Term of Award

Spring 2007

Degree Name

Master of Science in Biology (M.S.)

Document Type and Release Option

Thesis (open access)

Department

Department of Biology

Committee Chair

Bruce A. Schulte

Committee Member 1

C. Ray Chandler

Committee Member 2

Lissa Leege

Abstract

In polygynous, sexually dimorphic species like the African elephant, Loxodonta africana, resource distribution influences female dispersion, while the location of females shapes male dispersion. Human constriction of viable habitat has affected elephant movements and impact. Elephants travel in matriarchal family groups, as single males or bachelor groups often looking for receptive females, and in mixed associations. Waterholes serve to meet the physical needs of elephants and as areas for information exchange, especially for males in search of females. When widely spaced, waterholes may be impacted heavily by elephants. I examined elephant use of a permanent waterhole to determine 1) the factors associated with elephant presence by group type, 2) behavioral differences between pre- and post-puberty male and female elephants, and 3) the impact of elephants on the woody vegetation at a privately owned protected area, Ndarakwai Ranch, Tanzania. Diurnal scans for elephants were conducted hourly from October 2004- April 2006. Focal animal observations were made from June- October 2005. Elephant damage to woody vegetation was assessed from September 2005- June 2006. In the long-wet season, elephant sightings were not correlated with the temperature. In the long-dry season, sightings of family and mixed groups were correlated with temperature, but male sightings were associated with female presence. Post-puberty male elephants first came to the waterhole after other groups and investigated their surroundings more than other elephants. Almost all woody vegetation surrounding the waterhole was impacted by elephants to varying degrees. The benefits resulting from permanent water sources must be weighed against the impact that elephants have on the habitat.

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