Climate Change Threatens Older Elephants Most, Jeopardizing African Elephants' Future
Published:21 Mar.2024    Source:University of Massachusetts Amherst

Africa's Greater Virunga Landscape (GVL) is a 15,700-square-kilometer area of savannas, mountains and lakes in Uganda, Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo. It is home to the largest land animals in Africa, with seven national parks, three tropical high-forest reserves and three wildlife reserves, three of which are world heritage sites, covering 88% of the area. It is also home to a population of African elephants whose numbers have dropped so precipitously over the past century that they are now listed as critically endangered by the International Union for Conservation's Red List.

Elephants play a key role in modifying and sustaining their landscapes by dispersing the seeds of the plants they feed upon, felling trees and enriching soil fertility with their dung. They also play an important role in many African cultures. To get a clearer picture of what the elephants' future might look like and what to do to best ensure their survival, lead author Simon Nampindo, and Timothy Randhir, built a systems dynamic model. This model can look at all the different environmental and population dynamics within a system.
In the case of a species like the elephant, which migrates widely across national boundaries, it is especially important to also understand how differing policies could affect future herds so that management agencies can coordinate their responses. In particular, Nampindo and Randhir find that a coordinated GVL management strategy at the national, regional and local levels is needed to address poaching threats. Well-funded anti-poaching efforts are essential, but they also point to the importance of community-led programs and education in the front-line towns and villages where human-elephant interaction is common.