SAWMA Matters


Large mammal distribution in a transfrontier landscape: Trade-offs between resource availability and human disturbance.


Selier, S.A.J.; Slotow, R.; Di Minin E

Journal Name:

Biotropica 47




Understanding factors that affect the persistence of charismatic megafauna in human‐dominated landscapes is crucial to inform conservation decision‐making and reduce human‐wildlife conflict. We assessed the effect of environmental and anthropogenic factors at different landscape and management scales in predicting the distribution of African elephant (Loxodonta africana) within the Greater Mapungubwe Transfrontier Conservation Area in Southern Africa. We combined aerial distribution counts over a 12‐yr period with 14 variables, representing food availability, landscape, and anthropogenic effects, into generalized linear models. Generalized linear models were run for the broader landscape, as well as three separate management units within the broader landscape, namely ecotourism, trophy hunting, and a combination of hunting and ecotourism. Human activities within different management units forced elephant to trade‐off between disturbance avoidance, and good food and water availability. In addition, the important predictors of elephant distribution within each of the management units differed from the predictors at the broader landscape. Overall, our results suggest that at the fine scale, elephant are constraint by factors that may be masked at the broader landscape scale. We suggest that accounting for anthropogenic disturbance is important in determining the distribution of large, wide‐ranging, mammal species in increasingly human‐dominated landscapes, and that modeling needs to be done at the spatial scales at which conservation decisions are made.

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