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Poaching and human encroachment reverse recovery of African savannah elephants in south-east Angola despite 14 years of peace

PLoS ONE, 2018, Vol.13(3) [Peer Reviewed Journal]

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  • Title:
    Poaching and human encroachment reverse recovery of African savannah elephants in south-east Angola despite 14 years of peace
  • Author: Schlossberg, Scott ; Chase, Michael J ; Griffin, Curtice R
  • Contributor: Cameron, Elissa Z. (editor)
  • Found In: PLoS ONE, 2018, Vol.13(3) [Peer Reviewed Journal]
  • Subjects: Research Article ; Biology And Life Sciences ; People And Places ; Earth Sciences ; People And Places ; Earth Sciences ; Ecology And Environmental Sciences ; Earth Sciences ; People And Places ; People And Places ; Biology And Life Sciences ; Biology And Life Sciences
  • Description: With populations of African savannah elephants ( Loxodonta africana ) declining across the continent, assessing the status of individual elephant populations is important for conservation. Angola’s elephant population represents a key linkage between the larger populations of Namibia and Botswana. Elephants in Angola were decimated during the 1975–2002 Angolan civil war, but a 2005 survey showed that populations were recolonizing former habitats. Between 2005 and 2015, no research was permitted on elephants in Angola, but elsewhere in Africa many elephant populations experienced a poaching crisis. In 2015, we were able to resume elephant research in Angola. We used aerial surveys and satellite monitoring of collared elephants to determine the current status of elephant populations in Angola and to learn how human populations may be affecting elephant habitat usage. The aerial survey revealed a population of 3,395 ± SE of 797 elephants, but populations had declined 21% from the 2005 estimate. The high number of carcasses observed on the survey suggests that populations may have increased after the 2005 survey but were declining rapidly as of 2015. Satellite-collared elephants avoided areas <6 km from human indicators but preferred areas nearer humans at scales of 6–40 km, suggesting that humans may be displacing elephants from preferred habitats near rivers. Taken together, these results suggest that Angola’s elephant population is experiencing intense poaching and may be losing habitat to human settlements. Without action to conserve their populations, Angola’s elephants face an uncertain future.
  • Identifier: E-ISSN: 1932-6203 ; DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0193469 ; PMCID: 5851583 ; PMID: 29538387

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