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Why did the elephant cross the road?

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The body of an elephant calf lies on the side of a remote highway in the north of Peninsular Malaysia – the East-West Highway is flanked by two wildlife refuges, Royal Belum State Park and the Temengor Forest Reserve. Stories such as these highlight the growing difficulty of human-elephant coexistence. As economic development forges ahead in Peninsular Malaysia so do the dangers to the country’s wildlife.

Roads like the East-West Highway can pose huge challenges for landscape connectivity and the movement of wildlife. Research on how this road affects elephant movements has led to calls from a team of wildlife conservationists at the University of Nottingham Malaysia and other partner institutions to avoid any further expansion of this road. They also want to see a reduction in and the enforcement of speed limits as well as considering a limit on traffic volumes at night.

The research team spent five years GPS tracking 17 wild Asian elephants (Elephas maximus) to find out whether they cross this road, how often and where, and to model how their movements are affected by the road. The findings of their research – Why did the elephant cross the road? The complex response of wild elephants to a major road in Peninsular Malaysia – have been published in the academic journal Biological Conservation. They say the results are relevant for landscapes throughout Asia and Africa, where existing or planned roads fragment elephant habitats.

(Photo credits:MEME)

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More information is available from Dr Ahimsa Campos-Arceiz or Lindsay Brooke, Media Relations Managers for the Faculty of Science at The University of Nottingham UK on or Josephine Dionisappu, PR & Communications Manager at University of Nottingham Malaysia on, +6 (03) 8924 8746.

Notes to editorsThe University of Nottingham has 43,000 students and is ‘the nearest Britain has to a truly global university, with a “distinct” approach to internationalisation, which rests on those full-scale campuses in China and Malaysia, as well as a large presence in its home city.’ (Times Good University Guide 2016). It is also one of the most popular universities in the UK among graduate employers and the winner of ‘Outstanding Support for Early Career Researchers’ at the Times Higher Education Awards 2015. It is ranked in the world’s top 75 by the QS World University Rankings 2015/16. More than 97 per cent of research at The University of Nottingham is recognised internationally and it is 8th in the UK by research power according to the Research Excellence Framework 2014. It has been voted the world’s greenest campus for four years running, according to Greenmetrics Ranking of World Universities. 

Impact: The Nottingham Campaign, its biggest-ever fundraising campaign, is delivering the University’s vision to change lives, tackle global issues and shape the future.

Posted on 18th January 2018

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