January's Animal of the Month

January's Animal of the Month

Elephants are migratory by nature. Each year, they generally follow the same routes as their ancestors. Migration distances vary considerably depending on environmental conditions, food and water availability, and dangers. The matriarchs of the herd use their remarkable memory to recall these migratory routes, keeping their family safe as they lead them to ripe feeding grounds with the changing of the seasons.

The routes the elephants travel are called “corridors” and are relatively comparable to our road system, allowing us to find our way from point A to point B. These functionally narrow corridors form vital natural habitat links between larger habitats. In addition, they are critical for other wildlife because elephants are a keystone species since other species in the ecosystem largely depend on them. If elephants were removed, the ecosystem would change drastically.

Over the past several decades, elephant corridors in both Asia and Africa have eroded due to deforestation, human infrastructure, village expansion, mining, and the use of electric fences to protect crops, thereby disrupting elephants’ natural pathways. As elephant corridors continue to disappear, human-elephant conflicts become more common—ruining crops, destroying homes, and causing tragic accidents for members of both species.

Elephants are known to prefer the path of least resistance. A recent Kenya study found that elephants do their utmost to avoid going uphill, ignoring prominent hills for flatter paths known as land corridors.

In the early 2000s, conservation groups started to understand elephant migrating behavior and began working to reestablish and protect the previously blocked corridors. Today, information obtained by tracking collars is invaluable in the quest to fully understand elephant migratory behavior and protect the last free-roaming elephants.



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