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Centre for African Conservation Ecology

Distell supports student training in elephant ecology and biology

The Amarula TrustThe Distell Group provided support to the Centre for African Conservation Ecology (ACE), Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University, for a research and training programme on elephant ecology and biology that includes the important component of student training. This training was designed to encourage students, particularly from designated groups, to embark on a career in this field.

The training process was developed to reflect real-world research activities, rather than conventional classroom exercises. As a consequence, small groups of trainees were taken into the field for practical equipping.

Students were trained through active participation on the impacts of elephants on biodiversity in the Addo Elephant National Park (AENP). The training familiarised the students with the conceptual basis of elephant management and conservation, the impacts of elephants on vegetation and biodiversity, and the application of monitoring techniques to assess elephant impacts in the AENP and elsewhere. Further training included a range of field research techniques such as plant identification, measuring plant structural attributes, assessing herbivore densities using dung counts, and the impact of elephants on landscape functioning using Landscape Functional Analysis. In addition, students were trained in data capture and field research data management procedures.

Additional training focussed on elephant behaviour and individual recognition and its practical application in the AENP. ACE has an extensive photographic and life history database for every elephant within the Park extending back to the 1930s. This makes it the longest record of elephant life history information in the world and allows us to ask a number of detailed questions based on individual recognition. This information can be used to form conservation and management strategies, and the identification database is invaluable for potential management interventions such as contraception. This training, supported by The Distell Group, contributed to these students’ BSc, BSc Hons, MSc and PhD studies.

student elephant study

Students assess the impact of elephants on vegetation through
the identification and monitoring of plants.