Botswana

Chobe

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Research without borders

Research without borders

Research without borders
KELLY LANDEN

Collaboration and cooperation are key words for Elephants Without Borders. This month saw EWB at the centre of a ground breaking conservation initiative with the launch of the most significant stage of its recently established Herbivore Ecology Programme.

The project is the result of collaboration between a number of international partners, a move considered essential in the long term sustainability of conservation research.

The partnership will provide much needed, and some may suggest long overdue, efficiency in the field of conservation research, through the pooling of resources and expertise.

It will also endeavour to prevent any wasteful repetition of effort by concentrating on sharing information and ensuring there is no time wasted reinventing the proverbial wheel! EWB, with the continued endorsement of Botswana's Department of Wildlife and National Parks, is facilitating this project in partnership with Australia’s University of New South Wales and two PhD students under the collective guidance of Drs Keith Leggett, Mike Chase and Julian Fennessy, from the Giraffe Conservation Foundation. As EWB's recent findings have all too clearly indicated, the timing of this initiative could not have been better. There is an unquestionable need for a greater understanding in the area of human wildlife conflict.

UNSW's Tempe Adams will concentrate her efforts in the field of human elephant conflict, building on field work and trials undertaken by Dr Anna Songhurst, on the western side of the Okavango Delta. Elephant numbers and impacts have increased in this region over the last decade and the initiative will help communities manage conflict with an abundant elephant population.

In a separate initiative, UNSW's Kylie McQualter will establish what will be the first ever long-term study of giraffe in Botswana. EWB's May 2011 report indicated an alarming 65% reduction in giraffe numbers in Botswana in the last ten years, and so Kylie's work will look at range, distribution, movements, impacts of illegal hunting and comparison between two key giraffe areas – the Chobe and the Delta. This will provide essential input into a much needed continent-wide conservation management strategy for the species being developed by GCF.

During the project's very first game drive along the Chobe River waterfront, Drs Mike Chase and Julian Fennessy were discussing the recent phenomenon of bark stripping of the Natal Mahogany tree.

Often the work of elephant on other trees species, it had become clear much of the damage was too high for most elephant and that on some trees the bark was actually being stripped from top to bottom.

The only likely culprit was giraffe and just as this was being discussed the team came upon a large and extremely dark giraffe bull demonstrating just how it can be done. In his many years in the bush, Dr Chase had never seen this before. Is this a normal occurrence? Does it only occur during times of stress during dry seasons? Is it a regular source of protein, moisture or other nutrients? Is such damage replicated in other giraffe populations across the continent?

This is just one example of the many questions that need to be answered when discussing the environmental impact, and subsequent management, of Botswana's large herbivores and some of the continent's most iconic animals.

Read more articles from this issue:
Zambezi Traveller (Issue 10, Sept 2012)

Read more about the region in our destination guide:
Chobe

From the Zambezi Traveller Directory:
Elephants Without Borders

Giraffe Conservation Foundation