The proportion of reaction indices per month
Since our last report we have been able to continue with our research unhindered, aside from a few logistical challenges, and therefore we have done some initial analyses to see if the cropping season has an impact on how they react to humans. It is currently the cropping season in Botswana and the team is busy attending crop raided fields to get valuable data on where the elephants have come from, how many there were and an estimate of their ages from the size of their footprints.
So far, our data shows that the male elephants in the Makgadikgadi Pans National Park are mostly unaffected by the presence of humans with reaction indices of 1 or 2 (not reacting at all, elephant notices the vehicle but does not show signs of agitation or fear). With reaction 2 being the most common (Figure 1) throughout the year.
Whilst it is not appropriate to test for the effects of hunting on our sample, given the low number of hunts that took place during our data collection to date (1), we also theorised that age, crop season and group size might affect how an elephant reacted when they were first approached by researchers in a vehicle. As the data is categorial we used Chi-squared tests throughout. We found that the age of the elephant did not affect the reaction indices, X2 (1, N=751) = 2.0769, p=0.35, Figure 2. However, the social grouping of the males observed did affect the reaction indices, X2 (1, N=797) = 12.8115, p=0.0.001, with lone males more likely to react by noticing the research vehicle but does not show signs of agitation or fear (Figure 3).
When we investigated the effect of the crop-raiding season, we found no significant difference in the reaction indices of the male elephants in the park X2 (1, N=797) = 0.9644, p=0.326, Figure 4. The final aspect we thought might affect the reaction indices of the elephant we observed is the distance from the observer to the elephants on first sighing, here we found a significant difference X2 (1, N=133) = 46.2812, p=0.00001, Figure 5.
In summary, it is very reassuring to note that the elephants in the Makgadikgadi Pans National Park are very calm about the presence of humans and that at the moment it does not look like the crop-raiding season affects this, however, we look forward to including the additional data from this year. It is not surprising that elephants that are observed less than 50m from the observer will be more reactive, but again reassuring to note that the reaction is minimal
Whilst our work has not been able to focus any analyses on the implications of hunting on the reaction of elephants to human presence, your support has enabled us to capture valuable data on the elephants that utilise the Makgadikgadi Pans National Park and we hope that you feel that your donation has been used to further the knowledge of male African elephants.
Reaction indices across the age groups
The effect of social grouping on reaction
Proportion of reaction indices in the non-crop rai
Affect of distance of observer on reaction