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Knowledge of elephant movement and grouping patterns in the wild is critical for their management and conservation. Much of these data come from GPS collar data and aerial surveys, which have provided invaluable information, but data from these methods are often limited to small groups or entire populations. Effective elephant management requires both generalized and localized methodologies. Here, we propose the expanded use of camera traps in research relating to elephant localized movements and grouping patterns as an additional tool for elephant conservation management. In this study, we use a battery-powered camera trap to provide daily high-resolution data of African savanna elephant (Loxodonta africana) grouping patterns over the course of an entire year. We present findings on the seasonal and diurnal grouping patterns of elephants at a waterhole in the northeast corner of Etosha National Park from July 2016 to June 2017. The frequency of elephant occurrences varied seasonally and diurnally across all group types (solitary male, male, family, and mixed groups), while group sizes did not vary seasonally, except for male groups. Solitary males occurred relatively equally throughout the day, while male and mixed groups occurred the most midday, and family groups occurred the most in the afternoon. Additionally, we measured the reliability of research assistants when collecting group type and group size data from the camera trap images. Intra- and inter-observer reliability was excellent among and across research assistants, highlighting the potential for non-specialist observers to have greater involvement in camera trap data collection. Our results support the use of camera trap data where GPS collars and aerial surveys are not feasible and where higher-resolution data are needed for more localized management. Finally, we discuss our experience with two different types of camera traps to highlight the pros and cons of each approach.


elephant; conservation; camera trap; grouping patterns; seasonality; diurnal; observer reliability; human–elephant coexistence






10.3390/ d15111146

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Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.


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