Skip to main content
    • Aa
    • Aa
  • Get access
    Check if you have access via personal or institutional login
  • Cited by 5
  • Cited by
    This article has been cited by the following publications. This list is generated based on data provided by CrossRef.

    Young, K. D. and Van Aarde, R. J. 2010. Density as an explanatory variable of movements and calf survival in savanna elephants across southern Africa. Journal of Animal Ecology, Vol. 79, Issue. 3, p. 662.

    du Toit, Johan T. Skarpe, Christina and Moe, Stein R. 2014. Elephants and Savanna Woodland Ecosystems.

    Rodríguez-Gómez, Guillermo Rodríguez, Jesús Martín-González, Jesús Ángel Goikoetxea, Idoia and Mateos, Ana 2013. Modeling trophic resource availability for the first human settlers of Europe: The case of Atapuerca TD6. Journal of Human Evolution, Vol. 64, Issue. 6, p. 645.

    Van Valkenburgh, Blaire Hayward, Matthew W. Ripple, William J. Meloro, Carlo and Roth, V. Louise 2016. The impact of large terrestrial carnivores on Pleistocene ecosystems. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Vol. 113, Issue. 4, p. 862.

    Obanda, V. Iwaki, T. Mutinda, N.M. and Gakuya, F. 2011. Gastrointestinal Parasites and Associated Pathological Lesions in Starving Free-Ranging African Elephants. South African Journal of Wildlife Research, Vol. 41, Issue. 2, p. 167.


Modelling the effect of age-specific mortality on elephant Loxodonta africana populations: can natural mortality provide regulation?

  • Leigh-Ann Woolley (a1), Robin L. Mackey (a1), Bruce R. Page (a1) and Rob Slotow (a1)
  • DOI:
  • Published online: 01 January 2008

The historical regulation of African elephant Loxodonta africana populations could provide guidelines for management efforts and decisions in areas where elephant numbers are now increasing. However, there are few detailed records of the natural mortality processes of the past. Therefore, we modelled elephant population growth to evaluate possible effects of age-specific mortality. Model projections indicated that an annual mortality of 17.1% of juveniles or 10.5% of adults would be sufficient to prevent population growth. For age classes below or just at sexual maturity (i.e. 0-3, 4-7, 8-11) 37.5% annual mortality of one of these classes was required to achieve 0% population growth. These mortality levels are much higher than those reported in southern Africa today. Simulations of episodic mortality events (e.g. droughts) indicated that such events would need to occur every 16 years at a severity that would cause the mortality of all infants and weaned calves (0-7 years old), as well as 10% of adults and subadults (8-60 years old) to prevent long-term population growth. An 8-year frequency required the mortality of 84.7% of infants and weaned calves. Historically, it is possible that high drought mortality and frequency, and high predation levels, may have reduced population growth significantly but current mortality rates and frequencies are insufficient to constrain long-term average population growth at 0%. The natural limitation of existent elephant populations through mortality is therefore unlikely, indicating a need for active management of the increasing elephant populations in southern Africa.

Corresponding author
*School of Biological and Conservation Sciences, University of KwaZulu-Natal, Howard College Campus, Durban 4041, South Africa. E-mail:
Linked references
Hide All

This list contains references from the content that can be linked to their source. For a full set of references and notes please see the PDF or HTML where available.

P.W.J. Baxter & W.M Getz . (2005) A model-framed evaluation of elephant effects on tree and fire dynamics in African savannas. Ecological Applications, 15, 13311342.

H.K. Buechner , I.O. Buss , W.N. Longhurst & A.C Brooks . (1963) Numbers and migration of elephants in Murchison Falls National Park, Uganda. Journal of Wildlife Management, 27, 3653.

G.W Calef . (1988) Maximum rate of increase in the African elephant. African Journal of Ecology, 26, 323327.

G Caughley . (1976) The elephant problem: an alternative hypothesis. East African Wildlife Journal, 14, 265283.

A. Conybeare & G Haynes . (1984) Observations on elephant mortality and bones in water holes. Quaternary Research, 22, 189200.

T.F Corfield . (1973) Elephant mortality in Tsavo National Park, Kenya. East African Wildlife Journal, 11, 339368.

N.J. Dominy , N.S. Ferguson & A Maddock . (1998) Modelling elephant (Loxodonta africana africana) population growth in Hluhluwe-Umfolozi Park to predict and manage limits. South African Journal of Wildlife Research, 28, 6167.

J.P. Dudley , G.C. Craig , D.St.C. Gibson , G. Haynes & J Klimowicz . (2001) Drought mortality of bush elephants in Hwange National Park, Zimbabwe. African Journal of Ecology, 39, 187194.

S.K Eltringham . (1982) Elephants. Blandford Press, Poole, Dorset, UK.

C.W Fowler . (1981) Density dependence as related to life history strategy. Ecology, 62, 602610.

C.W. Fowler & T Smith . (1973) Characterizing stable populations: an application to the African elephant population. Journal of Wildlife Management, 37, 513523.

J.-M. Gaillard , M. Festa-Bianchet & N.G Yoccoz . (1998) Population dynamics of large herbivores: variable recruitment with constant adult survival. Trends in Ecology and Evolution, 13, 5863.

