Elephant Research in Chizarira National Park
Our current elephant research program in Chizarira National Park stems from our previous research initiatives. Our research is focused on elephant behaviour and movement patterns to understand sustainable conservation methods for the elephant populations inside the park, and to investigate solutions for effective mitigation of human-wildlife conflict in the surrounding local communities.
The African Savanna elephant (Loxodonta africana africana) is listed as “Endangered” on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species, and they are subject to illegal killing for ivory. Our elephant research project focuses on understanding movement patterns, behavioural dynamics and upholds practices that ensure there is a sustainable elephant population in the Sebungwe Region, part of the greater Kavango-Zambezi (KAZA) Trans-frontier Conservation Area, in Northern Zimbabwe. The study site, centralised in Chizarira National Park, includes Chirisa Safari Area, Devil’s Gorge Conservancy and other Protected Areas functionally connected to Chizarira. The project has a landscape approach recognising protected area connectivity in the KAZA. Elephants are large herbivores capable of moving vast distances, the need to understand their movements and core areas is critical to apply relevant and effective conservation measures that promote human-elephant coexistence.
We use GPS remote tracking technology and VHF telemetry to track the movement of collared elephants. We then use GIS software to collate and map the data focusing on hotspot areas where human-wildlife conflict mitigation measures are deployed. Usually, only the matriarch adult female in a female herd will be collared whereas an adult bull with a considerable trophy size is preferred, either a solitary one or one in bachelor herds. This allows us to track different herds at once and study their movement characteristics.
This project has important management functions that will provide feedback for park management and aid our community initiatives. The local communities that live nearby Chizarira National Park are often subject to human-wildlife conflict. We aim to use this data to establish corridors for elephants to move between Protected Areas safely and mitigate conflict using chilli deterrent efforts and restraining eco-friendly fences to reduce the loss of crops and allow for safer human-wildlife coexistence.