Skip to main content
    • Aa
    • Aa
  • Get access
    Check if you have access via personal or institutional login
  • Cited by 29
  • Cited by
    This article has been cited by the following publications. This list is generated based on data provided by CrossRef.

    Loarie, Scott R. Aarde, Rudi J. Van and Pimm, Stuart L. 2009. Fences and artificial water affect African savannah elephant movement patterns. Biological Conservation, Vol. 142, Issue. 12, p. 3086.

    Loarie, Scott R. van Aarde, Rudi J. and Pimm, Stuart L. 2009. Elephant seasonal vegetation preferences across dry and wet savannas. Biological Conservation, Vol. 142, Issue. 12, p. 3099.

    Roever, C. L. van Aarde, R. J. and Leggett, K. 2012. Functional responses in the habitat selection of a generalist mega-herbivore, the African savannah elephant. Ecography, Vol. 35, Issue. 11, p. 972.

    Mashintonio, Andrew F. Pimm, Stuart L. Harris, Grant M. van Aarde, Rudi J. and Russell, Gareth J. 2014. Data-driven discovery of the spatial scales of habitat choice by elephants. PeerJ, Vol. 2, p. e504.

    Smit, Izak P.J. and Ferreira, Sam M. 2010. Management intervention affects river-bound spatial dynamics of elephants. Biological Conservation, Vol. 143, Issue. 9, p. 2172.

    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.

    Roever, C.L. van Aarde, R.J. and Leggett, K. 2013. Functional connectivity within conservation networks: Delineating corridors for African elephants. Biological Conservation, Vol. 157, p. 128.

    de Beer, Y. and van Aarde, R.J. 2008. Do landscape heterogeneity and water distribution explain aspects of elephant home range in southern Africa's arid savannas?. Journal of Arid Environments, Vol. 72, Issue. 11, p. 2017.

    Roever, C.L. van Aarde, R.J. and Chase, M.J. 2013. Incorporating mortality into habitat selection to identify secure and risky habitats for savannah elephants. Biological Conservation, Vol. 164, p. 98.

    Harris, Grant Farley, Sean Russell, Gareth J. Butler, Matthew J. and Selinger, Jeff 2013. Sampling designs matching species biology produce accurate and affordable abundance indices. PeerJ, Vol. 1, p. e227.

    Clegg, Bruce W. and O’Connor, Timothy G. 2016. Harvesting and chewing as constraints to forage consumption by the African savanna elephant (Loxodonta africana). PeerJ, Vol. 4, p. e2469.

    Ott, Theresia and Aarde, Rudi J. van 2010. Inferred Spatial use by Elephants is Robust to Landscape Effects on GPS Telemetry. South African Journal of Wildlife Research, Vol. 40, Issue. 2, p. 130.

    Selier, Jeanetta Slotow, Rob and Di Minin, Enrico 2015. Large Mammal Distribution in a Transfrontier Landscape: Trade-offs Between Resource Availability and Human Disturbance. Biotropica, Vol. 47, Issue. 3, p. 389.

    Wall, Jake Wittemyer, George Klinkenberg, Brian LeMay, Valerie and Douglas-Hamilton, Iain 2013. Characterizing properties and drivers of long distance movements by elephants (Loxodonta africana) in the Gourma, Mali. Biological Conservation, Vol. 157, p. 60.

    Shrader, Adrian M. Pimm, Stuart L. and van Aarde, Rudi J. 2010. Elephant survival, rainfall and the confounding effects of water provision and fences. Biodiversity and Conservation, Vol. 19, Issue. 8, p. 2235.

    Gara, Tawanda W. Wang, Tiejun Skidmore, Andrew K. Zengeya, Fadzai M. Ngene, Shadrack M. Murwira, Amon and Ndaimani, Henry 2016. Understanding the effect of landscape fragmentation and vegetation productivity on elephant habitat utilization in Amboseli ecosystem, Kenya. African Journal of Ecology,

    Simon, Mwambola Jasper, Ijumba Wickson, Kibasa Emmanuel, Masenga Ernest, Eblate and Linus, Munishi 2016. Population size estimates and distribution of the African elephant using the dung surveys method in Rubondo Island National Park, Tanzania. International Journal of Biodiversity and Conservation, Vol. 8, Issue. 6, p. 113.

    Sibanda, Mbulisi Dube, Timothy Bangamwabo, Victor M. Mutanga, Onisimo Shoko, Cletah and Gumindoga, Webster 2016. Understanding the spatial distribution of elephant (Loxodonta africana) poaching incidences in the mid-Zambezi Valley, Zimbabwe using Geographic Information Systems and remote sensing. Geocarto International, Vol. 31, Issue. 9, p. 1006.

    Olivier, Pieter I. Ferreira, Sam M. and van Aarde, Rudi J. 2009. Dung survey bias and elephant population estimates in southern Mozambique. African Journal of Ecology, Vol. 47, Issue. 2, p. 202.

