Thursday, 28 December 2017

Scientists uncover patterns of elephant poaching in East Africa

December 19, 2017, University of York

Scientists analysing data from aerial surveys carried out over one of East Africa's most important nature reserves have uncovered clusters of elephant carcasses close to some ranger posts.

The team, from the University of York and the Tanzania Wildlife Research Institute (TAWIRI), made the discovery while working together to address the problem of elephant poaching in the Ruaha-Rungwa ecosystem.

The study used data from three successive aerial surveys during the peak of the poaching crisis from 2013-2015 and revealed patterns of elephant carcasses across the region.

Wet season
Using aerial surveys and spatial analysis, the team revealed the poachers preferred to operate in the wet season – when swollen rivers meant travel by road was extremely difficult and tourism was minimal.

The study, which involved collaboration between the University of York and TAWIRI, also revealed the signs of poaching tended to be away from the main, well-equipped ranger posts, where the aerial surveys revealed fewer carcasses.

However, the data revealed elephant remains were found in greater numbers than expected close to three out of 13 outlying ranger posts. If carcasses had been as rare around outlying posts as near the park headquarters, overall there would have been seven per cent fewer carcasses.

Lead author, Dr Colin Beale from the University of York's Department of Biology, said a lot has changed since the surveys were done and the Tanzania government was working hard to address the problem, with evidence that poaching has since fallen substantially.

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