Natural and anthropogenic drivers of Bornean elephant movement strategies

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Authors Luke J. Evans, Benoit Goossens, Andrew B. Davies, Glen Reynolds, Gregory P. Asner
Journal/Conference Name Global Ecology and Conservation
Paper Category , ,
Paper Abstract Endangered Bornean elephants are severely threatened by ongoing habitat transformation and increasing levels of human-elephant conflict. Understanding how elephants move across intact and transformed landscapes, as well as within them, is therefore of vital importance for the successful implementation of conservation management initiatives. We combined remote sensing and GPS telemetry data to identify broad habitat utilization and key movement areas to aid elephant management and conflict mitigation in three spatially-isolated populations in central and eastern Sabah, Malaysian Borneo. Home ranges were estimated using Brownian Bridge Movement Models and specific behavioral movement traits were identified by pathway analyses. These behavioral traits enabled a fine-scale evaluation of movements between and adjacent to forest patches and the role of large-scale agriculture in shaping elephant movements. Both natural (topological) and anthropogenic (agricultural) landscape features were found to have a broad influence on elephant movements. All elephant populations exhibited human-mediated behavioral responses, regardless of disturbance level. Throughout their range, elephants appeared to actively select relatively degraded forests, as measured by aboveground carbon density. However, elephants actively avoided urbanized areas, including roads and villages. Throughout the elephant range, high-speed, low-trajectory movements were found at low aboveground carbon locations, with 27% of all such movements located in large-scale agriculture. Our results suggest that agriculture impacts movement strategies of elephants, with evidence of repeat agricultural use pointing towards an active rationale for this behavior. Elephants were also found to use ridgelines as movement pathways, providing further context for the protection of such forested areas. The Lower Kinabatangan population, located in small remnant forests, travelled further to meet their ecological needs, suggesting the population is under added strain. Our work represents the broadest landscape assessment of Bornean elephant movements to-date and has important implications for both future work and habitat-level protected area management strategies.
Date of publication 2020
Code Programming Language R

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