Do wildlife corridors link or extend habitat?

Human encroachment on wildlife habitats is leading to increased fragmentation; hence, there is an increasing focus on improving connectivity between remaining habitat. Large, wide-ranging species such as the African elephant, (Loxodonta africana), are particularly vulnerable due to their extensive habitat requirements. Wildlife corridors have been created to facilitate movement, with little knowledge to date on whether they serve their intended function as transit routes, or whether they simply extend the available habitat for occupancy. We collected data on elephant behaviour in the Mount Kenya Elephant Corridor, with the aim of quantifying the utility of the corridor. A grid of 25 camera traps was used to survey the 478 ha corridor over 11 weeks in 2016. Cameras recorded over 43,000 photos with 694 separate events triggered by elephants. Patterns of use varied spatially and temporally, indicating that certain areas were treated as habitat extension, while others were predominantly for transit. These differences were likely due to variation in vegetation cover and levels of human disturbance. Corridor use differed amongst individuals, suggesting that use may depend on both the characteristics of the corridor itself and the social or resource needs of individual elephants. The results of this research have informed the management of this wildlife corridor and provided recommendations for wider habitat management for elephants around Mount Kenya. 

This research was conducted by Siân E. Green under the joint MRes degree from Marwell Wildlife and the University of Southampton. The study was carried out in partnership with Lewa Wildlife Conservancy, Mount Kenya Trust, Marania and Kisima Farms and Ngare Ndare Forest Trust.  

The full paper was recently published in the African Journal of Ecology (2018) volume 56 pages: 860-871 https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1111/aje.12541

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