ABS 2022
Using Crop Season and Moon Phase to Predict Elephant Crop Raiding in Southern Kenya
Sophia C. Corde1, Lynn Von Hagen2, Simon Kasaine3, Mwangi Githiru3, Bernard Amakobe3, Urbanus Mutwiwa4, Bruce A. Schulte1. 1Western Kentucky University, Bowling Green, Kentucky, United States; 2Auburn University, Auburn, Alabama, United States; 3Wildlife Works, Voi, , Kenya; 4Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology, Nairobi, , Kenya

Lunar cycle and crop season influence animal behavior. Understanding these influences can help mitigate human-wildlife conflict (HWC). In the Kasigau Wildlife Corridor of southern Kenya, nocturnal crop raiding by elephants is a major form of HWC. Since 2017, our Elephants and Sustainable Agriculture in Kenya project has sought to predict and reduce crop raiding. We investigated the presence of elephants in relation to moon phase and readiness of crops for harvest. Higher elephant presence around crop fields was hypothesized to have a negative relationship with lunar light levels and a positive relationship with completion of the crop season. To test these hypotheses, we acquired data on elephant presence from camera traps and analyzed using GLMM. Elephants were present significantly less during the full, gibbous, and waxing moon phases and significantly more during the new, crescent, and waning phases. Elephants were also more prevalent as harvest approached. Understanding how elephant behavior varies regarding these factors can help farmers better prepare mitigation strategies. Our findings may also have broader applications in policy creation and mitigation of other forms of HWC.