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The status of African elephant Loxodonta africana populations in South Africa

  • Yolanda Pretorius (a1), Marion E. Garaï (a2) and Lucy A. Bates (a3)


With an increase in poaching of elephants Loxodonta africana across Africa, it is vital to know exactly how many elephants remain and where they occur, to ensure that protection and management are planned appropriately. From a nationwide survey we provide current population and distribution data for elephants in South Africa. We consider the viability of elephant populations in the country, as well as some of the management techniques implemented and how effective these are in controlling elephant numbers. According to our surveys there were 28,168 elephants in South Africa as of December 2015, with 78% of these occurring in Kruger National Park and reserves bordering and open to the Park. Of the country's 78 discrete reserves that host elephants, 77% have populations of < 100 elephants, which could mean they are not genetically viable. We discuss our findings in terms of the conservation value of South Africa's elephant reserves, and the animal welfare implications. We recommend that the fragmentation of elephant habitat in the country be addressed through a national elephant management strategy that promotes wildlife corridors between existing, neighbouring elephant reserves.


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