Scientists observing elephants in northern Kenya have found they hate walking up hills. Using GPS satellite tracking they found the animals studiously try to avoid sloped terrain. Even minor hills represent a major energy barrier for animals as big as elephants, the researchers discovered. An elephant needed to boost its calorie consumption dramatically to climb a hill – which meant finding a lot more to eat. The researchers, led by Professor Fritz Vollrath from Oxford University, focused on the Samburu / Isiolo / Laikipia districts of northern Kenya which cover 20,000 square miles and are home to around 5,400 elephants. They found that elephant population density dropped significantly with increasing hill slopes. Calculations showed that the energy cost of trudging up hills was a likely explanation. A 4,000 kilogram elephant would need an extra 100 kilojoules, or 25,000 calories, of energy for every vertical metre climbed – around 2,500 per cent of the cost of level walking. ‘Climbing 100 metres would ‘burn’ 10,000 kilojoules which would have to be either replenished by an extra half hour of foraging or paid for by using up body reserves,’ the researchers wrote in the journal Current […]

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