Conservation of Populations, Species, and Ecosystems
Restoration and Reintroduction
In a world of limited resources, conservation of megaherbivores comes with a unique set of challenges. While bush elephant (Loxodonta africana) populations are diminishing across much of the African continent, protected areas in South Africa have successfully conserved elephants to the point that local populations are increasing. However, South Africa is also a world biodiversity hotspot and conservation management must balance elephant resource requirements with protecting other threatened megaherbivores like rhinoceros and giraffes, diverse ungulate guilds, endemic plant populations, and mature trees that are economically and culturally significant. The ‘elephant problem’ is further compounded by the demands of international ecotourism, increasingly limited space due to ongoing human development, and the infrastructure designed to minimize human-wildlife conflict.
It is therefore imperative to fully understand the consequences of elephant reintroductions into nature reserves and how increasing densities will affect sympatric organisms. My research draws on multiple lines of evidence, including camera trap data collected as part of the Snapshot Safari network,aerial surveys of large-bodied mega- and mesoherbivores, and long-term transect data on woody plant communities to examine the effects elephants exert on their ecological communities and, consequently, biodiversity at multiple trophic levels.