NAIROBI, Kenya, Jul 6 – The Amboseli Trust for Elephants (ATE) is in the process of launching a new study focusing on the challenges the giants face in the park.
ATE Director Cynthia Moss said the study will focus on male elephants to establish what happens during when they become independent, since they are more susceptible to straying.
“We are in the process of launching a new study to follow what happens to males during their process of independence,” said Moss. “We are basing ourselves in the national park because females rely on the permanent water in the park returning regularly and quite predictably, whereas mature males return to the park seeking mating opportunities with those females.”
Tracking the 1,650 elephants that make up the Amboseli study population is hard work, with the trust trying to keep tabs on every elephant born into the 54 extant Amboseli families.
“As we move into the fifth decade of research, we are focusing on the challenges elephants face in Amboseli. The ranging patterns have allowed us to build detailed pictures of family membership, female reproductive success, and musth cycles in the older males in an unparalleled long-term study,” the trust said in a statement.
The trust that has been studying elephants for over five decades said males are probably the key challenge in managing a human-elephant interface as they are the risk-takers, learning crop raiding and fence breaking from older males.
They are also the explorers – first to move into areas, or use new resources, with females usually following several years later.
“As Amboseli changes for both humans and elephants, understanding those young explorers will allow us to provide hard data to underpin management decisions,” said Moss. “Male and female elephants use landscapes very differently and integrate into male society.”
To tackle this problem, the trust has launched a new numbering system for males that is not immediately placed, but will make it possible to take systematic data of the male elephants.
Amboseli National Park has for over four decades provided one of the longest-running study of wild elephants ever undertaken, documenting the lives and deaths of almost 3,000 elephants.
The Amboseli Elephant Research Project is now a hub for research collaboration and training.