The objective of the study was to measure and compare vegetation structure and elephant utilisation patterns between woodlands of South Luangwa National Park with short mopane and Lupande Game Management Area with tall mopane. In a field survey conducted, 328 coppiced mopane plants were measured from 10 plots in the national park and 70 tall mopane plants from 10 plots in the game management area for difference in woodland size, height and crown size, and were also measured for branch breaking, main stem breaking, stem twisting, bark peeling and tusk marking. Measurements of woodland structure and patterns of elephant utilisation and compared using a t-test for equality of means. The cut off point for statistical significance was set at 5%. Analyses showed a plant height of 12.76 (SD 4.92) m in tall mopane compared to that of 2.71 (SD 0.85) m (p<0.001) in dwarf mopane (p<0.001). The diameter at breast height (DBH) of coppiced mopane was 6.84 (SD 2.48) cm whereas the DBH of the tall mopane was 36.29 (SD 14.74) cm (p<0.001). More coppiced than tall mopane trees were utilized by elephants (branch breaking: 100% vs 12%, p<0.001; main stem breaking: 38% vs 1%, p<0.001; stem twisting: 58% vs 4%, p<0.001; bark peeling: 94% vs 30%, p<0.001 and tusk marking: 13% vs 0%, p=0.003 respectively. Heavy utilisation contributed to change of woodland structure. Thus, woodland vegetation differences increased elephant use of coppiced mopane as compared to tall mopane woodland.
Key Words: Colophospermum mopane, Elephant utilization of mopane, Eastern Zambia