Apparently, Botswana elephants do get out once in a while. In fact, a landmark CI study of elephant migratory patterns in Chobe National Park has found some prefer the nightlife, leaving the safety of the park to roam across international boundaries under the cover of darkness. This is good news for CI scientists and wildlife officials trying to reduce the park's destructively high concentrations of elephants. Unfortunately, the continued threat of poaching
limits these forays and most return before dawn.
"Elephants are highly intelligent creatures that will not colonize these otherwise suitable habitats until the threat of poaching and other harassment is reduced," explains co-researcher Curtice Griffin, professor of Wildlife Ecology and Conservation at the University of Massachusetts.
Creating suitable conditions is the goal of CI and wildlife officials from Botswana and four neighboring countries. They are collaborating to establish a 103,000-square-mile transfrontier conservation area to help disperse elephants concentrated in Botswana into their historical ranges. If these roughly 120,000 elephants are not permanently dispersed, they could destroy the riparian forests
and severely impact the species-rich riverfront habitats in Chobe.
To learn how, where and why elephants migrate, CI researchers are using state-of-the-art satellite technology to accurately track elephant movements. In the past year, they established 5,000 location "fixes" on elephant locations, 800 of these outside the park in neighboring countries. Elephants did not stay out long, but the fact that so many left at all is encouraging. Notes Project Manager Mike Chase, "This indicates elephants will leave the park and disperse permanently across international borders if adequate protection is in place."