Elephant Research and Conservation

What's it all about?

Rural communities in Livingstone, Zambia, are suffering the devastating effects of Human-Elephant Conflict (HEC), both economically and emotionally.  While elephant populations have historically utilised the Mosi-oa-Tunya National Park, they are also now increasingly roaming into community farmland, destroying crops, killing livestock, and attacking local people.  In common with many locations across Africa, elephants in this area have become increasingly bold.  For Livingstone communities, conflict with elephants is an everyday issue, creating a climate of genuine fear and negative perceptions towards the species.  This unfortunately has resulted in their persecution, with local people having no reason to support their conservation. 

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.  As specific research on elephant populations in the region is sparse, and efforts to mitigate the conflict have largely been undertaken without rigorous planning or evaluation, ALERT’s project to monitor migration and movement patterns aims to collect comprehensive data to assist in fully understanding the mechanisms behind HEC in this region.

If conflict with elephants can be reduced, we anticipate an increased tolerance towards the species amongst local communities.  Only then can the benefits of elephant presence begin to be appreciated, their conservation welcomed, and retaliation killings prevented.  

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

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

We have already identified over 400 individuals utilising the Park and are gradually increasing our knowledge of migration and movement corridors.

What will I be doing?

As an elephant 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. 
You will be actively involved in the following three main areas of work:

Research - You will spend your days collecting valuable data on elephant movements and behaviour and will learn how to create identikits for individual elephants. You will also become obsessed with elephant dung!  Defecation and dung-pile decay rates can provide important data on elephant presence and ecology in the physical absence of elephants themselves, so you will be involved in on-going assessment.  In the next stage of this project, we hope to fit five sample elephants with satellite radio collars to enable us to track movements in inaccessible areas and at night, so you may help to analyse this data. 

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.

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

An experience too good to miss, but don’t take our word for it.  Here’s what some of our previous Elephant Research assistants have to say about taking part in the Program...


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.  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.

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

Livingstone, Zambia


Program fees for arrivals before 31st December 2018 are from GB£ 1,102  / US$ 2,031 for two weeks, to GB£ 4,102 / US$ 7,563 for a 12 week stay.  A detailed breakdown of prices can be found in our brochure.

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.

The cost of flights, visas and permits, travel insurance, optional trips and activities are not included in this price.

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

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