Annual Report 2008
International Elephant Foundation
(January 2008 – December 2008)
Between 23 -28 October 2007, eight elephants were collared in the western Hoanib
River (2 elephants), Hobatere Game Reserve (4 elephants) and Omusati regions (2
elephants) with GPS collars provided by Data Scout (SA). Three other elephants
were de-collared (these elephants had been collared in previous collaring exercises).
As of April 2008 all of the new collars had failed. This was because of either the
removal of the collars by the elephants or the failure of the collars due to a poor batch
of batteries having been provided by the manufacturer to Data Scout. Data Scout has
undertaken to provide an additional 8 collars to the project free of charge to
compensate for the lack of durability in the current collars. They have also
undertaken to part-fund the next collaring to reduce the cost to the Namibian Elephant
and Giraffe Trust (NEGT).
Behavioural studies have continued and the heavy rainfall during the 2008 wet season
has resulted in a change in feeding behaviour from mostly browsing during “normal”
years to mostly grazing during the current year. It is too early to tell whether the
increase in the abundance of vegetation will have any effect on the elephants’
2. GENERAL INFORMATION
(A) PROJECT TITLE: Home Range, Movement And Monitoring Of Elephants In
The Kunene And Omusati Regions Of Namibia.
(B) SUMMARY LINE: The project investigates the seasonal movement, seasonal
distribution, behaviour, genetics and social interactions of the elephants in the
Kunene and Omusati Regions of Namibia.
(C) PROJECT LEADER: Dr. Keith Leggett (elephant researcher)
(D) OTHER STAFF: Mr. Mike Godfrey, Ms. Elizabeth Weir
(E) COLLABORATORS AND OTHER INSTITUTIONAL AFFILIATIONS:
COLLABORATORS: Dr. Julian Fennessy
Ms. Claudia Heinze
Dr. Ursula Bechert (University of Oregon)
Dr. Rob Ramey (Independent Researcher)
Dr. Laura Brown (Independent Researcher)
Dr. Yirmed Dimeke (Ethiopian Elephant
Dr. Iain Douglas-Hamilton (Save the Elephant,
INSTITUTIONAL AFFILIATIONS: Earthwatch Institute
University of Sydney
Save the Elephants
Wilderness Wildlife Trust
International Elephant Foundation
Wildlife Conservation Society
(F) ACTIVITIES/PROGRESS IN THE LAST 12 MONTHS:
• 9 field trips
• Attended 1 community meeting
• Attended 2 meetings with Ministry of Environment and Tourism (MET)
on elephant related issues
• 5 expeditions with Earthwatch Institute volunteers
• Involvement of community game guards in various aspects of the research,
• Assistance to other researchers (Dr. Rob Ramey, Dr. Laura Brown, Dr.
(G) EXPLORATORY ACTIVITIES:
• Possible testosterone and oestrogen studies with Dr. Ursula Bechert
(University of Oregon) on elephants.
• Genetic research on the elephant populations in conjunction with Dr. Rob
Ramey and Dr. Laura Brown (Independent Researchers, Denver, USA) has
commenced and preliminary results are available.
• The NEGT has recently been approached by the MET to undertake
research on “problem elephants” within the research area. Funding is
currently being sourced for this project.
(H) PROBLEMS AND CONSTRAINTS:
• The vehicles used by the project are old and require constant and
• The 2008 wet season was the best wet season on record for almost 70
years with substantial rainfall across the research area. The long-term
average rainfall in the research area is 50-100mm. This year
approximately 350mm fell across the region. This severely restricted
research activities for 4 months because of the difficulty in accessing the
3. CURRENT PROJECT STATUS
ACTIVITIES AND ACHIEVEMENT OF OBJECTIVES:
3.1. Quantify the movements, range and seasonal distribution of elephants in
the Kunene and Omusati/northwestern Etosha areas of Namibia.
(1) Does the seasonal and home range of male elephant vary annually?
(2) How large is the home range of male desert-dwelling elephants?
(3) Is there a genetic bottleneck with regards to the desert-dwelling elephants?
In October 2007, eight elephants were GPS collared in the western Hoanib River, the
Hobatere Game Reserve and the western Omusati Region. This collaring was paid for
by USFWS, the International Elephant Foundation and private donors. The GPS
collars used were produced by Data Scout (SA). Two of the collars were either
removed by the elephants (WOM-6) or failed for unknown reasons (EKM-09) very
shortly after the collaring. With the exception of the elephants in the western Hoanib
River, the GPS collared elephants’ movements during the hot dry season were
restricted to areas around the permanent water sources. The range of all eastern
Hoanib River GPS collared elephants was further restricted to areas either
immediately around or inside Hobatere Game Reserve and Kaross Game Park. The
elephants in the Omustati region had a range restricted to areas around the permanent
The movements of the GPS collared elephants until the expiry of the collars are
described in detail in the following section. The home range of the elephants was
determined by minimum convex polygon (MCP) analysis. It is recognised that this is
not the best way to determine the home range but, while Kernel Analysis would have
probably been a more useful tool, the data were so limited in many cases as to make
this type of analysis ineffective.
The geopolitical and infrastructural developments in the Kunene and Omusati
Regions are presented in Figure 1.