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· Writing for Pacific Standard, Shreya Dasgupta reports that researchers in Sri Lanka have identified a way to use interviews to divide the country into a grid and create a distribution map of the endangered Asian elephant population.
· Based on the researchers' findings in Sir Lanka, are elephants starting to recover? Do these results not truly reflect the plight of the Asian elephant? How can donors contribute to conservation efforts?
· Read more about the endangered Asian elephant population.
For a large, charismatic, and endangered species such as the Asian elephant, you might think scientists would have figured out where they hang out and when. But it turns out, there's very little evidence-based information on their distribution across countries in Asia. Researchers in Sri Lanka, however, are filling in some of this information gap.
By conducting interview surveys across the island nation over four years, researchers have now produced a countrywide, data-based distribution map of Asian elephants for the country. This isn't just Sri Lanka's first such map, the researchers say in a new study published in Oryx—it's also the first evidence-based distribution map of Asian elephants for any of the 13 range countries. Previous distribution estimates either covered smaller areas within host countries, or were based on "guesswork and conjecture," the researchers say.
To find out where elephants occur in Sri Lanka, Prithiviraj Fernando, an elephant expert at Sri Lanka's Centre for Conservation and Research, and his colleagues divided the country into a grid with nearly 2,750 cells, each 9.7 square miles in area (the cell size was based on the smallest known home range of Sri Lankan elephants). Then, between 2011 and 2015, the researchers interviewed three residents per grid cell. If a cell didn't have any residents, such as those that fell within a protected area, the team estimated the presence of elephants based on the four adjoining cells. The team also validated some of the interview data using GPS locations of elephants that the researchers tracked from 2004 to 2018.
Read the full article about the endangered Asian elephant population by Shreya Dasgupta at Pacific Standard.