Using camera trap bycatch data to assess habitat use and the influence of human activity on African elephants (Loxodonta africana) in Kasungu National Park, Malawi

Davis, R.S., Gentle, L.K. ORCID: 0000-0003-4864-5775, Mgoola, W.O., Stone, E.L., Uzal, A. ORCID: 0000-0001-6478-1895 and Yarnell, R.W. ORCID: 0000-0001-6584-7374, 2022. Using camera trap bycatch data to assess habitat use and the influence of human activity on African elephants (Loxodonta africana) in Kasungu National Park, Malawi. Mammalian Biology. ISSN 1616-5047

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African elephants (Loxodonta africana) are increasingly exposed to high levels of human disturbance and are threatened by poaching and human–elephant conflict. As anthropogenic pressures continue to increase, both inside and outside protected areas, understanding elephant behavioural responses to human activity is required for future conservation management. Here, we use bycatch data from camera trap surveys to provide inferences on elephant habitat use and temporal activity in Kasungu National Park (KNP), Malawi. The KNP elephant population has declined by ~ 95% since the late 1970s, primarily because of intensive poaching, and information on elephant ecology and behaviour can assist in the species’ recovery. Using occupancy modelling, we show that proximity to water is the primary driver of elephant habitat use in KNP, with sites closer to water having a positive effect on elephant site use. Our occupancy results suggest that elephants do not avoid sites of higher human activity, while results from temporal activity models show that elephants avoid peak times of human activity and exhibit primarily nocturnal behaviour when using the KNP road network. As key park infrastructure is located near permanent water sources, elephant spatiotemporal behaviour may represent a trade-off between resource utilisation and anthropogenic-risk factors, with temporal partitioning used to reduce encounter rates. Increased law enforcement activity around permanent water sources could help to protect the KNP elephant population during the dry season. Our findings highlight that camera trap bycatch data can be a useful tool for the conservation management of threatened species beyond the initial scope of research.

Item Type: Journal article
Publication Title: Mammalian Biology
Creators: Davis, R.S., Gentle, L.K., Mgoola, W.O., Stone, E.L., Uzal, A. and Yarnell, R.W.
Publisher: Springer Science and Business Media LLC
Date: 28 November 2022
ISSN: 1616-5047
Rights: This article is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, which permits use, sharing, adaptation, distribution and reproduction in any medium or format, as long as you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to the Creative Commons licence, and indicate if changes were made. The images or other third party material in this article are included in the article's Creative Commons licence, unless indicated otherwise in a credit line to the material. If material is not included in the article's Creative Commons licence and your intended use is not permitted by statutory regulation or exceeds the permitted use, you will need to obtain permission directly from the copyright holder. To view a copy of this licence, visit
Divisions: Schools > School of Animal, Rural and Environmental Sciences
Record created by: Jonathan Gallacher
Date Added: 03 Jan 2023 10:25
Last Modified: 03 Jan 2023 10:25

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