Demography of a population with a long history of poaching and the utility of the individual identification technique as a tool for monitoring intermittently studied elephant populations
Onyango, Patrick O
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In many elephant populations in Africa, adverse effects of poaching including altered age and sex structure and long calving intervals continue to negatively impact the rate of recovery. The study reported here characterized the demographic status of the elephant population in Meru National Park, Kenya, so as to determine the size, age and sex structure, and calving interval of the population and to compare its demographic parameters against those from the relatively stable elephant population at Amboseli. Additionally, a demographic study conducted 7 years earlier enabled us to determine the demographic performance of the population and to explicitly test the utility of the individual identification technique in monitoring intermittently studied populations. We found 392 elephants in the park. The proportion of older individuals was lower, and the calving interval was longer than estimates from Amboseli. We recognized 16% of elephants indexed in the previous study. Our results suggest that the individual identification technique may be useful in monitoring demographic changes including poaching in intermittently studied elephant populations. Overall, our results suggest that although the Meru elephant population showed signs of recovery, poaching continues to imperil its recovery.
- Department of Zoology