The consequences of poaching and anthropogenic change for forest elephants



Breuer T, Maisels F & Fishlock V (2016) The consequences of poaching and anthropogenic change for forest elephants. Conservation Biology, 30 (5), pp. 1019-1026.

Poaching has devastated forest elephant populations (Loxodonta cyclotis), and their habitat is dramatically changing. The long-term effects of poaching and other anthropogenic threats have been well studied in savannah elephants (Loxodonta africana), but the impacts of these changes for Central Africa's forest elephants have not been discussed. We examine potential repercussions of these threats and the related consequences for forest elephants in Central Africa by summarizing the lessons learned from savannah elephants and small forest elephant populations in West Africa. Forest elephant social organisation is little known than for savannah elephants, but the close evolutionary history with savannah elephants suggests that they will respond to anthropogenic threats in broadly similar ways. The loss of older, experienced individuals could disrupt ecological, social and population parameters. Severe reduction of elephant abundance within Central Africa's forests can alter plant communities and ecosystem functions. Poaching, habitat alterations and human population increase are probably compressing forest elephants into protected areas and increasing human-elephant conflict, negatively affecting their conservation. We encourage conservationists to look beyond forest elephant population decline and address these causes of change when developing conversation strategies. We propose research priorities, including assessing the effectiveness of the existing protected area network for landscape connectivity in the light of current industrial and infrastructure development. Longitudinal assessments of landscape changes on forest elephant sociality and behaviour are also needed. Finally, lessons learned from West African population loss and fragmentation should be used to inform strategies for land-use planning and managing the human-elephant interface.

Conservation Biology: Volume 30, Issue 5

Publication date31/10/2016
Publication date online23/01/2016
Date accepted by journal17/01/2016

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Professor Fiona Maisels

Professor Fiona Maisels

Honorary Professor, Biological and Environmental Sciences