The Effect of Human Activity on the Welfare of the African Elephant (Loxodonta africana) in Namibia

Type Thesis or Dissertation - Master in Biology
Title The Effect of Human Activity on the Welfare of the African Elephant (Loxodonta africana) in Namibia
Publication (Day/Month/Year) 2015
The African elephant (Loxodonta africana) is vital in several African ecosystems,
accentuating the importance of conserving them. However, conservation efforts are
constantly complicated due to human population growth. Anthropogenic disturbances has
been linked with elevated stress levels in animals, which in turn is associated with decreased
welfare and fitness. The present study seeks to replicate a previously conducted study of
elephants in Tanzania, with the goal of evaluating the current Namibian elephant population
and increasing the knowledge of what anthropogenic disturbances are affecting, if at all, the
welfare of elephants. The study was done as a comparative study between areas with high
(outside protected area) and low (inside protected area) human interference, using the noninvasive
method of measuring the concentration of faecal glucocorticoid metabolites as a
measure of stress. During 32 days in the field, a total of 90 dung samples were collected and
analysed. The results supported the hypothesis with a significantly higher stress level
recorded outside the protected national park, Etosha (ENP), compared to inside ENP. Further
statistical analyses showed that the only variable explaining this variation significantly was
area (inside vs. outside). The findings suggest that anthropogenic disturbances are a
contributing factor, elevating stress levels in elephants residing in non-protected areas,
potentially affecting their welfare. Human-elephant conflicts (HEC) seem to be an important
underlying cause, hence emphasizing the importance of seeking to prevent and minimize
HEC in future conservation work. The low physiological stress levels measured inside ENP
further demonstrate the importance of protected areas for conservation purposes.

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