The elephant research being carried out in Chizarira National Park and surrounding Protected Areas is looking at obtaining the population characteristics and movements of this iconic animal. All facets of elephant ecology will be looked at including the effect that elephants are having on vegetation.
The elephant is subject to illegal killing for its ivory, and for over 30 years now, no in-depth work has been carried out in Chizarira to find out how the elephant population is faring and what the population structure is. As elephants are large animals capable of moving vast distances, the need to understand their movements and core areas is important.
Rangers that are deployed in the park and safari areas will have the improved ability to protect the elephant if park management is aware of the local and seasonal movements of the herds so that they can ensure that patrol rangers are in nearby proximity to the herds for protection.
The African Lion and Environmental Research Trust (ALERT) in partnership with the Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Management Authority (ZPWMA) have initiated this study by recently collaring an elephant so that its herd movements can be mapped. Further collars are being purchased so that most, if not all herds in the area can be followed. Usually, only one adult female in a herd will be collared as well as a number of bulls moving in bachelor groups or singly.
This project has important management functions that will feedback to the Park Management and also assist ALERT in its human-wildlife mitigation Community work. From a study that ALERT carried out for WWF, it is known that several people in the surrounding Communal Land have been killed and injured by elephants raiding fields; several granaries have been destroyed and some houses holding grain have also been destroyed by elephants.
Working and living in Africa has given me the confidence and passion to complete my Masters in Endangered Species and Wildlife Conservation and has given me an insight into my future employment options. I have gained knowledge, made friends for life, and opened myself up to the world.
Each day was a highlight to me. I love learning about wildlife, I have learnt something new every day and I was always looking forward to the next. I particularly enjoyed the kids club: teaching, dancing, singing, or playing games with the kids. Seeing smiles on their faces and motivating them towards education was an incredible feeling. At the end of the day even the heat, mosquitos and tiredness did not bother me. It was all worth it.
For 15 weeks I was an elephant research assistant with ALERT in Livingstone, Zambia. They were the best 15 weeks of my life. I enjoyed every day. Visits to Mosi-oa-Tonya National park in the morning and in the afternoon were amazing. We were looking for elephants, counting them, and taking pictures of them to try to identify them through the photos. I just love them. I also spent some days with the lions. Once a week, we taught in a school and on Saturdays we visited two other schools and played with the children. The team I worked with are amazing and they involved me in everything. I miss them so much, but I’ll be back.
What were some of the highlights of my trip? Being with elephants several hours a day on long game drives; gaining far more in-depth knowledge and understanding of elephants than I could as a tourist; seeing the application of research methodologies I had read about happening in practice. I also enjoyed the elephant identification tasks, matching the new photographs with the existing library of photographs. It was absorbing and satisfying. I loved the heat and smells and sights and sounds of the African bush.