Interactions between elephants, water and their management

How do interactions between elephants, surface water management and human actions influence the dynamics of the Hwange socio-ecosystem?

Research context

With over 30000 elephants, Hwange National Park is home to one of the continent’s largest elephant populations. This very high density results from the management of the surface water that is supplied by pumping of underground water in the dry season. Indeed, the pumping of more than 60 waterholes inside the park has deeply modified the functioning of the park and its periphery. In addition to focusing on the dynamics of the elephant population, research in the Hwange LTSER covers the direct effects of elephants and their management on water dynamics, waterhole functioning, vegetation, biodiversity (with a focus on birds), effects on other large mammals (herbivores and carnivores), and human-elephant coexistence.

Research Questions

→ What are the processes underlying the regulation of the elephant population?

→ What are the determinants of elephant movement within the park and between the protected area and its periphery (as they are not separated by a fence)?

→ What are the effects of elephants on the functioning of temporary and permanent waterholes, vegetation, and terrestrial and aquatic bird communities?

→ What is the influence of elephants on the structure and dynamics of the large herbivore community and what are the indirect effects of elephants on predator-prey interactions?

→ What factors underly crop-raiding by elephants ?

→ What are the possible scenarios for managing the elephant population (e.g. culling, water management)?