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1 August 2004 The Return of the Giants: Ecological Effects of an Increasing Elephant Population
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Abstract

Northern Botswana and adjacent areas, have the world's largest population of African elephant (Loxodonta africana). However, a 100 years ago elephants were rare following excessive hunting. Simultaneously, ungulate populations were severely reduced by decease. The ecological effects of the reduction in large herbivores must have been substantial, but are little known. Today, however, ecosystem changes following the increase in elephant numbers cause considerable concern in Botswana. This was the background for the “BONIC” project, investigating the interactions between the increasing elephant population and other ecosystem components and processes. Results confirm that the ecosystem is changing following the increase in elephant and ungulate populations, and, presumably, developing towards a situation resembling that before the reduction of large herbivores. We see no ecological reasons to artificially change elephant numbers. There are, however, economic and social reasons to control elephants, and their range in northern Botswana may have to be artificially restricted.

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