Publication Date


Advisor(s) - Committee Chair

Bruce A. Schulte (Director), Carl W. Dick, Albert Meier

Degree Program

Department of Biology

Degree Type

Master of Science


African elephants (Loxodonta africana) are ecosystem engineers in that they substantially alter the environment through their unique foraging and feeding habits. At high densities, elephants potentially have negative impacts on the environment, specifically to large trees. Because of this, recent increases of elephants in the Associated Private Nature Reserves (APNR) on the Western Boundary of Kruger National Park, South Africa have caused concern regarding the health of several species of tree. My objective was to assess the effectiveness of wrapping protective wire netting around the trunk of the tree in preventing and reducing bark stripping by elephants. 2,668 trees, 1352 marula (Sclerocarya birrea), 857 knobthorn (Acacia Nigrescens), and 459 false marula (Lannea schweinfurti), were assessed for elephant impact in the APNR, 1387 (52%) of which had previously been wrapped in protective wire netting (789, 548, and 50 respectively). For knobthorn and marula, wire netting significantly decreased the number of the trees that were bark stripped. For all trees, wire netting decreased the level of bark stripping especially for the highest impact levels. No trees wrapped with wire were ringbarked, compared to 23 unwired trees. In addition, wire netting had an effect on the distribution of damage for the highest impact class incurred regardless of type. A higher relative frequency of wired trees were found in lower impact categories compared to unwired trees. Wire netting is a low maintenance and ecologically valuable technique that alleviates bark stripping for some species. The judicial use of wire netting on trees could serve to maintain elephant and trees populations in areas of heavy confinement with locally high densities of elephants.


Biology | Forest Biology | Forest Management | Forest Sciences | Terrestrial and Aquatic Ecology