Coexistence with people is one of the greatest challenges to survival for the African savannah elephant (Loxodonta africana), listed as Vulnerable in the IUCN Species Red List (Blanc 2008), in areas where human cultivation borders fragmented habitats (Hoare and Du Toit 1999; Osborn and Parker 2002), and crop-raiding occur. Electric fences are used more frequently. While they are effective at deterring the more risk-averse general population, they do not solve the problem of older, dominant bull elephants known as habitual (crop) raiders (HRs) that have learned to break through the most sophisticated fence designs without getting shocked (Kioko et al. 2008; Mutinda et al. 2014). There is no single solution to stop crop-raiding conflicts with HRs because they habituate to farm-based deterrents (Bell 1984; Tchamba 1995; Taylor 1999) and current novel approaches using chili-based repellents and beehive fences have had limited success but are labor-intensive and impractical for large-scale general crop protection. Further, important migration corridors have been closed off to mitigate conflicts, compromising the viability of local populations. HRs are responsible for causing 80-100% of crop-damage (Jackson et al. 2008; Alhering et al. 2011; Chiyo et al. 2011; Fernando 2011). They are not only singled out for lethal management or translocation by local authorities, they are targeted and killed by affected communities. However, HRs are keystone individuals and their constant removal has profound ecological and population implications. Focus needs to be shifted from constructing evermore elaborate fences to preventing the formation of “problem” elephants. Current management practices that increase aggression, increase crop-raiding conflicts, increase the risk of local extinctions, and has the potential to degrade the environment should be eliminated. In this thesis, I take an interdisciplinary approach to: (1) further understanding of HR behavioral ecology, the development of crop-raiding behavior and the potentially negative impacts of current management practices; (2) conduct a thorough analysis of HR fence-breaking/crop-raiding behavior in the Laikipia Plateau, Kenya, and suggest alternate methods to stop the conflicts; (3) introduce a behavior modification technique I designed that uses signal and solution learning to discourage HRs from raiding crops. It is my belief that any management approach, to be effective, must be developed with a clear understanding of the animal’s capacity to learn, and the causation, development, evolution and adaptive value of the behavior to be modified.
|Commitee:||Chiyo, Patrick I., Sherman, Peter|
|School Location:||United States -- Arizona|
|Source:||MAI 57/06M(E), Masters Abstracts International|
|Subjects:||Wildlife Conservation, Wildlife Management, Behavioral Sciences|
|Keywords:||African Savanah Bull Elephants, Behavior modification, Crop-raiding conflicts, Deterrents, Habitual raiders/HRs, Lethal management/retaliatory killings|
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