In this paper we analyse the daytime movements of African elephants (Loxodonta africana) in different habitats in the Pongola Game Reserve, South Africa. On average adult males moved faster than females in all habitat types except when grouped together (then females moved at the faster male pace). Elephants demonstrated distinct movement patterns in different habitat types. All the movement parameters indicate that the elephants turned less the further they were from a large permanent body of water (Jozini Dam) and for males with increasing distance to the females. Male and female elephants turned more in habitat types that had favourable resources such as forage and shade, than they did in unfavourable habitats. Thus, the elephants used a direct movement strategy — turning less — when needing to get to a destination more quickly (e.g. toward water or mates), rather than significantly increasing their speed. It is hypothesized that these elephants are optimizing energy efficiency while still varying their foraging approach and search intensity. Patterns of movement through a habitat will affect ecological impacts in that habitat and so habitat-related movement pattern studies of this type could assist landscape planning (e.g. waterhole design and distribution) and large herbivore conservation.
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