Papers in the Biological Sciences
Strategies of protected area use by Asian elephants in relation to motivational state and social affiliations
Date of this Version
Scientific Reports | (2022) 12:18490 | https://doi.org/10.1038/s41598-022-22989-1
Animals’ space requirements may vary according to life-history and social considerations. We observed 516 wild adult Asian elephants from both sexes, over 9 years, to investigate how life-history traits and social behavior influence protected-area (PA) use at Udawalawe National Park, Sri Lanka. Male PA-use, quantified in terms of average between-sightings-interval (BSI), was significantly influenced by the interaction of age class and motivational state (i.e. reproduction vs. foraging). Musth lengthened with age, with a median of 24.5 days for ages 21–30, 32.5 days for ages 31–40, and 45 days for those > 40. A minority (11%) used it exclusively during musth, while others used it exclusively for foraging (44%) or both (45%). Males using it in both states and older musth-only males were more likely to be seen across years. There were 16 social communities containing between 2–22 adult females. Females’ BSI was significantly influenced by social ties, but this relationship was weak, because members of social communities do not necessarily disperse together, resulting in high individual variation in space-use. Inter-annual variability in sightings among individuals of both sexes indicates that around ¾ of the population is likely non-residential across years, challenging the prevailing fortress-conservation paradigm of wildlife management.