Elephant space-use is not a good predictor of crop-damage
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© 2018 Elephant crop-damage is a consequence of interactions between people and elephants that impact people's livelihoods and biodiversity conservation efforts. Conflicts between people and elephants usually occur when there is overlap in elephant and human space-use leading to competition for resources. Therefore, understanding space-use patterns by elephants is key to alleviating negative human-elephant interactions. In the eastern Okavango Panhandle (Botswana), >16,000 people share resources with 18,000 elephants. Using data from 20 GPS-collared elephants, we investigated elephant space-use in relation to landscape variables during the day and night throughout the year and during the dry, wet and crop-damage seasons. We compared elephant space-use and crop-damage occurrence during the crop-damage seasons of 2014–2016. We found that elephant space-use was determined primarily by distance to waterholes and areas away from agricultural fields. However, predicting elephant space-use at the large scale was challenging. In particular, during the crop-damage season when the relationship between crop-damage events and elephant distribution was found to be non-linear. This revealed that areas that elephants frequently use might not be good indicators of the likelihood of crop-damage. Based on our findings, we suggest deterring elephants from peoples’ crops at the local scale is the most appropriate strategy for reducing elephant impacts on crops, alongside landscape scale interventions. We encourage future studies to use combinations of spatiotemporal methods, as well as practitioners to focus their efforts at the local scale, protecting elephant corridors, and supporting farmers to collaboratively work to decrease elephant crop-loss.
author list (cited authors)
Pozo, R. A., Cusack, J. J., McCulloch, G., Stronza, A., Songhurst, A., & Coulson, T.