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Demography and social dynamics of an African elephant population 35 years after reintroduction as juveniles
Given their vulnerability to local extinction, the reintroduction of megafauna species (often long‐lived, ecologically influential and highly social) is an increasingly relevant conservation intervention. Studies that evaluate past megafauna reintroductions are both critical and rare. Between 1981 and 1996, 12 cohorts of a total of 200 juvenile (10 years old) composed 30% of the population in 2016. The population remains relatively young and forecasts suggest high potential for sustained growth over the next decade. The first calf was born to a reintroduced female in 1990 and since then mother–calf units have gradually developed into semi‐independent multi‐generation families (7–15 individuals in size in 2016). The size of observed cow–calf groups was highly variable (mean = 21.4 individuals, range: 7–109), with repeat observation of individual collared females revealing fusion and fission among different family groups through time, as is typical of more natural elephant populations. Synthesis and applications. From an unusual founder population of reintroduced juvenile elephants, we document rapid population growth and the development of normal sociality over 35 years. While this may be an encouragement for megaherbivore reintroductions in general, the potential for exponential population growth must be carefully considered when ecologically influential species are introduced to closed systems. Our study provides key long‐term insights for elephant translocations, which are becoming increasingly necessary due to overpopulation in some areas and local extinction in others.
Kuiper TR, Druce DJ, Druce HC. Demography and social dynamics of an African elephant population 35 years after reintroduction as juveniles. J Appl Ecol. 2018;55:2898–2907. https://doi.org/10.1111/1365-2664.13199
Published: Jun 2018 | Categories: Research Articles