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Geospatial Analysis of Bull Elephant Movements Towards Mitigating Human-Elephant Conflict in the Zambezi River Region of Southern Africa

Event Type
Department of Geography & GIS
Sep 16, 2022   3:00 pm  
Marguerite Madden, University of Georgia
This event is free and open to public
Originating Calendar
Geography and Geographic Information Science

In the face of increasing human population, urban development and human migration to cities in Africa, mounting Human-Wildlife Conflict (HEC) is being exacerbated by drought and shifts in the wet and dry seasons. In southern Africa, seventy-five percent of African elephants and three million people live in the Kavango-Zambezi Transfrontier Conservation Area (KAZA-TFCA) that covers portions of five countries. A mosaic of national parks, private and communal lands is one of the last regions of Africa where elephants are free roaming. This, however, results in conflicts with sustainable farmers, motorists, local residents and tourists as human activities increasingly encroach on wildlife habitat and corridors leading to water resources. Researchers at the Center for Geospatial Research (CGR) within the Department of Geography at the University of Georgia (UGA) are collaborating with scientists and resource managers at Salisbury University in Maryland, Bridgewater State University in Massachusetts, Connected Conservation in Zimbabwe and the Victoria Falls Wildlife Trust in Zimbabwe to use remote sensing and elephant movement data to analyze spatial-temporal patterns of bull elephant behavior related to human activities, land use/land cover changes and climatic factors within an area largely centered on Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe. Bull elephants are the primary agents in HEC – raiding crops, crossing major roadways, threatening tourists, eating city garbage and even attacking people. In cooperation with the Zimbabwe Department of National Parks and Wildlife Management, we have been tracking GPS-collared bull elephants since 2017 and assessing their movements/behaviors related to landscape factors, wet/dry seasonality, droughts and human activities of development and sustainable farming. Mobile phone mapping allows us to monitor their locations in near real-time and chili peppers are being tested as a mitigation measure to drive elephants away from crops and residential areas. Connected Conservation is working with farmers to grow chili peppers and extract capsaicin and capsaicinoids from the peppers to make chili wax, paste and oils to drive elephants away from crops and urban areas. It is hoped that better understanding of bull elephant movement behavior, along with collaborations with farmers, residents and resource managers in the community, will assist decision makers with improved planning of future development and wildlife management policies that facilitate human cohabitation with wildlife.

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