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Using camera trap bycatch data to assess habitat use and the influence of human activity on African elephants (Loxodonta africana) in Kasungu National Park, Malawi

Davis, Robert S.; Gentle, Louise K.; Mgoola, William O.; Stone, Emma L.; Uzal, Antonio; Yarnell, Richard W.

Using camera trap bycatch data to assess habitat use and the influence of human activity on African elephants (Loxodonta africana) in Kasungu National Park, Malawi Thumbnail


Authors

Robert S. Davis

Louise K. Gentle

William O. Mgoola

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Dr Emma Stone Emma4.Stone@uwe.ac.uk
Senior Lecturer Environmental Biology

Antonio Uzal

Richard W. Yarnell



Abstract

African elephants (Loxodonta africana) are increasingly exposed to high levels of human disturbance and are threatened by poaching and human–elephant conflict. As anthropogenic pressures continue to increase, both inside and outside protected areas, understanding elephant behavioural responses to human activity is required for future conservation management. Here, we use bycatch data from camera trap surveys to provide inferences on elephant habitat use and temporal activity in Kasungu National Park (KNP), Malawi. The KNP elephant population has declined by ~ 95% since the late 1970s, primarily because of intensive poaching, and information on elephant ecology and behaviour can assist in the species’ recovery. Using occupancy modelling, we show that proximity to water is the primary driver of elephant habitat use in KNP, with sites closer to water having a positive effect on elephant site use. Our occupancy results suggest that elephants do not avoid sites of higher human activity, while results from temporal activity models show that elephants avoid peak times of human activity and exhibit primarily nocturnal behaviour when using the KNP road network. As key park infrastructure is located near permanent water sources, elephant spatiotemporal behaviour may represent a trade-off between resource utilisation and anthropogenic-risk factors, with temporal partitioning used to reduce encounter rates. Increased law enforcement activity around permanent water sources could help to protect the KNP elephant population during the dry season. Our findings highlight that camera trap bycatch data can be a useful tool for the conservation management of threatened species beyond the initial scope of research.

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Nov 1, 2022
Online Publication Date Nov 28, 2022
Publication Date Feb 1, 2023
Deposit Date May 18, 2023
Publicly Available Date May 18, 2023
Journal Mammalian Biology
Print ISSN 1616-5047
Electronic ISSN 1618-1476
Publisher Elsevier
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 103
Issue 1
Pages 121-132
DOI https://doi.org/10.1007/s42991-022-00330-7
Keywords Activity pattern, Large herbivore ecology, Occupancy modelling, Road ecology
Public URL https://uwe-repository.worktribe.com/output/10605893
Publisher URL https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s42991-022-00330-7

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