The Assessment of Elephant Population Size and Distribution Patterns in the Mago National Park

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Addis Ababa University


The subspecies of the African elephant, Loxodonta africana knochenhaueri, was studied in the Mago National Park to determine population numbers, distribution by seasons and migration routes. The current poaching situation, population age structure and the size of the animals home-range were also assessed. The study was carried out between June 1997 and April 1998. The population size of elephant was estimated indirectly from the droppings using line transect method within a 1,564 km2 area. The total estimate of the elephant population for the Mago National Park was between 380 and 442. The observed density for the whole park was 0.18 elephant!km2. Elephant numbers Were also estimated directly from sightings. The maximum number observed in a herd was 182. Information on the age structure (determined from hind footprint lengths) indicates that the majority of the population was largely composed of subadult males, adult females and intermediates. Yearlings and juveniles Were very few. Observations and information from the local people on elephant migration and movement patterns suggest that some of the elephants move south to Murle Controlled Hunting Area travelling about 43 km outside the park areas. The total range traversed from north to south by elephants ofMago is about 129 km. The calculated average home-range is 1,597 km2 • A total of 82 plant species that elephants feed on were collected and identified. The study also indicates that poachers have made intensive exploitation of elephants for different purposes. The availability of modem fire arms to the local people in the South Omo has made poaching a serious problem. For example, a total of37 elephants were killed for ivory between December 1996 and April 1998. Most of the poaching activities took place in the dry season. The presence of beehives in the Mago National Park has also contributed for the serious decline of wild animals and contraction of their range. A total of ten thousand beehives were estimated for the whole park areas.