The Chobe elephants: one species, two niches

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Elephants and Savanna Woodland Ecosystems: A Study from Chobe National Park, Botswana


C. Skarpe, J.T. du Toit, S.R. Moe


Wiley-Blackwell and the Zoological Society of London, Chichester, UK

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Botswana is a stronghold of the African savanna elephant, Loxodonta africana africana. There are more elephants in Botswana, and they are all in the northern part of the country. This chapter shows that population estimates are only crude predictors of elephant effects on woody vegetation because of significant sex differences in elephant ecology, which occur at multiple scales. Sexual size-dimorphism, although pronounced in elephants, is common among large mammals and probably evolved through competition among males for mating opportunities in polygynous breeding systems. Chobe is renowned for its large aggregations of elephants on the floodplain, where 100 or more elephants can be seen together in the dry season. Elephant population surveys still routinely lump elephant sex and age classes together, so managers and researchers have to work with crude total-population data when addressing issues of elephant-driven disturbance to vegetation.

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