Gourma elephants from Mali are unique among the species because of their long distance north-south migration (up to 4,700 km). Researchers have applied new analytical techniques using time-density and velocity-grid algorithms to characterize their spatial patterns. Results suggest that water availability, primary productivity, and nutritional content of vegetation are ultimate factors guiding the elephant’s movement.
Researchers and conservationists are concerned that civil upheaval in Mali will threaten the Gourma elephants, which is already considered highly endangered. But spatial patterns revealed by this research may help identify ecologically important regions and “crux points” that will guide conservation efforts.