    Roever, C. L. Beyer, H. L. Chase, M. J. van Aarde, R. J. and Roura-Pascual, Núria 2014. The pitfalls of ignoring behaviour when quantifying habitat selection. Diversity and Distributions, Vol. 20, Issue. 3, p. 322.


Rules of habitat use by elephants Loxodonta africana in southern Africa: insights for regional management

  • Grant M. Harris (a1) (a2), Gareth J. Russell (a3), Rudi I. van Aarde (a4) and Stuart L. Pimm (a4)
  • DOI:
  • Published online: 01 January 2008

Managers in southern Africa are concerned that continually increasing elephant populations will degrade ecosystems. Culling, translocation and birth control are flawed solutions. An alternative is providing elephants more space but this hinges on identifying landscape preferences. We examined two diverse ecosystems and uncovered similarities in elephant habitat use, expressing these as ‘rules’. We considered arid Etosha National Park, (Namibia) and the tropical woodlands of Tembe Elephant Park (South Africa) and Maputo Elephant Reserve (Mozambique). Landscape data consisted of vegetation types, distances from water and settlements. To surmount issues of scale and availability we incorporated elephant movements as a function that declined as distance from an elephant's location increased. This presumes that elephants optimize trade-offs between benefiting from high-quality resources and costs to find them. Under a likelihood-based approach we determined the important variables and shapes of their relationships to evaluate and compare models separated by gender, season and location. After considering elephants' preferences for areas nearby, habitat use usually increased with proximity to water in all locations. Elephants sought places with high proportions of vegetation, especially when neighbouring areas had low vegetative cover. Lastly, elephants avoided human settlements (when present), and cows more so than bulls. In caricature, elephants preferred to move little, drink easily, eat well, and avoid people. If one makes more areas available, elephants will probably favour areas near water with high vegetative cover (of many different types) and away from people. Managers can oblige elephants’ preferences by supplying them. If so, they should anticipate higher impacts to neighbouring vegetation.

Corresponding author
§Nicholas School of the Environment and Earth Sciences, Duke University, PO Box 90328, LSRC A322, LaSalle St Extension, Durham, NC 27708, USA. 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.

Y. de Beer , W. Kilian , W. Versfeld & R.J van Aarde . (2006) Elephants and low rainfall alter woody vegetation in Etosha National Park, Namibia. Journal of Arid Environments, 64, 412421.

R.A.R. Guldemond & R.J van Aarde . (2007) The impact of elephants on plants and their community variables in South Africa's Maputaland. African Journal of Ecology, 45, 327335.

R.E. Hoare & J.T Du Toit . (1999) Coexistence between people and elephants in African savannas. Conservation Biology, 13, 633639.

B.F.J. Manley , L.L. Macdonald & D.L Thomas . (1993) Resource Selection by Animals: Statistical Design and Analysis for Field Studies. Chapman & Hall, London, UK.

W.S. Matthews , A.E. van Wyk , N. van Rooyan & G.A Botha . (2001) Vegetation of the Tembe Elephant Park, Maputaland, South Africa. South African Journal of Botany, 67, 573594.

J.J. Millspaugh & J.M Marzluff . (2001) Radio Tracking and Animal Populations. Academic Press, San Diego, California.

R.C. Morley & R.J van Aarde . (2007) Estimating abundance for a savanna elephant population using mark–resight methods: a case study for the Tembe Elephant Park, South Africa. Journal of Zoology, 271, 418427.

S.L. Pimm & R.J van Aarde . (2001) Population control: African elephants and contraception. Nature, 411, 766.

R.J. van Aarde & T.P Jackson . (2007) Megaparks for metapopulations: addressing the causes of locally high elephant numbers in southern Africa. Biological Conservation, 134, 289297.

R.J. van Aarde , T.P. Jackson & S.M Ferreira . (2006) Conservation science and elephant management in southern Africa. South African Journal of Science, 102, 385388.

R.J. van Aarde , I. Whyte & S.L Pimm . (1999) Culling and the dynamics of the Kruger National Park African elephant population. Animal Conservation, 2, 287294.

G. White & R Garrott . (1990) Analysis of Wildlife Radio-tracking Data. Academic Press, New York, USA.

D.S. Wilkie & J.T Finn . (1996) Remote Sensing Imagery for Natural Resource Monitoring. Columbia University Press, New York, USA.

E.A. Archie , C.J. Moss & S.C Alberts . (2006) The ties that bind: genetic relatedness predicts the fission and fusion of social groups in wild African elephants. Proceedings of the Royal Society B, 273, 513522.

S. Chamaillé-Jammes , H. Fritz , M. Valeix , F. Murindagomo & J Clobert . (2008) Resource variability, aggregation and direct density dependence in an open context: the local regulation of an African elephant population. Journal of Animal Ecology, 77, 135144.

G. Wittemyer , W.M. Getz , F. Vollrath & I Douglas-Hamilton . (2007) Social dominance, seasonal movements, and spatial segregation in African elephants: a contribution to conservation behavior. Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology, 61, 19191931.

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? *