Dr. M. Philip Kahl

/ / Dr. M. Philip Kahl
Dr. M. Philip Kahl 2017-06-11T01:02:33+00:00

Dr. M. Philip Kahl (1934-2012)

Marvin Philip Kahl – Phil as he liked to be called – was born September 28, 1934 in Indianapolis, Indiana. Having first become interested in birds in a high school biology class, he went on to graduate with a B.S. in Zoology/Botany from Butler University in Indianapolis in 1956. Phil attended the University of Georgia in Athens, obtaining a M.S. in zoology/psychology followed by a Ph.D for research on the Wood Stork (Mycteria Americana). Phil spent the next 35 years studying the behavior of birds across North and South America, Europe, Africa, Asia, Australia and Antarctica funded by grants from the National Geographic Society, and fellowships from the U.S. National Science Foundation, and the American Museum of Natural History.

In 1988, Phil was awarded by the prestigious Chicago-based MacArthur Foundation the coveted MacArthur Fellowship, colloquially called the ‘MacArthur Genius Grant,’ to spend anyway he liked with no conditions attached which allowed him to switch to the study of elephant behavior. Phil and his companion, Billie Armstrong, spent six seasons from 1991 to 1997 in Africa observing the behavior of elephants and recording their observations on film and tape. Most of their study was on the visual communication displays of wild elephants in the Hwange National Park in Zimbabwe.

International Elephant Foundation and Elephant Research Foundation M. Philip Kahl Postdoctoral Fellowship

I am delighted to hear that the International Elephant Foundation has created a Postdoctoral Fellowship to honor Phil Kahl. I knew Phil for about 20 years, during which time I learned that he had graduated from Butler University, where I teach. He is also, to my knowledge, the only Butler graduate to have won the MacArthur Fellowship: The “genius grant.”

Phil was the epitome of a dedicated researcher. He was thorough, organized, creative, persistent and a little bit roguish – in the way an elephant bull would be. When, in a classroom presentation at Butler, a student asked him how often female elephants mated, he responded that they had sex about every four months (adding that this was better than he had done at Butler).

I worked with Phil (and Billie Armstrong) on one large project – the ethogram for the first edition of the Elephant Husbandry Resource Manual. Phil would take good ideas from any source – and give credit for those ideas to that source. He felt that one should either do science the right way – or not do it at all. He was serious about his science. He thrived on work.

Phil also had a considerate, kind attitude – he was generous – although he did not always like that pointed out. For example, his mother was a fanatical fan of the Indiana University men’s basketball team, and of their controversial coach, Bobby Knight. He took his mother down to IU to watch a practice session as her birthday present, not telling her that he had arranged for her to meet Coach Knight. She was overwhelmed to be able to have a chat with her basketball hero – and Bobby Knight was most gracious (a side of him that not everyone appreciates).


Andimile Martin

International Elephant Foundation and Elephant Research Foundation M. Philip Kahl Postdoctoral Fellowship

Andimile Martin grew up in Tanzania, surrounded by wilderness that he is devoting his life to protect. He began his efforts as a conservationist after graduating with a bachelor’s degree at the University of Dar es Salaam in 2005. Since then he has held various conservation positions with various institutions, including the Wami-Mbiki Wildlife Management Area Society, Savannas Forever Tanzania, Nature and Development Care, and the Bushmeat Free Eastern Africa Network.

After completion of a PhD in Ecology at the University of California Davis, Martin was awarded the International Elephant Foundation and Elephant Research Foundation M. Philip Kahl Postdoctoral Fellowship. Supported by this fellowship, he developed a project entitled “Understanding the behavior of African elephants as they move in landscapes with different protection status, habitat types and human influence in the Mahale – Katavi –Lwafi ecosystem of Tanzania”.

Through this project, Martin has become an elephant behavioral researcher and conducted foot transects to determine the geographical distribution of African elephants in the Mahale Katavi and Lwafi ecosystem, map the habitats and migratory routes used by African elephants in the Mahale Katavi and Lwafi ecosystem ecosystem and monitor African elephant groups to determine their activity budgets.