Hippo Research Update

Latest addition to the EWB team is Victoria Inman, PhD candidate from the University of New South Wales, conducting her research on hippos! A species that is rarely studied and as hippos are declining dramatically across the Continent, her research will provide vital information on the species in hopes to add positive information to help their conservation status. 

Victoria has just returned from a two month stay at EWB’s Conservation Ecology Research Station in the Okavango Delta. A major focus of her project is trialling the use of drones for monitoring hippos. The first thing she did was determine the best height and time of day to fly the drone in order to accurately count hippos. She learnt that flying the drone at a low altitude and during the middle of the day meant she was able to capture images where the hippos are resting with their bodies out of the water, making them easy to detect and count. Using these findings, she then flew over all the lagoons within the area to detect and count hippos, and map their distribution. She will also use these images to measure the hippos and place them into age and sex categories, in order understand the demographics of these pods.

In addition, Victoria is looking at the paths that hippos make during their daily commutes through the reed beds, and trying to determine what impact they have on the environment. Victoria used her drone to take photos of her study area and turned this into a high resolution map, in which the hippo paths are clearly visible. Trail cameras were placed adjacent to several of the paths to show how often hippos are using the paths. This information will be used to determine how quickly vegetation encroachment occurs, and is removed, depending on hippo use.

Victoria is now based in Chobe to continue her studies and will return in February for her next field season in the Delta, repeating these processes in order to understand how these factors change with season.

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