New study shows in real-time what helps mammals survive a natural disaster

Written by
Liz Fuller-Wright
Liz Fuller-Wright, Office of Communications
Nov. 29, 2023

In a recent study, Princeton researchers and colleagues from around the world documented the effects of Cyclone Idai as it swept through Mozambique's Gorongosa National Park in May 2019. The researchers used trail cameras and animal-tracking devices that had been in use before the storm to document the storm and its effects. This allowed park staff and wildlife ecologists an “unprecedented opportunity” to assemble a minute-by-minute view of how the storm affected the park and how the animals responded. 

“This is the first study that has ever been able to track the real-time responses of a large-mammal community to a natural disaster,” said Robert Pringle, a professor in the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology who has worked with Gorongosa National Park since its inception.

The research team found that the best predictor of survival was size. Mammals in the park range in size from the tiny oribi, which lost half of its population in the wake of the storm, to the massive elephants that saw no fatalities from the storm or its aftermath.

The researchers have two primary recommendations for other wildlife managers: evacuate the smallest and most ecologically vulnerable creatures to safer areas before storms come, and provide supplementary feed after the storm.

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