Smallholder farms as stepping stones corridors for crop-raiding elephants in Northern Tanzania: Integration of Bayesian expert system and network simulator
van Gils, H.A.M.J.
Crop-raiding elephants affect local livelihoods, undermining conservation efforts. Yet, crop-raiding patterns are poorly understood, making prediction and protection difficult. We hypothesized that raiding elephants use corridors between daytime refuges and farmland. Elephant counts, crop-raiding records, household surveys, Bayesian expert system, and least-cost path simulation were used to predict four alternative categories of daily corridors: (1) footpaths, (2) dry river beds, (3) stepping stones along scattered small farms, and (4) trajectories of shortest distance to refuges. The corridor alignments were compared in terms of their minimum cumulative resistance to elephant movement and related to crop-raiding zones quantified by a kernel density function. The “stepping stone” corridors predicted the crop-raiding patterns. Elephant presence was confirmed along these corridors, demonstrating that small farms located between refuges and contiguous farmland increase habitat connectivity for elephant. Our analysis successfully predicted elephant occurrence in farmland where daytime counts failed to detect nocturnal presence. These results have conservation management implications.