Patch-occupancy survey of elephant surrounding Livingstone, Zambia
February 1 2017

Wild elephants represent the biggest human–wildlife conflict issue in Livingstone, Zambia.  They are known to utilise a core protected and fenced zone of the Mosi-oa-Tunya National Park, yet are also frequently observed outside this area, including in community areas.

During 2015 data was collected on elephant movements outside of the core zone, the results of which have now been published in the peer-reviewed academic journal Koedoe.  You can read the full paper online here, or download it here (4mb).

Using ‘patch-occupancy’ methodology, indications of elephant presence (feeding behaviour, dung and tracks) were surveyed.  The survey aimed to assist proposed future monitoring exercises by defining the geographical extent that should be considered to improve accuracy in species abundance estimates.

Elephant presence was confirmed up to 8 km from the boundary of the protected core habitat, focussed in: (1) an unfenced zone of the national park, (2) along a road leading from the national park to the Dambwa Forest to the north and (3) along two rivers located to the west (Sinde River) and east (Maramba River) of the core area.

The authors of the paper represent: ALERT, the Zambia Department of National Parks and Wildlife, and four universities: Copperbelt, Coventry, Edinburgh and Western Kentucky.  ALERT would like to acknowledge the contribution of Wildlife Encounter in providing operational assistance to the survey.

The learning from this survey has already been put to practical use during 2016, and will continue into this year.  ALERT’s elephant monitoring programme is guided by the results, and is assisting us to:

• Assess seasonal distribution and abundance of elephants in different habitat types to establish key resource areas and movement corridors.

• Determine elephant population structure within these areas including population trends, herd sizes and male/female ratios

• Determine behavioural ecology of elephants

• Document human-elephant conflict amongst local communities.


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About the Elephant Programme

In fragmented land-use mosaics the home ranges of African elephants feature a combination of protected and unprotected areas.  Ranging in human-dominated landscapes inevitably leads to interaction, and therefore conflict, with communities; most notably with farmers as a result of crop-raiding.  Understanding elephants’ use of land, both within and outside of protected areas, is seen as increasingly important to future conservation management of African elephant populations.

Increasing human populations and agricultural expansion within the Livingstone area of Zambia threaten to expand the human / elephant interface, likely leading to greater incidence of Human Elephant Conflict (HEC). The success of HEC mitigation strategies is dependent on the ecology and behaviour of elephants in an area, as well as the human socio-political and economic environment. Specific research on elephant populations in the region are sparse, and efforts to mitigate the conflict have largely been undertaken without rigorous planning or evaluation. This research aims to collect comprehensive data to assist in fully understanding the mechanisms behind HEC in this region.

This program is a partnership between the Zambia Department of National Parks and Wildlife, ALERT, Copperbelt, Western Kentucky and Coventry Universities, the Zambia Forestry Department and local communities.

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