oa South African Journal of Wildlife Research - 24-month delayed open access - Population dynamics of elephants re-introduced to small fenced reserves in South Africa : research article

Volume 35, Issue 1
  • ISSN : 2410-7220
  • E-ISSN: 2410-8200



By 2001, elephants had been translocated (mainly from Kruger National Park) to 58 small, fenced reserves in South Africa. All but two introductions took place since 1989. We document important aspects of the population dynamics of elephants in these reserves using data collected in a survey conducted in 2001. The mean population size was 45 elephants, with an average density of 0.25 elephants/km<sup>2</sup>. Populations have a female bias with 0.79 males to females. Populations have 19% adult males, and 31% adult females. On average, almost 50% of the population comprises adult and subadult females, indicating an immanent potential for large population growth. Births were not significantly different from a 1:1 sex ratio. When two extreme populations were removed, mean mortality rate was 0.4% per annum. Population growth rates averaged 8.3%, but five reserves had growth rates above 13%, and the highest annual growth rate was 16.5% per annum. Twenty-seven populations already have densities above 0.2 elephants/km<sup>2</sup>, and eight reserves have densities above 0.4 elephants/km<sup>2</sup>. Assuming a 12% per annum growth (feasible given the data presented), over half the reserves will have densities above 0.33 elephants/km&lt;sup&gt;2&lt;/sup&gt; within five years. These results indicate that the translocation of elephants has been successful, with most populations reproducing at a rate far exceeding expectations. This has serious implications for owners and managers, as some form of population control (contraception, removals, culling etc.) needs to be urgently planned for implementation as soon as possible in most, and probably all small reserves.

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