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Meet the EWB Team: Matt Davis

Written By: admin on June 24, 2016 2 Comments

Hello to all readers and wildlife lovers, My name is Matt Davis and I’m a current research student from London’s Imperial College. I’m working on my MSc in Conservation Science, and I’m conducting research with Elephants Without Borders on the utilization of artificial waterholes within and surrounding the Chobe National Park in Northern Botswana. I thought it would be a nice to give you all a behind-the-scenes look into what I do at EWB, and why this particular research is important.

One of the camera "traps" I use to monitor the artificial waterholes.

One of the camera “traps” I use to monitor the artificial waterholes.

A bit of a background of myself, I am originally from the USA, but spent time growing up in Europe as well. I did my undergraduate studies in wildlife management at the University of Aberdeen in Scotland, and have been volunteering and working in African wildlife conservation and research on and off for around 7 years, mainly with large mammals.

Elephants drinking at the Sedudu waterhole in Chobe National Park

Elephants drinking at the Sedudu waterhole in Chobe National Park

My current work at EWB, as I said, is looking at artificial sources of water. Since 2013, EWB has monitored some of the artificial waterholes within the world renowned Chobe National Park via camera trap images as part of their ongoing Large Herbivore Ecology Program. Currently, I go into the waterholes on a weekly basis to collect the photos from the camera traps, and then input the data from these photos into a spreadsheet. The data that I am recording are what species are present in the photos (or none at all!), date and time of day, temperature, and for a select few species their group sizes and if there are juvenile animals present with the group. Obviously, one of the main focus species is elephants, and we’re hoping that this information will allow us at EWB to look into temporal drinking patterns, but we’re also interested in looking at the overall species diversity at these waterholes in relation to a number of variables. Each waterhole will be modelled against water quality, distance from the Chobe River, and levels of human disturbance.

Up close and personal, a curious elephant examines my equipment

Up close and personal, a curious elephant examines my equipment

As we’ve descended into the dry season in Southern Africa, more and more animals are using the waterholes. We are starting to see elephants every time we visit our camera traps, and this week we couldn’t even get to one, as approximately 50 elephants were busy drinking (including a number of small calves). This just shows how important artificial water is as a lifeline during the dry winter months. So far, we’ve seen all the major mammal species (other than those that live solely near the river), including large herds of buffalo, sable antelope and zebra, as well as some top carnivores like lion and leopard. These waterholes are also commonly visited by some large bird species, such as ground hornbills and Botswana’s national bird, the kori bustard, and many birds of prey will often fly down for a drink (we’ve even had a few vultures!).

A herd of rare sable antelope at Kalwezi waterhole.. with young calves, a welcome sight!

A herd of rare sable antelope at Kalwezi waterhole.. with young calves, a welcome sight!

A large male leopard sneaking in the night at one of the artificial waterholes in the Chobe enclave communal area.

A large male leopard sneaking in the night at one of the artificial waterholes in the Chobe enclave communal area.

In other regions of Southern Africa, artificial water sources have been used as a tool to not only manipulate wildlife movement and behavior (drawing species away from certain areas for a multitude of reasons) but to also lighten the pressures of the dry season on wildlife populations. Although regional management strategies vary, it’s vital to understand the implications that artificial water can have on species and ecosystems particularly in a time when human/wildlife interactions and global climate change are on the rise. In the long-run, the results of this project could have a major impact on the wildlife management of the region, particularly when it comes to managing species of high conservation interest, like elephants, as well as the environment in which they live.

Large herds of buffalo are also common visitors to the waterholes

Large herds of buffalo are also common visitors to the waterholes

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2 Responses to “Meet the EWB Team: Matt Davis”

  1. Denise Davis says on: 3 July 2016 at 10:28 pm

    Hi Matt
    Thanks for all the info and pictures. I love following the various groups helping the elephants and other African wildlife. My first time to this blog. I look forward to keeping in touch with your journeys.
    Denise Davis
    Denver, Colorado

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