AIM : Habitat selection is a behavioural mechanism by which animals attempt to maximize their inclusive
fitness while balancing competing demands, such as finding food and rearing offspring while avoiding
predation, in a spatially and temporally heterogeneous environment. Different habitat characteristics
may be associated with each of these demands, implying that habitat selection varies depending on the
behavioural motivations of the animal. Here, we investigate behaviour specific habitat selection in
African elephants and discuss its implications for distribution modelling and conservation.
LOCATION : Northern Botswana, Africa, case study.
METHODS : We use Bayesian state-space models to characterize location time-series data of elephants
into two behavioural states (encamped and exploratory). We then develop habitat selection models for
each behavioural state and contrast them to models based on data pooled among behaviours.
RESULTS : Spatial predictions of habitat use were often markedly different among the models. Behaviourspecific
and pooled habitat selection models differed in model structure, the magnitude of model
coefficients, and the form of the selection curve (linear or quadratic). Selection was typically strongest
in the behaviour-specific models, though this varied according to behavioural state and habitat
MAIN CONCLUSIONS : Ignoring behavioural states often had important consequences for quantifying
habitat selection. Quantifying selection irrespective of behaviour (among all behaviours) can obscure
important species-habitat relationships, thereby risking weak or incorrect inferences. Behaviour-specific
habitat selection provides greater insight into the process of habitat selection and can improve
predictive habitat selection estimates. As some behaviours are more relevant to specific conservation
objectives than others, focusing on behaviour-specific selection could improve how habitats are
prioritized for conservation or management.