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Using camera traps to study the age–sex structure and behaviour of crop-using elephants Loxodonta africana in Udzungwa Mountains National Park, Tanzania

  • Josephine Smit (a1), Rocío A. Pozo (a2), Jeremy J. Cusack (a3), Katarzyna Nowak (a1) and Trevor Jones (a1)...
Abstract

Crop losses to foraging elephants are one of the primary obstacles to the coexistence of elephants and people. Understanding whether some individuals in a population are more likely to forage on crops, and the temporal patterns of elephant visits to farms, is key to mitigating the negative impacts of elephants on farmers’ livelihoods. We used camera traps to study the crop foraging behaviour of African elephants Loxodonta africana in farmland adjacent to the Udzungwa Mountains National Park in southern Tanzania during October 2010–August 2014. Camera traps placed on elephant trails into farmland detected elephants on 336 occasions during the study period. We identified individual elephants for 126 camera-trap detections. All were independent males, and we identified 48 unique bulls aged 10–29 years. Two-thirds of the bulls identified were detected only once by camera traps during the study period. Our findings are consistent with previous studies that found that adult males are more likely to adopt high-risk feeding behaviours such as crop foraging, although young males dispersing from maternal family units also consume crops in Udzungwa. We found a large number of occasional crop-users (32 of the 48 bulls identified) and a smaller number of repeat crop-users (16 of 48), suggesting that lethal control of crop-using elephants is unlikely to be an effective long-term strategy for reducing crop losses to elephants.

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Copyright
Corresponding author
E-mail smitjosephine@gmail.com
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Also at: Psychology, University of Stirling, Stirling, UK

Also at: Zoology & Entomology, University of the Free State, Qwaqwa Campus, Phuthaditjhaba, South Africa

Supplementary material for this article can be found at https://doi.org/10.1017/S0030605317000345

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