Ecology and Evolution- https://doi.org/10.1002/ece3.9288
Climatic variability, resource availability, and anthropogenic impacts heavily influence an animal's home range. This makes home range size an effective metric for understanding how variation in environmental factors alter the behavior and spatial distribution of animals. In this study, we estimated home range size of African elephants (Loxodonta africana) across four sites in Namibia, along a gradient of precipitation and human impact, and investigated how these gradients influence the home range size on regional and site scales. Additionally, we estimated the time individuals spent within protected area boundaries. The mean 50% autocorrelated kernel density estimate for home range was 2200 km2 [95% CI:1500–3100 km2]. Regionally, precipitation and vegetation were the strongest predictors of home range size, accounting for a combined 53% of observed variation. However, different environmental covariates explained home range variation at each site. Precipitation predicted most variation (up to 74%) in home range sizes (n = 66) in the drier western sites, while human impacts explained 71% of the variation in home range sizes (n = 10) in Namibia's portion of the Kavango-Zambezi Transfrontier Conservation Area. Elephants in all study areas maintained high fidelity to protected areas, spending an average of 85% of time tracked on protected lands. These results suggest that while most elephant space use in Namibia is driven by natural dynamics, some elephants are experiencing changes in space use due to human modification.