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Seasonal habitat use by Elephants (Loxodonta africana) in the Mole National Park of Ghana

19 Apr 2017

Abstract

To avoid unnecessary waste of limited resources and to help prioritize areas for conservation efforts, this study aimed to provide information on habitat use by elephants between the wet and dry seasons in the Mole National Park (MNP) of Ghana. We compiled coordinates of 516 locations of elephants’ encounters, 256 for dry season and 260 for wet season. Using nine predictor variables, we modeled the probability of elephant's distribution in MNP. We threshold the models to “suitable” and “nonsuitable” regions of habitat use using the equal training sensitivity and specificity values of 0.177 and 0.181 for the dry and wet seasons, respectively. Accuracy assessment of our models revealed a sensitivity score of 0.909 and 0.974, and a specificity of 0.579 and 0.753 for the dry and wet seasons, respectively. A TSS of 0.488 was also recorded for the dry season and 0.727 for the wet season indicating a good model agreement. Our model predicts habitat use to be confined to the southern portion of MNP due to elevation difference and a relatively steep slope that separates the northern regions of the park from the south. Regions of habitat use for the wet season were 856 km2 and reduced significantly to 547.68 km2 in the dry season. We observed significant overlap (327.24 km2) in habitat use regions between the wet and dry seasons (Schoener's D = 0.922 and Hellinger's-based I = 0.991). DEM, proximity to waterholes, and saltlicks were identified as the key variables that contributed to the prediction. We recommend construction of temporal camps in regions of habitat use that are far from the headquarters area for effective management of elephants. Also, an increase in water point's density around the headquarters areas and selected dry areas of the park will further decrease elephant's range and hence a relatively less resource use in monitoring and patrols.

This study provides information on habitat use by elephants between the wet and dry seasons in the Mole National Park (MNP) of Ghana. Our results shows a reduction in regions of habitat use from 856 km2 in the wet season to 547.68 km2 in the dry season. The decreased surface water availability in the dry season, leading to decreased in forage availability, drove the contraction of elephants’ dry season range across the MNP taking into account elevation as a potential limiting factor.

Click here to view the full article which appeared in Ecology and Evolution

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