SAWMA Matters


Water for African elephants (Loxodonta africana): faecal microbial loads affect use of artificial waterholes


Mduduzi Ndlovu, Antón Pérez-Rodríguez, Emma Devereux, Miranda Thomas, Alfredo Colina, Linford Molaba

Journal Name:

Biology Letters



Published Date:


DOI Number:



In semi-arid protected areas, artificial waterholes ensure that water is locally
available to animals for extended periods. However, artificial waterholes
may limit animal movement, which contributes towards habitat deterioration.
Challenges of artificial water provisioning worsen in the presence of ecosystem
engineers like African elephants Loxodonta africana, capable of transforming
environments. Camera traps were used to monitor elephant visitation at 21
artificial waterholes in the Kruger National Park, South Africa. We also
assessed if water quality parameters influenced elephant preference for certain
waterholes. There were no significant correlations between elephant abundance
and water physicochemical properties. However, there was a strong
negative correlation between elephant abundance and levels of Escherichia
coli in water. Our findings suggest that elephants avoid drinking water with
high levels of faecal microbial loads. Whereas most studies addressing
animal management in protected areas consider waterholes as homogeneous
units, we posit that water quality could also determine local landscape use
and movement patterns of key species like elephants, a finding with relevant
implications in reserve management practices.

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