Retrospective assessment of long-term conservation management of elephants in Addo Elephant National Park, South Africa

Anna M. Whitehouse a1p1c1 and Graham I. H. Kerley a1
a1 Terrestrial Ecology Research Unit, Department of Zoology, University of Port Elizabeth, PO Box 1600, Port Elizabeth, 6000, South Africa


The elephant population of South Africa's Addo Elephant National Park increased in number from 11 elephants when the park was created in 1931, to 284 elephants in 1998. We studied management records throughout this period in conjunction with demographic data, enabling retrospective assessment of the long-term impacts of management actions. Problem animal control during the 1930s left no sexually mature bulls in the population for a period of 9 years, hindering the population's initial recovery. Population growth prior to 1954 was also limited by high mortality: between 1931 and 1954 inadequate fencing allowed elephants to stray outside their protected area resulting in elephants being shot by farmers or dying from collisions with trains. Secure elephant-proof fencing was constructed in 1954. Subsequently, there was a significant decrease in mortality (from 5.0% to 1.2%) and an increase in population growth (from 3.2% to 6.1%). However, evidence suggests that confinement might have had a negative impact on survival and social behaviour of adult males. We suggest that the concepts of social carrying capacities and behavioural conservation of populations need to be incorporated into management. The case studies described here highlight the importance of treating conservation management and research as necessary partners, and monitoring should be an integral part of any management plan.

(Received June 11 2001)
(Revised October 24 2001)
(Accepted February 27 2002)

Key Words: Addo; carrying capacity; conservation management; elephant; population; South Africa.

c1 E-mail: awhitehouse@ifaw.org
p1 Present address: Addo Elephant National Park, PO Box 52, Addo 6105, South Africa.