Category Archives: Blog

Protecting Big Trees – and a new scientific paper

Robin Cook’s workshop

Elephants Alive is running a number of workshops on “Protecting Trees against Elephant Impact” for landowners, reserve wardens and managers. Thornybush hosted a workshop, and presentations have also been given at the Tuskers Workshop in January 2019, and the South African Veterinary Association conference in March 2019.
Dr Michelle Henley outlines the vital inter-links between elephants and big trees and Robin Cook summarises the potential measures to protect iconic trees – including wire netting, bee hives and the research currently underway using chilli spray as a deterrent.

Robin Cook smearing trunk with ellie dung & clay paste as healant and possible deterrent from elephant damage

We’ve received great feedback and will be hosting future big tree protection workshops for interested parties.

Tree Workshop at Thornybush

Thank you to Tom Coetzee for organising the workshop and Andy Payne for hosting it at Waterside Lodge,  Thornybush.
In February 2019, Elephants Alive’s latest scientific paper titled ‘Complexities associated with elephant impact on Sclerocarya birrea subsp. caffra in the Greater Kruger National Park’ was published in the scientific journal South African Journal of Botany. This paper explores how the combinations of elephant impact, termite presence, and road and water densities can influence marula tree mortality. Details of this paper are available at this link:

Gratitude to beautiful Kenya and all its dedicated conservationists

Staff shot – strategy meeting, Shaba 2019
Photo credit: Jane Wynyard

We consider ourselves privileged to have links to special friends and colleagues in Kenya. We are very proud of Elephants Alive’s Ronny Makakule who was awarded a trip to Kenya by Save the Elephants to meet David Daballen, a guru in the field of individual elephant identification.

Ronny Makakula and Dr. Iain Douglas Hamilton

This was followed by the attendance of a very informative STE strategic meeting by our chairperson and director (Marlene McCay and Dr. Michelle Henley). Here we learnt about the ins and outs of how STE and the Elephant Crisis Fund effectively operate to make a difference to the conservation of elephants across Africa.

Marc Goss CEO of MEP, Dr. Michelle Henley and Dr. Jake Wall

Michelle and the Elephants Alive Tracking Project Manager (Anka Bedetti de Kock) then went on to visit Dr. Jake Wall, the as newly appointed Director of Research and Conservation for MEP. We got to meet the CEO of MEP, Marc Goss and other staff who will collectively place MEP on the map in terms of elephant conservation. Jake, in his usual generous and knowledgeable way freely shared his advanced coding skills with Anka, Benjamin Loloju and Nelson Mwangi, the latter two people from STE and collectively known as the formidable ‘Benson’ team.

Benjamin Loloju, Anka Bedetti de Kock and Nelson Mwangi

We are very appreciative for the invitation and the opportunity to apply these skills in upcoming reports to reserve managers and funders. Other than the shared buzz of knowledge, it was an unforgettable experience to enjoy sundowners on the banks of the famous Mara River, just before leaving.

The Rift Valley

As if the shades of the expansive African sky and the good company of Jake and his family were not enough already, a lioness suddenly appeared on the opposite bank to flush a warthog from its hollow and then disappeared in hot pursuit of her quarry. Another magical moment in Africa where you know that the memory will be etched in your mind but it all happened so quickly that you left wondering if it really happened or were you just daydreaming ….. fortunately, this time there were enough witnesses left with huge smiles on their faces.

An Elephant in the Mara

The saying of Mehmet Murat Ildan rings clear: “Enlarge your windows till you get a window where you can see the whole universe with one look!”.  Understanding how other conservation projects such as Save the Elephants (STE) and the Mara Elephant Project (MEP) deal with Human-Elephant-Conflict, the tracking and individual identification of elephants is not only inspirational but also very informative to our own long-term efforts.

Christina, Willow and Dr. Jake Wall

Collaring in Maputo Special Reserve, Mozambique

Elephants Alive’s Robin Cook & Tammy Eggeling
Photo Credit: Dr Ben Muller

Elephants Alive successfully collared six elephants in Mozambique’s Maputo Special Reserve (MSR). MSR is home to over 500 elephants, however, little is known about their movement patterns.

Wildlife Vets tranquilizing elephant from chopper. Photo Credit: Dr Ben Muller

This is an incredibly scenic reserve, situated 100 km southeast of the capital, preserving both the sand forest and marine environment within its midst. As MSR forms a part of Peace Park’s Usuthu-Tembe-Futi Transfrontier Conservation Area, it is vital management to understand elephant movements before joining up conservation areas across the Mozambican and South African international borders.

Collar being fitted on the grassy plains of Maputo Special Reserve

Joining hands in Mozambique and in a huge collaborative effort between Elephants Alive, Saving the Survivors, Young Presidents Organisation, Safari Giants, Wildlifevets SA, Savannah Tracking and the Peace Parks Foundation, six elephants were collared across MSR in an attempt to understand elephant movement patterns in various sections of the reserve. We are delighted with how smooth the collaring operations were carried out, in what at times were very difficult terrain.
We are excited to see the results of this operation by allowing the elephants to tell us their stories through their movements. 

Taking vital recordings whilst collar fitted

We have many individuals and organisations to thank for making this happen. 
From Mozambique we would like to thank: Dr. Carlos Lopes Perreira, Dr. Joao Almeida, Miquel Goncalves, Antonio Alverca and Pedro Alverca. 
Elephants Alive: Dr. Michelle Henley, Anka Bedetti, Robin Cook, Tammy Eggeling
Saving the Survivors: Dr. Johan Marias and Dr. Joao Almeida
Safari Giants: Dex Kotze and Annie Snowden 
Wildlifevets: Dr. Ben Muller
Savannah Tracking: Dr. Henrik Rasmussen and Ivy Mutiso
Peace Parks Foundation: Brian Neubert
Pilot: James Scheun
Marine Resource: Marcel Kroese

Tuskers Workshop

Elephant experts from across Africa gathered in Hoedspruit for the three day TUSKERS Workshop in January.

Dr. Kate Evans – Director & Founder, Elephants for Africa
Mr. Brian Courtenay – Founder & Chairman of the the Southern African Conservation Trust
Dr. Michelle Henley – Director & Co-founder, Elephants Alive
Dr. Markus Hofmeyr – Specialist Vet & Workshop Coordinator

This hugely successful and highly impactful event was organised by Elephants Alive, together with Elephants for Africa and Southern African Conservation Trust. Speakers included elephant researchers from Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Botswana, UK, USA and South Africa, together with reserve managers, game rangers, vets, anti-poaching units, and educational outreach experts. Together we discussed the latest news regarding elephant conservation challenges, shared best practice and success stories and how to engage key stakeholders including local communities. 

Two themes of the workshop included the role of women in conservation and the forging of stronger linkages with communities surrounding Protected Areas. It was a meeting of minds and herding together for elephant conservation.