Big Tree Monitoring by the Tree Musketeers!

Lloyd, Raphaella and Isobel

Elephants Alive have been monitoring 3000 large trees since 2004, to understand elephant impact. This year we were very fortunate to have three wonderful volunteers undertaking the survey work - our Tree Musketeers.

The Tree Musketeers

Isabel Wolf-Gillespie, her husband Lloyd, and her sister Raphaela spent 6 weeks assessing 3000 tagged trees for elephant, or any other, damage in the Associated Private Nature Reserves (APNR) adjacent to the Kruger National Park.

Isabel had met the Elephants Alive team the previous year when passing through the area with the Elephant Ignite Expedition crew. 'After some intense training to ensure the continuity of the data collection methods, the small party of three tackled their immense task with the most devotion I have yet seen in any vegetation monitoring team. I know just how hard some days can be when the heat gets intense and you have been at it from dawn to dusk' said Michelle Henley who helped conduct all previous surveys.


Surveying big trees

Isabel says “ My husband and I were in between jobs and coincidentally Michelle was looking for someone to do the field research on the tagged trees. It was an opportunity not to be missed and I roped in my sister Raphaela who is currently studying her Masters in Social Ecology. 

The three of us had the most incredible time out there, walking daily among wild animals in the heart of the bushveld, in search of 3000 trees that had to be re-assessed for damage, re-tagged and re-measured. We loved it! We called ourselves the "Tree Musketeers". Each of us were equipped with our own weapons; the tree height measuring tool with reflecting tape, the GPS and map, hammer and tags and the clipboard with pencil! To keep our motivation high we referred to each other using our developed Tree Musketeer names based on our dedicated tasks. I was Navigator (GPS and map), Lloyd was Reflector (measuring rod, hammer and nails) and Raphaela was Writedown (pencil and data sheets). We had the best time and in addition to this, we know that we have contributed in a small way towards the conservation and management of elephants and trees in the APNR”



Elephants Alive is extremely grateful for your non-stop-seven-days-a-week efforts. We saw the three of you lose weight as the days ticked by and instead of ever complaining, you only kept marveling about how wonderful it was to 'be out there working for conservation'. Proudly Lloyd has been appointed Operations Manager and Isabel the Wildlife Education and Community Outreach Manager at Mashatu, while Raphaela is motivated to pursue a PhD and wants her love for trees to feature somewhere in the mix of opportunities that lie ahead for her.

We look forward to reporting on the results of the survey as we had previously monitored all these trees five years ago.

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