According to a new study, elephants living in eastern Africa have adapted and inverted their natural cycles in such a way as to avoid poachers. Namely, these were noted to have started traveling at night and hiding during the day.
Typically, elephants use the daylight hours to travel and forage for food and rest during the night.
To Avoid Poachers, Elephants Have Seemingly Changed into Being Nocturnal Animals
Festus Ihwagi, from the Netherlands University of Twente, is one of the researchers involved in this new study. This was conducted in collaboration with Save the Elephants, an NGO.
Data for the research comes from 60 elephants living in northern Kenya. These were fitted and tracked with GPS devices which were monitored for around three years, in between 2002 and 2012.
The 32 males and 28 females were followed as they moved in and around the Kenyan Laikipa-Samburu ecosystem.
To more accurately determine their activity levels, the study team measured and compared the distances traveled by the elephants during the night and day. This data was then coupled with information regarding the areas and time periods when poachers were more or less active.
“Simultaneous elephant tracking and monitoring of causes of death presented a perfect natural laboratory,” declared Ihwagi.
Based on the results, the researchers noted that, especially for females, their nighttime activity increased significantly and in sync with the poaching levels.
In high-danger regions, these reportedly reduced their activity during the day by an average 50 percent when compared to low-danger areas.
Ihwagi points out that while this transition from daytime to nighttime activity may be useful in the short term, it might come with other problems in the long run.
“For the mature elephants, it implies an alteration of their normal social life. For mothers with very young calves, the risk of predation of the calves by lions or hyenas would be higher at night.”
The researcher believes that using real-time GPS tracking might help detect spikes in nocturnal activity or the elephants’ feeling threatened. In turn, this might help rapidly detect poaching attempts.
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