We collected data on Asiatic Elephant Elephas maximus ranging and habitat selection in Rajaji National Park (RNP) in Uttarakhand state, India using radio telemetry from December 1996 - March 1998. Elephant home ranges were estimated (using 100 Minimum Convex Polygon) to range from 188 sq. km to > 400 sq. km. We could not detect any difference between male and female home ranges. Summer ranges were the smallest due to limited availability of water in the study area; however, we could not detect statistically significant differences between sexes or seasons. The six Elephants that were radio-tracked for over two years showed variability in ranging patterns between the 1st and the 2nd years. The overall Elephant population used the Shorea vegetation significantly less than the other major vegetation types (Shorea-mixed, Miscellaneous and Mixed plantations). This was due to the higher diversity of Elephant food plant in Shorea-mixed and miscellaneous vegetation types when compared to Shorea vegetation type. However, radio-tracking data from individual female Elephants that had young calves at heel indicated a strong preference for the Shorea vegetation type. This was due to the fact that very few species, which can be lopped as fodder for cattle, were found in the Shorea vegetation type and this had fewer disturbances that made it attractive for females with young calves. This, females with young calves clearly preferred to trade off food for safety. The mean cattle densities in the home ranges of radio collared females, who were either pregnant or had yound calves at heel, were significantly lower when compared to that of male home ranges. This study has proven beyond doubt that a major influence on ranging and habitat use in the study population in disturbance.
Keywords: Asian Elephants, Elephas maximus, ranging, home-range, radio-tracking