Scientists have determined that African elephants travel paths leading to their favorite food. They learned this by tracking their footprints through a high-resolution Garmin GPS combined with satellite imagery. After tracking various elephant paths, scientists have determined that elephant bulls and families walk in different paths leading them to the foods they love.
African bull elephants will walk paths that lead to Combretum and Cissus plants. Family groups and young elephants prefer Commiphora and Terminalia. If families and bulls travel together, they will choose paths that offer everyone options. Why should this matter?
Elephants Travel Paths
While most of us worry about shooing pigeons off our cars, farmers in Africa have to worry about elephants destroying their crops. The elephant-human conflict leads to both parties being hurt or killed. The University of Oxford and the Save the Elephants organization worked in Tsavo, Kenya, to track the elephants’ movements and try to prevent this ongoing conflict. They have been working together with the Sagalla community since 2009, trying to improve this conflict between elephants and humans. When the Sagalla community asked where the elephants were foraging between the parks and homes, it gave the scientists the idea to track their paths.
The study showed that elephants travel paths leading to their dietary preferences. This can help the wildlife preserves ensure that there is preferred vegetation within their safe perimeter. This way, the elephants don’t have to venture outside the protected parks to meet their dietary needs.
The study can also help determine where the elephants will migrate based on their preferred vegetation and location. On top of all this, scientists and locals can help ensure that the elephants have plenty of those plants available. By having healthy vegetation within the parks and away from crops, they can help diminish human-elephant conflict.