Elephants Are Changing Their Behavior To Avoid Poaching Threat

Posted: Sep 16 2017, 7:26am CDT | by , in News

 
Elephants are Changing their Behavior to Avoid Poaching Threat
Credit: John Poulsen

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Elephants have increased their nocturnal activity. They move more at night and stay hidden during the day

Hundreds of thousands of elephants are killed every year by poachers. Elephant in African countries like Somalia are especially in danger due to increased demand for ivory, which is often carved into ornaments and jewelry.

To avoid poaching threat, elephants have now adopted an extreme form of survival strategy. They are becoming more active at night, foraging for food and travelling instead of sleeping. Since most of the poaching occurs in daytime, the elephants are also changing their behavior and are becoming more nocturnal for their survival.

“This study shows the adaptability of earth's largest land mammal to adapt their behavior flexibly in order to stay safe," said ‘Save The Elephants' founder Iain Douglas-Hamilton. "This alteration in movement behaviour by elephants has implications for their foraging strategy, reproduction and survival, which are not yet fully understood."

To investigate whether poaching fear has changed elephant’s habits, researchers used a simple yet effective technique. They attached GPS collars with a group of more than 100 elephants in Northern Kenya and tracked their movements. With the help of technology, researchers were able to calculate a day-night speed radio, which pinpointed the exact changes in animal’s behavior through 24 hours a day.

For the study, 28 female elephants and 32 males were monitored for varying lengths of time from 2002 to 2012. Researchers found that elephants moved more at night than during the day when the poaching risk was high. Female elephants displayed even more stronger nocturnal activaty than males.

"Simultaneous elephant tracking and monitoring of causes of death presented a perfect natural laboratory for studying the behavioral response of elephants to increasing poaching levels," said lead study author Festus Ihwagi, a senior research scientist at Save the Elephant’s project. "The escalation of poaching has become the greatest immediate threat to the survival of elephants. As most poaching occurs during the daytime, their transition to nocturnal behavior appears to be a direct result of the prevailing poaching levels."

This change in elephant behavior may have long term implications for their survival as these animals normally rest at night and perform most of their activates during the day.

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Hira Bashir covers daily affairs around the world.

 

 

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