The Selous Game Reserve in the south of Tanzania is home to 60 percent of Africa’s elephants. Among the largest undisturbed, protected areas in Africa, it has also become one of Africa’s elephant “killing fields.” Those on the front lines studying elephant behavior witness the alarming effect poaching has had on the elephants that survive. This clip from the National Geographic film Battle for the Elephants documents the disturbing changes in elephant behavior, including dramatic displays of fear and increased agitation, stress, and aggression in the presence of humans.
Scientists who study elephant behavior agree that survivors of poaching are stressed. Their fears can disrupt the elephants’ complex matriarchal social structure, reduce their success in breeding, and increase their antagonism toward humans. Elephants mourn their deceased companions, demonstrating rituals that include touching the remains and carrying the deceased elephant’s bones or tusks with them.
Where is the Selous Game Reserve, and why is it referred to as Africa's elephant "killing fields?"
Why is the change in elephant behavior an area of concern for scientists and elephant advocates?
For Further Exploration
- National Geographic News Watch: Elephants Struggle to Cope With Poaching of Their Kin, Study Finds
- SeaWorld: Elephants—Behavior
- National Geographic Society: Ivory Poaching Threatens ‘Elephant Memory’
Term Part of Speech Definition Encyclopedic Entry behavior Noun
anything an organism does involving action or response to stimulation.
management of a natural resource to prevent exploitation, destruction, or neglect.
Encyclopedic Entry: conservation poach Verb
to hunt, trap, or fish illegally.
physical or mental factor (or set of factors) that disturbs the body's normal state of functioning or ability.