Okavango Elephants & People Research Project

The Okavango Elephants & People Research Project is an exciting 4-year study to look at the ecology and movements of elephants in Human-Elephant conflict “Hotspot” areas of the Okavango Delta. The main aim of the project is to collect essential information to contribute to the overall understanding of HEC in the Delta and hence facilitate the development of effective and successful mitigation and management strategies. It is a collaborative project between the University of London, Imperial College and the University of Botswana, Harry Oppenheimer Okavango Research Centre. The project commences in June 2007 and aims to finish in June 2011.

Field Researcher

The Field Researcher, Anna Songhurst, is a joint PhD student in the University of Botswana and in the Coulson Lab at Imperial College, London. She has a BA (honours) and an MA in Zoology from Trinity College, Dublin, Ireland and has 11 months experience as a field researcher on an elephant behaviour and habitat utilisation project in the Okavango Delta. The title of her PhD thesis is “Human-Elephant Conflict in “Hotspot” areas of the Okavango Delta”.

Principal Supervisor

The academic advisor for the project is Dr Tim Coulson, a reader in Population Biology in the Division of Biology at Imperial College, London. Dr Coulson and his research team in the Coulson Lab have extensive experience in multiple aspects of vertebrate population biology, including work with human-wildlife research in Ethiopia, Madagascar and Namibia. The team also, works on developing methods to aid with extracting information from a wide range of data sources.

Local Supervisor

Dr Casper Bonyongo, a research fellow in the University of Botswana, is the co-supervisor for the project. He completed his PhD thesis on Large herbivore ecology in the Okavango Delta in 2004 and is currently the programme coordinator for a long-term research programme on large herbivore ecology in the Okavango Delta in the HOORC. Dr Bonyongo has experience of working on human-wildlife projects and as such was a member of the Task Force for the one-year ODMP HEC project undertaken in 2006.

Human-Elephant Conflict

Increased competition for natural resources together with an increase in the amount of marginal land being converted for agricultural production has resulted in an increase in Human-Elephant Conflict (HEC) in Africa, particularly where human settlements occur near wildlife areas. Indeed, HEC has been identified as one of the five priority issues in the conservation of the African elephant. HEC is a complex subject and a multi-faceted approach is needed to address the issue. On the one hand elephants can provide immense benefit to local populations through CBNRM programmes and the tourism industry and yet, on the negative side elephants require a large natural resource base and plenty of space and where their need for these resources overlaps with humans, competition and conflict results.

Okavango Elephants & People Research Project
Anna Songhurst, Address: P. O. Box 131, Seronga, Botswana
anna.songhurst@hotmail.com Tel: +267 71234281 / +267 74357589