Entry and aggregation at a Central African bai reveal social patterns in the elusive forest elephant Loxodonta cyclotis.

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From: Animal Behaviour(Vol. 171)
Publisher: Elsevier B.V.
Document Type: Report
Length: 451 words

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Keywords association index; Elephas maximus; frugivory; Loxodonta spp.; philopatry; shared space use; social network Highlights * We examined social patterns of female forest elephants using a bai forest clearing. * Composition of aggregations within the clearing indicated considerable mixing. * Groups that entered the bai together likely represented core social units. * Older females may not function as social hubs, unlike in other elephant species. * Forest resource constraints may shape social patterns of this elusive species. Social relationships are shaped by ecological conditions, giving rise to diverse societies even among related species. Among elephants, females exhibit close, often familial bonds with some degree of philopatry and fission--fusion dynamics. Forest elephant sociality is the least studied among elephant species, and their ecology differs from that of savannah and Asian elephants. We use over 15 years of data from an individually identified population using the Dzanga Bai forest clearing in Central African Republic to characterize social patterns of adult female elephants in two contexts, when entering the forest clearing and within the clearing. Social properties were nonrandom and highly stable over the study period in both contexts. Composition of aggregations within the clearing indicated considerable mixing among females, while association in groups entering the bai together were limited in composition, likely representing core social units. The co-entry data set exhibited distinct communities that were not apparent in the co-occurrence data set. In contrast to savannah elephants, network centrality and age were negatively correlated, suggesting a muted or absent matriarch social hub role in forest elephants at a broader level than family units. Temporal and community analyses indicated that bai co-entry and co-occurrence contexts may represent distinct processes, with the former social and the latter driven by shared resource use. Our results point to social patterns potentially driven by the need for families to fission into small units because of resource competition and highlight the importance of aggregation context in interpreting association indices. Author Affiliation: (a) Conservation Ecology Center, Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute, Front Royal, VA, U.S.A. (b) Institute for Conservation Research, San Diego Zoo Global, Escondido, CA, U.S.A. (c) Save the Elephants, Nairobi, Kenya (d) The Wildlife Conservation Society, Bronx, NY, U.S.A. (e) Elephant Listening Project, Center for Conservation Bioacoustics, Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Cornell University, Ithaca, NY, U.S.A. (f) Department of Fish, Wildlife, and Conservation Biology, Colorado State University, Fort Collins, CO, U.S.A. * Correspondence: S. Z. Goldenberg, Conservation Ecology Center, Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute, 1500 Remount Rd., Front Royal, VA, 22630, U.S.A. Article History: Received 11 June 2020; Revised 3 August 2020; Accepted 28 September 2020 (miscellaneous) MS. number: A20-00433 Byline: Shifra Z. Goldenberg [GoldenbergS@si.edu] (a,b,c,*), Andrea K. Turkalo (d,e), Peter H. Wrege (e), Daniela Hedwig (e), George Wittemyer (c,f)

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Gale Document Number: GALE|A648929886