Hluhluwe-iMfolozi Park Elephant Monitoring Project
Hluhluwe-iMfolozi Park (HiP) is a medium-sized (96 000ha) reserve with a growing elephant population which is fast approaching the reserve’s ecological carrying capacity of around 1 000 individuals. Park management have been implementing a contraception programme where adult cows are darted from a helicopter with a contraceptive as part of an Elephant Management Plan to control numbers. If this method proves effective it will provide an attractive alternative to culling or translocation.
A key aim of the HiP Elephant Management Plan, drawn up by Park Ecologist Dr Dave Druce and others, is to “Maintain the elephant population in a state that does not jeopardise the conservation of biodiversity elements, priority biological assets or the maintenance of ecological processes within the Park”.
In support of the contraception programme, accurate on-the-ground tracking and data collection is essential to inform elephant conservation and broader management strategies in HiP. Although 18 of the park’s adult cow elephants are fitted with tracking collars, it has been more than two years since the last field monitor was employed and data was collected.
WESSA has appointed project officer Timothy Kuiper to work as an elephant research monitor in HiP to redress the data gap and ensure close observation of the contraceptive programme. This builds on WESSA’s 2014 funding support for a full aerial count of the HiP elephant and rhino populations. Tim is working under Dr Druce where his monitoring activities include building up the individual elephant photograph database and field ID kits; collecting data on herd demographics and family structure; monitoring elephant movements from GPS collar data; and assisting on the ground with contraception operations. The project is also collaborating with Dr Michelle Henley from Elephants Alive - a long term WESSA partner and member of the Elephant Specialist Advisory Group - to draw on her expertise as well as to ensure that there is shared learning with her work on elephant populations in the Lowveld.
Project contact details
Chris Galliers, Senior Manager for Wildlife & Conservation Initiatives
Tel 033 330 3931 ext 2127