Scielo RSS <![CDATA[Bothalia - African Biodiversity & Conservation ]]> vol. 48 num. 2 lang. en <![CDATA[SciELO Logo]]> <![CDATA[<b>Changes in African Elephant (<i>Loxodonta africana</i>) faecal steroid concentrations post-defaecation</b>]]> BACKGROUND: Faecal hormone metabolite measurement is a widely used tool for monitoring reproductive function and response to stressors in wildlife. Despite many advantages of this technique, the delay between defaecation, sample collection and processing may influence steroid concentrations, as faecal bacterial enzymes can alter steroid composition post-defaecation. OBJECTIVES: This study investigated changes in faecal glucocorticoid (fGCM), androgen (fAM) and progestagen (fPM) metabolite concentrations in faeces of a male and female African elephant (Loxodonta africana) post-defaecation and the influence of different faeces-drying regimes. METHOD: Subsamples of fresh faeces were frozen after being dried in direct sun or shade for 6, 20, 24, 48 and 72 h and 7 and 34 days. A subset of samples for each sex was immediately frozen as controls. Faecal hormone metabolite concentrations were determined using enzyme immunoassays established for fGCM, fAM and fPM monitoring in male and female African elephants. RESULTS: Hormone metabolite concentrations of all three steroid classes were stable at first, but changed distinctively after 20 h post-defaecation, with fGCM concentrations decreasing over time and fPM and fAM concentrations steadily increasing. In freeze-dried faeces fGCM concentrations were significantly higher than respective concentrations in sun-dried material, which were in turn significantly higher than fGCM concentrations in shade-dried material. In contrast, fAM concentrations were significantly higher in sun- and shade-dried faeces compared to freeze-dried faeces. Higher fPM concentrations were also found in air-dried samples compared to lyophilised faeces, but the effect was only significant for sun-dried material. CONCLUSION: The revealed time restriction for collecting faecal material for hormone monitoring from elephants in the wild should be taken into account to assure reliable and comparable results. However, if logistics allow a timely collection, non-invasive hormone measurement remains a powerful and reliable approach to provide information about an elephant's endocrine status. <![CDATA[<b>Who owns and is responsible for the elephant in the room? Management plans for free-roaming elephant in South Africa</b>]]> In 2008, South Africa adopted its 'National Norms and Standards for the Management of Elephants in South Africa'. Concern has subsequently been raised as to whether these norms and standards apply to free-ranging elephant on land, which had not been enclosed with a fence with the express purpose of containing these animals and other game on the property. The application of these norms and standards pivots on whether the owner(s) of the property have taken possession of these animals in accordance with common law applicable to game, or have given effect to the provisions of the Game Theft Act. To address this concern, this article briefly explores the evolution of South African regulatory jurisprudence applicable to game, including elephant, and analyses the norms and standards in relation to international and national legislation and common law applying to elephants. The norms and standards are not applicable to unowned, free-roaming elephant. These norms and standards, therefore, do not fulfil their primary objective of uniform management of elephant across South Africa. This limitation of the norms and standards, therefore, needs to be considered when they are revised. <![CDATA[<b>Vulnerability of vulture populations to elephant impacts in KwaZulu-Natal</b>]]> Elephant were previously widespread in savanna and coastal systems of KwaZulu-Natal (KZN), but were virtually extirpated by 1870. Over time, elephant have been reintroduced into their former range in KZN, but always onto small fenced systems (mean size 191.3 km² ± 87.8 km², median size 107.0 km², range 14 km² - 900 km²). These populations have increased rapidly (8.4% per annum), and although a number of populations are now being managed using contraception, the majority of the populations (66.7%, 14 out of 21) are stocked above the 'preferred density' as defined in their approved management plans, while others will soon exceed the preferred density. Vulture populations in KZN are small, declining and already at risk of extinction. In KZN, 94.2% of tree-nesting vulture nests occur in areas with elephant; this could increase to 99.5% in the near future if proposed land-use change takes place. Anthropogenic impacts in the broader landscape mean that there are limited opportunities for vultures to nest elsewhere, and we hypothesise that loss of suitable nesting habitat in existing areas, including through impact of elephant on large trees, could result in declines and even extirpation of these species as breeding residents. Given the demonstrated and potential impacts of elephants on large trees necessary for vulture nesting, it is essential that the role of protected areas and extensive wildlife systems for vultures be adequately taken into account when managing elephant populations. It is important that a precautionary and adaptive management approach is taken regarding management of elephant in areas important for vultures, at least until the ecological interactions between vultures, vegetation, elephant and other drivers are better understood, and until the willingness and ability to manage elephant numbers and impact according to the elephant management plans are demonstrated.