry periods are longer, b) closer to water points, and c) in areas with higher local elephant density. Using nine years of elephant carcass data from Tsavo Conservation Area in Kenya, we analysed the probability of adult elephant mortality using maximum entropy modelling (MaxEnt). We found that elephant carcasses were aggregated and elephant mortality was negatively correlated with four months cumulative precipitation prior to death (which contributed 41% to the model), Normalised Difference Vegetation Index (NDVI) (19%) and distance to water (6%), while local elephant density (19%) showed a positive correlation. Three seasons (long dry, short dry and short wet seasons) showed high probability of elephant mortality, whereas low probability was found during long wet seasons. Our results strongly suggest that elephants starve to death in prolonged drought. Artificial water holes may lead to lower mortality, but also to larger populations with subsequent high browsing pressure on the vegetation. Our results suggest that elephant populations in arid and semi-arid savannas appear to be regulated by drought-induced mortalities, which may be the best way of controlling elephant numbers without having to cull.

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