An elephant never forgets. This seems to be the case, at least, for elephants roaming about Namibia, looking for food, fresh water, and other resources.
The relationship between resource availability and wildlife movement patterns is essential to understanding species behavior and ecology. Landscapes can change from day-to-day and year-to-year, and many animals will move about according to resource availability. But do they remember past resource conditions? Just how important is memory and spatial cognition when seeking to understand wildlife movement?
Researchers in Etosha National Park, Namibia, examined this question through an iconic mammal. “African elephants (Loxodonta africana) are ideal for this study – they have excellent cognitive abilities and long-term spatial memory,” lead author Miriam Tsalyuk of University of California Berkeley explained, “which helps them return to areas with better food and water. African savannas are unpredictable with a prolonged dry season, where knowledge of the long-term availability of resources is highly advantageous.” The study was published today in the Ecological Society of America’s journal Ecological Monographs. MORE