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Behavioural changes in African elephants in response to wildlife tourism

Szott, I, Pretorius, Y and Koyama, NF Behavioural changes in African elephants in response to wildlife tourism. Journal of Zoology. ISSN 0952-8369 (Accepted)

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Abstract

Eco-tourism and human-wildlife interaction can lead to increases in stress, vigilance and aggression in many species, however, studies investigating wildlife viewing are scarce. We present the first study investigating the impact of wildlife tourism on African elephant, Loxodonta africana, behaviour. Over 15 months, we studied the effect of monthly tourist pressure (tourist numbers) on the occurrence of stress-related, vigilance and conspecific-directed aggressive behaviour in 27 individually identified elephants and the effect of up to 3 vehicles on the direction of travel of non-identified herds using five-minute continuous focal observations. We analysed the effect of tourist pressure and vehicle presence using generalised linear mixed models, including habitat type, herd type and size, and season, as well as sex and age for behaviour models, as additional factors. We found no effect of factors on stress-related behaviour, but elephants were more likely to perform vigilance behaviours at waterholes compared to other habitat types. As tourist pressure increased, conspecific-directed aggression in elephants increased and male elephants were more likely to perform conspecific directed aggression compared to female elephants. . Further, we found that elephant herds became increasingly likely to move away with increasing numbers of vehicles present. Results suggest that reserves should monitor elephant behaviour to identify when tourist pressure has potential effects on elephant welfare and train guides to monitor behaviour and adjust minimum distances flexibly to ensure high welfare standards and tourist safety. This study further contributes to a small but growing body of literature on non-consumptive wildlife tourism impacts on wild animals.

Item Type: Article
Uncontrolled Keywords: 06 Biological Sciences, 05 Environmental Sciences
Subjects: G Geography. Anthropology. Recreation > GE Environmental Sciences
Q Science > QL Zoology
G Geography. Anthropology. Recreation > G Geography (General) > G149 Travel. Voyages and travels (General) > G154.9 Travel and state. Tourism
Divisions: Natural Sciences and Psychology
Publisher: Wiley
Date Deposited: 06 Feb 2019 09:15
Last Modified: 06 Feb 2019 09:18
URI: http://researchonline.ljmu.ac.uk/id/eprint/10117

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