Elephants, Facts and Fables


Elephant movements

Watch the elephant movements in Google Earth


More info

Read our CERU Publications to find out more about the science

View a list of popular magazine articles about the subject


Elephant Conservation

Megaparks for Metapopulations

Our 'megaparks for metapopulations' research initiative aims to develop novel solutions to manage and maintain southern Africa's elephant population. The initiative guides the implementation of ecological principals to ameliorate impact and conflict as well as allow populations to be limited by natural forces. We consider southern African elephant populations as sub-units that make up a series of metapopulations. Populations are seen as part of a greater spatial and temporal whole. This holistic view calls for a landscape approach to conservation management and suggests that ecological linkages may induce metapopulation dynamics. Linking increasing (source) and decreasing (sink) populations should induce regional stability, despite local population fluctuations. Additionally, megaparks should provide for seasonal changes in elephant impacts across space and aid in the maintenance of biological diversity.

We study the demographic variables and landscape dynamics of elephant populations in eight clusters of conservation areas across southern Africa. For practical reasons we consider each of these clusters a megapark. Our research focuses on (1) what determines how elephants range both within and between conservation clusters, (2) how to apply range use information to link conservation areas; (3) what drives age-specific survival
and reproductive variables in the megaparks; and (4) how to best deal with conflicts between elephants, people and components of biological diversity in each megapark. We use this information to test the metapopulation metaphor and to outline megaparks to stabilise elephant populations and their impact.

CERU supports research on these key topics as well as opportunities to develop conservation capacity and influence political and management decisions in seven southern African countries encompassing the study area. Not only should this approach benefit elephants, but by using elephants as a flagship of conservation, it should benefit the conservation of biological diversity throughout southern Africa.

The science behind these ideas is available from the publications section of our website, while we provide a more popular treatment of the same ideas through editions of popular magazine publication available for download.