Elephant Movement in a Human Landscape

Do elephants have a circadian rhythm? This visualization shows the hourly positions of five bull elephants fitted with GPS collars in Laikipia County, in central Kenya. The visualization illustrates 34,786 GPS positions, which have been compressed into a single 24-hour period to illustrate the general pattern of movement throughout the day, regardless of season or individual.


In Laikipia, elephants live within a mosaic of land use types that include land managed for conservation, land used for smallholder cultivation and land that is used by subsistence pastoralists. We have redefined these into three broad categories: 1) Safe habitat; 2) Unsafe habitat-Pastoralist; 3) Unsafe habitat-Cultivation. Elephant cows and calves tend to stay within safe habitat away from potential conflict and associated risk with people. Bulls, on the other hand, are more likely to indulge in high-risk/high-reward behavior. Some of them gather into crop-raiding groups that exploit nearby unsafe habitats, particularly croplands, under the cover of darkness. By day their range contracts within refuges of relative safety. By night, they fan out rapidly to exploit resources, including crops, in the surrounding unsafe habitats before retreating back to safety at dawn.

Please explore the map. Zoom in to see crop raids in action. Click on polygons to reveal property information.


The elephants Ismail, Kimani, Jangwani, Nelson, and Carlos contributed to this project. This visualization was built with the Torque javascript library, a CartoDB project. Thanks to Andrew at CartoDB for expert assistance.

Map created by Wildermaps for Space for Giants. Email us with feedback!