Elephants and settlement areas

Due to constantly raising population numbers, living space of wildlife and human being crosses. In most cases, human settlements are close to natural resources such as rivers and rich grounds. But these are used by animals as well. Even though big mammals like the African elephant in Botswana can live in protected areas, these habitats are interrupted by human settlement structures. Botswana is home to the biggest population of African elephants. The problem for elephants is to get from one place to another safe and sound. Human beings are often considered a danger or competitor to the mammals’ natural resources. So-called Wildlife Corridors, a kind of pathway which connects two areas, can be an appropriate alternative to bring elephants in Botswana from one protected area to another.

Tempe S. F. Adams, Michael J. Chase, Tracey L. Rogers and Keith E. A. Legget (2016) dedicated themselves to a two-year-research project to find out if African elephants tend to use small urban connection streets and if corridors were a successful solution. Corridors which guide through an area modified by human mankind are successfully used by elephants already. Till now it was unclear if these corridors worked when being close to settlements. The research was done by using moving sensor cameras and GPS locating which were installed on chosen elephants and took place in three settlements dominated by human beings. There were seven corridors in three different used areas observed (open land, industrial area, agriculture) with a distance of 5 km each.

Enquiry took place in the cities of Kasane and Kazungula, both located in the 22.560 sq. km Chobe District. The population of Chobe District raised by 27.9% the last few years and is expected to do so in future. Altogether, there live about 13.000 inhabitants in both Kasane and Kazungula, with a density of 301 persons per sq. km. Elephant population in Chobe District adds up to approximately 32.000 animals – 17.000 of them live in Chobe National Park. The reason why elephants have to cross the cities happens to be Chobe River which is located behind them.

To make statements about the success of the corridors, the movement of the elephants as well as extern factors which influence their movements need to be understood. For example, important factors are terrain, population density, street existence and closeness and size of agricultural use of urban settlement structures.

All in all, 2.619 photos were taken in 516 days. Evaluating the collected data has shown that the corridors are used by bull elephants and cow elephants with their calves on a regular basis. The data provided the information that using these corridors follows a certain rule. Therefore, the use is dependent on time of the day and season and weather as well. For example, the corridors are used more often during the evening than the afternoon. August and April happen to be the months to be strongly frequented and during rainfall the corridors are used less. Also, other animals such as buffalos and viverrids were observed.

The evaluation of the given data has shown that urban corridors are used and therefore are important for protecting and conserving elephants as well as securing harmonic coexistence with human beings.

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