Elephant Research


As a research assistant you will be fully trained in a variety of scientific methods to contribute to the conservation of African elephants at Victoria Falls in Livingstone, Zambia, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. 

In fragmented land-use mosaics the home ranges of African elephants (Loxodonta africana) feature a combination of protected and unprotected areas.  Ranging in human-dominated landscapes inevitably leads to interaction, and therefore conflict, with communities; most notably with farmers as a result of crop-raiding, but also including destroying water supplies, demolishing grain stores and houses, and injuring and killing people and livestock.  Understanding elephants’ use of land, both within and outside of protected areas, is seen as increasingly important to future conservation management of African elephant populations.

Increasing human populations and agricultural expansion within the Livingstone area of Zambia threaten to expand the human / elephant interface, likely leading to greater incidence of Human Elephant Conflict (HEC). The success of HEC mitigation strategies is dependent on the ecology and behaviour of elephants in an area, as well as the human socio-political and economic environment.  Specific research on elephant populations in the region are sparse, and efforts to mitigate the conflict have largely been undertaken without rigorous planning or evaluation.  This research aims to collect comprehensive data to assist in fully understanding the mechanisms behind HEC in this region.

This program, a partnership between the Zambia Department of National Parks and Wildlife, ALERT, Copperbelt, Western Kentucky and Coventry Universities, the Zambia Forestry Department and local communities, focuses on the following areas:

•  Assessing seasonal distribution and abundance of elephants in different habitat types to establish key resource areas and movement corridors.

•  Determining elephant population structure within these areas including population trends, herd sizes and male/female ratios

•  Determining behavioural ecology of elephants

•  Documenting instances of human-elephant conflict amongst local communities.

•  Assessing efficacy of different human-elephant conflict mitigation strategies.

As a research assistant you will be fully trained in a variety of scientific methods to assist in the collection of data.  You will undertake:

  • walks (with armed scouts) in the national park to count elephants;
  • manning observation posts at a river crossing point, movement corridor or waterhole both during the day and at night to identify individual elephants and record their behaviour;
  • monitoring the impacts of human / elephant conflict and assess the success or failure of a variety of conflict mitigation measures;
  • assisting in conservation education lessons within conflict affected communities. 

During your time off, you will be able to soak up the Zambian culture and take advantage of the many activities based around the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Victoria Falls, including: white-water rafting, bungee jumping, sunset cruises on the mighty Zambezi River, or a day trip to Chobe National Park in neighbouring Botswana to view lions, leopards and many other iconic African species.

You can download our Elephant Research and Conservation brochure here


Research Assistants are requested to arrive in Livingstone on a Monday.  As elephant presence in the area is seasonal, this program operates between May and October only.  The first arrival date is therefore Monday 1st May 2017.  The program will close on 30th October 2016, so the latest arrival date (for a 2 week stay) is Monday 16th October 2017.

Whilst some elephants are present in the area year-round, it is impossible to predict the arrival of elephants in large numbers.  Arrival patterns are related to water levels in the Zambezi River, which itself is related to rainfall patterns over the previous six months, not only in Zambia, but also in Botswana, Namibia and Angola. Elephant arrival in the area commences in April, with numbers peaking in June to September.  Elephants begin to depart the area during October, with the majority having left by December.  This research is focussing on wild, migratory animals.  As such, sightings of elephants at any time of year cannot be guaranteed.


Research - You will spend your days, and some nights, collecting valuable data on elephant movements and behaviour; also learning how to create identikits for individual elephants.  You will assist in monitoring incidences of human / elephant conflict, and help to install and monitor a variety of conflict mitigation measures.  Some days you will visit the location of camera traps to review the footage and attempt to identify individuals captured on camera.

Conservation Education - You will assist in delivering our comprehensive conservation education course, created by ALERT in partnership with Coventry University.  You will be fully trained in how to teach a lesson using our established lesson plans and activities with children and adults.

Park Management - You will also assist us to help the Zambia Department of National Parks and Wildlife to manage the National Park so that elephants can continue to take advantage of this protected area.  Work may involve undertaking snare sweeps, monitoring wildlife populations (including buffalo, giraffe and many species of antelope), or mapping the vegetation of the area.

Forest Management - You will help us to conduct a survey of the Dambwa Forest to aid the Forestry Department manage this vital resource for elephants in the area.

The minimum age for taking part in this program is 17 years.  No specific past experience is needed, but a passion for wildlife and conservation is very important.  

Click on these links for more information on the location currently available:

Livingstone, Zambia


This program runs for between two and four weeks.  Fees for arrivals before 31st December 2017 are GB£ 1037 / US$ 1898 for two weeks, GB£ 1316 / US$ 2409 for three weeks, and GB£ 1595 / US$ 2919 for four weeks.     

Your fee includes collection from the nearest airport to the project site, shared accommodation, three meals per day and memories to last a lifetime!  Invoice amount is charged on a per day basis.

If you wish to intern with ALERT, you will need to obtain a Police Check.  As an intern, you may be working closely with children or vulnerable adults to some extent during your stay; therefore, it is our responsibility to ensure that these people are adequately safeguarded.  For applicants from the UK, we will arrange the check for you at a cost of £20, which will be added to your invoice and payable along with your deposit.  For applicants from all other countries, please contact your local police department for advice on how to go about arranging your check.  All participants on all of our programs are required to undertake a police check before their placement commences.


Your application should be sent to intern@lionalert.org and accompanied by:

  • A cover letter detailing your motivation for applying
  • A copy of your curriculum vitae
  • A letter of reference from an appropriate academic or business source

Your application will be reviewed within one week of receipt.  Please note that you may be onsite at the same time as other Elephant Research Assistants. 

Please ensure you have read our terms and conditions before making your application.  Our programs operate under a responsible tourism policy to ensure your presence will have a positive effect on the environments and communities in which we work.



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