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Spatial behaviour of translocated African elephants (Loxodonta africana) in a novel environment: using behaviour to inform conservation actions

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[When animals encounter a novel environment they can either reject it and leave or accept it and explore their new home. It is important to understand what governs animals' response to a novel place because of the fitness consequences and wildlife management implications entailed. Here I examine the spatial behaviour of translocated African elephants (Loxodonta africana) upon arrival at a novel environment. I monitored the movement patterns of 12 radio-collared elephants for a year post-translocation. I documented the first account of both female and male African elephants homing back to their natal habitat. More males than expected left the release site, but female–calf units also homed to their natal habitat, demonstrating that homing is not confined to one sex or age. When examining the spatial behaviour of elephants that remained near the release site I did not find a relationship between habitat exploration and last distance from release site, elephant age, or social association. However, I did find a negative correlation between habitat exploration and distance from human activities. This work provides biological insights regarding individual variation in spatial activity of animals in a novel environment and offers recommendations for future management actions., When animals encounter a novel environment they can either reject it and leave or accept it and explore their new home. It is important to understand what governs animals' response to a novel place because of the fitness consequences and wildlife management implications entailed. Here I examine the spatial behaviour of translocated African elephants (Loxodonta africana) upon arrival at a novel environment. I monitored the movement patterns of 12 radio-collared elephants for a year post-translocation. I documented the first account of both female and male African elephants homing back to their natal habitat. More males than expected left the release site, but female–calf units also homed to their natal habitat, demonstrating that homing is not confined to one sex or age. When examining the spatial behaviour of elephants that remained near the release site I did not find a relationship between habitat exploration and last distance from release site, elephant age, or social association. However, I did find a negative correlation between habitat exploration and distance from human activities. This work provides biological insights regarding individual variation in spatial activity of animals in a novel environment and offers recommendations for future management actions.]

Affiliations: 1: Animal Behaviour Graduate Group, University of California, One Shields Avenue, Davis, CA 95616, USA; Department of Biology, Stanford University, USA

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