The African elephant (Loxodonta africana), classified as Vulnerable by the IUCN Red Data List, is the largest terrestrial animal in the World. Humans and elephants have shaped each other’s distributions for centuries and in a human-dominated landscape elephants are one of the most difficult large mammals to conserve due to their large area requirements, potential danger to people, damage to infrastructure and crop-raiding behaviour.
Human-elephant conflict is primarily driven by competition for land and resources. As human populations increase and their activities progressively expand into the elephants’ natural ranges, conflict will only increase in occurrence and severity as the elephants are pushed into smaller, and more fragmented, areas of suitable habitat.
In October 2014 a joint venture between the N/a’an ku sê Foundation and the Namibia Development Corporation successfully fitted GPS tracking collars onto two female elephants within the herd to begin the process of monitoring their movement patterns on the Kavango Cattle Ranch and surrounding landscape.
The data provided from these collars has shown that the total area regularly used by the elephants extends to >1,100km2. The 2 females spend more than 90% of time in relative proximity to each other (less than 1km distance) suggesting a stable herd.
They did not show any migratory movements to other areas or protected areas such as the Mangetti National Park. In fact they spent less than 1% of their time outside the Kavango Cattle Ranch area and the adjacent Namibia Defence Force veterans area, and then mainly in the northern communal areas. They only broke through the southern boundary on 5 or 6 occasions.
The movements are reasonably predictable in the sense that one can clearly see their core use areas which are determined by water availability and nutritious forest patches. These ‘popular’ areas are located on both the Kavango Cattle Ranch and Namibia Defence Force areas. They are used to regular roaming and frequently migrate back and forth along an East-West axis.
The elephants inhabiting the Mangetti region of northern Namibia are a relatively un-studied herd living in a pastoralist system overlapping with human activities, presenting a serious source of local conflict. The work already carried out by the N/a’an ku sê Foundation has shown that human-carnivore conflict can be significantly reduced by interactive research and collaboration with Namibian landowners. The Mangetti scenario provides an opportunity to test whether the same approach can be taken to study, and possibly create practicable solutions for the mitigation of, human-elephant conflict and improve local tolerance of conflict elephants.