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Tracking elephants in Cameroon to mitigate conflict with locals

Elephant conservation is imperiled by poor spatial planning, according to a new study in’s open access journal Tropical Conservation Science. Tracking two elephant matriarchs in and around Bénoué National Park in Cameroon, scientists found that the herds spent over half their time outside of the park, highlighting the potential for human-wildlife conflict as elephants are known to raid fields. The researchers believe better knowledge of elephant movements should play a role in future conservation planning, ensuring secure homes for both elephants and people.

Following elephants via satellite from 2007 to 2009, the researchers discovered that “similar to findings elsewhere, elephants in this study spent most of their time outside Bénoué National Park, emphasizing the importance of non-protected areas in elephant distribution and range.”

Although the elephants were never found close to human villages, they did come close to crop areas.

“Preventing additional settlement and expansion of crop land can play a major role in reducing human-elephant conflict,” the researchers write. They add that water resources must be taken into particular account when planning for elephants, who generally stick to rivers and other water sources.

The researchers note somberly that “elephant population in Central Africa is estimated to number 1,500 and is thought to have decreased by at least 76% within the last forty years, with more pronounced declines over the last decade.”

Just this year, well-armed elephant poachers took over a different park in northern Cameroon, leaving over 400 slaughtered elephants in their wake. Elephant poaching has hit its highest point since 1989.

CITATION: Granados, A., Weladji, R. B., and Loomis, M. R. 2012. Movement and occurrence of two elephant herds in a human-dominated landscape, the Bénoué Wildlife Conservation Area, Cameroon. Tropical Conservation Science Vol. 5(2):150-162.

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