Patch-occupancy survey of elephant (Loxodonta africana) surrounding Livingstone, Zambia


Authors: David A. Youldon, Jackie Abell, Joanne S. Briffitt, Lackson Chama, Michaela D. Channings, Anastasia Kilundo, Christine K. Larsen, Dabwiso Sakala, Bruce A. Schulte Koedoe; Vol 59, No 1

Date Published



Wild elephants represent the biggest human–wildlife conflict issue in Livingstone, Zambia. However, little is known about their movements. This survey investigated elephants’ habitat use outside a core protected and fenced zone that forms part of Mosi-oa-Tunya National Park, Zambia. Using ‘patch-occupancy’ methodology, indications of elephant presence (feeding behaviour, dung and tracks) were surveyed. The survey aimed to assist proposed future monitoring exercises by defining the geographical extent that should be considered to improve accuracy in species abundance estimates. Results were supplemented using collected indications of elephant presence from prior monitoring exercises, and during this survey. Elephant presence was confirmed up to 8 km from the boundary of the protected core habitat, focussed in: (1) an unfenced zone of the national park, (2) along a road leading from the national park to the Dambwa Forest to the north and (3) along two rivers located to the west (Sinde River) and east (Maramba River) of the core area. Detection probability of elephant presence was high using these methods, and we recommend regular sampling to determine changes in habitat use by elephants, as humans continue to modify land-use patterns.

Conservation implications: Identification of elephant ranging behaviour up to 8 km outside of the Mosi-oa-Tunya National Park in southern Zambia will assist in managing human– elephant conflict in the area, as well as in assessing this seasonal population’s abundance.