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Sustainability of elephant hunting across international borders in southern Africa: A case study of the greater Mapungubwe Transfrontier Conservation Area



Trophy hunting of African elephant is often implemented as an income generator for communities surrounding protected areas. However, the sustainability of hunting on elephant populations, especially with regards to international cross-border populations has not previously been evaluated. We assessed the effects of trophy hunting on the population dynamics and movements of elephant in the Greater Mapungubwe Transfrontier Conservation Area, which is spread across the junction of Botswana, South Africa, and Zimbabwe. Currently, no common policy exits in quota setting for cross-border species, and each country determines their own quota based on limited data. Using VORTEX, we determined the sustainability of current quotas of elephant off-take under different ecological and hunting scenarios. We used distribution data from 6 aerial surveys and hunting data per region to determine the disturbance effect of hunting on bulls and breeding herds separately. Hunting of bulls had a direct effect in reducing bull numbers but also an indirect effect due to disturbance that resulted in movement of elephants out of the areas in which hunting occurred. The return interval was short for bulls but longer for females. Only a small number of bulls (<10/year) could be hunted sustainably. At current rates of hunting, under average ecological conditions, trophy bulls will disappear from the population in less than 10 years. We recommend a revision of the current quotas within each country for the Greater Mapungubwe elephant population, and the establishment of a single multi-jurisdictional (cross-border) management authority regulating the hunting of elephant and other cross-border species. © 2013 The Wildlife Society

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