J.-M. Gaillard , M. Festa-Bianchet , N.G. Yoccoz , A. Loison & C Toigo . (2000) Temporal variation in fitness components and dynamics of large herbivores. Annual Review of Ecology and Systematics, 31, 367393.

J Glover . (1963) The elephant problem in Tsavo. East African Wildlife Journal, 1, 3039.

J. Hanks & J.E.A McIntosh . (1973) Population dynamics of the African elephant (Loxodonta africana). Journal of Zoology, London, 169, 2938.

G Haynes . (1987) Proboscidean die-offs and die-outs: age profiles in fossil collections. Journal of Archaeological Science, 14, 659688.

P.C. Lee & C.J Moss . (1986) Early maternal investment in male and female African elephant calves. Behavioural Ecology and Sociobiology, 18, 353361.

W.J Louw . (1982) Oscillations in Orange Free State Rainfall. Technical paper (South African Weather Bureau) no. 11. Weather Bureau, Department of Transport, Pretoria, South Africa.

D Mabunda . (2005) Report on the Elephant Management Strategy. South African National Parks, Pretoria, South Africa.

C.J Moss . (2001) The demography of an African elephant (Loxodonta africana) population in Amboseli, Kenya. Journal of Zoology, London, 255, 145156.

W.K. Ottichillo , J.W. Kufwafwa & J.G Stelfox . (1987) Elephant population trends in Kenya: 1977–1981. African Journal of Ecology, 25, 918.

N. Owen-Smith , G.I.H. Kerley , B. Page , R. Slotow & R.J van Aarde . (2006) A scientific perspective on the management of elephants in the Kruger National Park and elsewhere. South African Journal of Science, 102, 389394.

N. Owen-Smith , D.R. Mason & J.O Ogutu . (2005) Correlates of survival rates for 10 African ungulate populations: density, rainfall and predation. Journal of Animal Ecology, 74, 774788.

C.J.C. Reason & M Rouault . (2002) ENSO-like decadal variability and South African rainfall. Geophysical Research Letters, 29, 10.

R.G Ruggiero . (1991) Opportunistic predation on elephant calves. African Journal of Ecology, 29, 8689.

M. Rouault & Y Richard . (2005) Intensity and spatial extension of drought in South Africa at different time scales. Water SA, 29, 489500.

B Saether . (1997) Environmental stochasticity and population dynamics of large herbivores: a search for mechanisms. Trends in Ecology and Evolution, 12, 143149.

A.R.E Sinclair . (2003) Mammal population regulation, keystone processes and ecosystem dynamics. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society, London B, 358, 17291740.

T. Surovell , N. Waguespack & P.J Brangtingham . (2005) Global archaeological evidence for proboscidian overkill. Proceedings of the National Academy of Science, 102, 62316236.

P.D. Tyson , T.G.J. Dyer & M.N Mametse . (1975) Secular changes in South African rainfall: 1880 to 1972. Quarterly Journal of the Royal Meteorological Society, 101, 817833.

A.S. van Jaarsveld , A.O. Nicholls & M.H Knight . (1999) Modeling and assessment of South African elephant Loxodonta africana population persistence. Environmental Modeling and Assessment, 4, 155163.

P. van Wyk & N Fairall . (1969) The influence of the African elephant on the vegetation of the Kruger National Park. Koedoe, 12, 6675.

B.H. Walker , R.H. Emslie , N. Owen-Smith & R.J Scholes . (1987) To cull or not to cull: lessons from a southern African drought. Journal of Applied Ecology, 24, 381401.

J.S Weir . (1971) The effect of creating artificial water supplies in a central African national park. Symposium of the British Ecological Society, 11, 367385.

A.M. Whitehouse & A.J Hall-Martin . (2000) Elephants in Addo Elephant National Park, South Africa: reconstruction of the population's history. Oryx, 34, 4655.

I Whyte . (2001) Conservation management of the Kruger National Park elephant population. PhD thesis, University of Pretoria, South Africa.

I. Whyte , R.J. van Aarde & S.L Pimm . (1998) Managing the elephants of Kruger National Park. Animal Conservation, 1, 7783.

G Wittemyer . (2001) The elephant population of Samburu and Buffalo Springs National Reserves, Kenya. African Journal of Ecology, 39, 357365.

G. Wittemyer , D. Daballen , H. Rasmussen , O. Kahindi & I Douglas-Hamilton . (2005) Demographic status of elephants in the Samburu and Buffalo Springs National Reserves, Kenya. African Journal of Ecology, 43, 4447.

G. Wittemyer , H.B. Rasmussen & I Douglas-Hamilton . (2007) Breeding phenology in relation to NDVI variability in free-ranging African elephant. Ecography, 30, 4250.

A.M Woodd . (1999) A demographic model to predict future growth of the Addo elephant population. Koedoe, 42, 97100.

L.S-Y. Wu & D.B Botkin . (1980) Of men and elephants: a discrete, stochastic model for long-lived species with complex life-histories. American Naturalist, 116, 831849.

Recommend this journal

Email your librarian or administrator to recommend adding this journal to your organisation's collection.

  • ISSN: 0030-6053
  • EISSN: 1365-3008
  • URL: /core/journals/oryx
Please enter your name
Please enter a valid email address
Who would you like to send this to? *