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The effect of mature elephant bull introductions on resident bulls group size and musth periods Phinda Private Game Reserve, South Africa

The effect of mature elephant bull introductions on resident bulls group size and musth periods Phinda Private Game Reserve, South Africa

South African Journal of Wildlife Research 36(2): 133-137

African elephant have been reintroduced into small, enclosed reserves in South Africa, many populations being established with orphans < 10 years old. This has resulted in abnormal behaviour in some elephant populations, which was corrected in Pilanesberg National Park by introducing older bulls and culling certain problem elephants. In July 2003, three older bulls (29-41 years old) were introduced into Phinda Private Game Reserve, KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa, in order to normalize the bull age structure and in an attempt to reduce the abnormally long musth period of one particular resident bull. These introduced bulls were monitored intensively after release, as was the resident bull population, both before and after introduction of the older bulls. The introduced bulls all came into musth within eleven months post release. The older bulls do not appear to have had any influence on the musth periods of the oldest resident bull (36 years old at introduction). Detailed behavioural studies of the effects of management actions on elephant populations, within small, enclosed reserves provide information and resources for future management decisions. This study demonstrates that old bulls can be successfully introduced to very small areas provided that electrification of the entire perimeter is secure. Further, the introduction has no detectable medium-term (one year) effect on the behaviour of a relatively dense population of resident elephants, and the welfare of the elephants was not greatly affected.

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