Three of the GPS-collared elephants were from very dominant families, two were in the middle, and two were positioned low in the social hierarchy. Elephant groups averaged nine members and were each led by a matriarch. Out of the study population, 50 groups were the focus of this paper.
"Save the Elephants' advanced satellite tracking system is enabling us a unique and fascinating insight into the hourly movements of our study elephants," said Iain Douglas-Hamilton, study co-author and founder of Save the Elephants, which supported the radio-tracking of the elephant movements. "Our collars are now revealing how complex the relationship is between elephants' social structure and their environment."
Interestingly, the differences in movement among the various groups disappeared during the wet season, when food and water are readily available.
"When resources are plentiful, there is little competition, so there is no need for socially mediated differentiation in how space is used," said Wittemyer. "Dominant groups actually increase their movements in the wet season, exploring the region and interacting socially with other groups. Elephants love to move. It's when conditions are bad that they conserve energy by restricting their movement."
|Contact: Sarah Yang|
University of California - Berkeley