The influence of the invasive weed Lantana camara on elephant habitat use in Mudumalai Tiger Reserve, southern India.
Invasive weeds like Lantana camara have a range of effects on animals such as elephant. These plants are not edible by the Asian elephant (Elephas maximus). They also compete for space with elephant food plants and take over large areas of elephant habitat. We tested whether the addition of L. camara to a model consisting of measured environmental variables improved predictions of habitat use by elephant in Mudumalai Tiger Reserve, India. Elephant dung density was used to assess elephant habitat use from 62 line transects 1-km in length. Results indicated that habitat and impact of human settlements significantly influenced elephant habitat use at a landscape scale. However, we found no evidence for the hypothesis that the addition of L. camara significantly predicted elephant habitat use at the landscape level. We then tested the association of L. camara on elephant habitat use in the dry deciduous forest (DDF) where there was a significant interaction between DDF and L. camara. In the DDF, L. camara significantly predicted elephant habitat use. We conclude that while no significant effects of L. camara were seen at the level of an entire reserve, at a finer scale and in specific habitats negative effects of this invasive plant on elephant habitat use were observed.