Ambient temperature as a determinant of landscape use in the savanna elephant, Loxodonta africana

02 Aug 2007

Elephants occur in landscapes where temperatures can reach 50 °C. Due to their large size they may face physiological problems of dissipating heat during such high temperatures. In spite of this, no one seems to have considered ambient temperature as limiting landscape choices in elephants. We recorded hourly landscape use in free-ranging elephants using GPS collars. We also placed temperature data loggers in each of the landscapes, to obtain corresponding ambient temperatures for each hour. Our results suggest that elephants may select landscapes based on the rate at which temperatures changed and also for shade. We suggest that these selected variables provide a thermal benefit to individuals. As such, we propose that landscape use in elephants may be constrained by their thermal physiological requirements as well as other resources such as food and water.