Ongoing Research - What We Know

Research on Ultra Sound Project

Elephant on occasion cross borders into neighboring territory or countries, often out of conservation areas and wreak havoc in villages, and the crops planted by the rural farmers. Villagers fear that elephant will become aggressive and harm or kill humans.

It is a fact that pumps, engines and water pipes are raised or damaged by elephant in their search for fresh and clean water.

Reports of damage to storage facilities and houses are also common in rural and farming areas where elephant occur.

These acts often result in elephant being hunted and killed. The problem however is that elephant numbers are decreasing at a dangerous and dramatic rate because of poaching and could result in the complete demise of the species within the next two decades.

My research project, together with the help of the CSIR, University of the Witwatersrand, Onderstepoort Veterinary Sciences and others who have enthusiastically come on board, is to develop a INFRA-SONIC / SEISMIC WAVE prototype pillar which can be deployed in a virtual fence type structure, and which will deter elephant from moving into no-go and unwanted areas is well advanced.

This project is costly, but should we be successful, the unit will assist in the protection of both the elephant and the property of humans in large areas on the continent of Africa.

An example of just another research project!

One of the burning questions regarding elephants in the indigenous Tsitsikamma forests situated on the south coast of South Africa, is why the meager population remains static.

Most of the research is conducted in a n area of approximately 100 sq kilometers, whilst the actual forests extend over an area of more than 600 sq kilometers.

Before suggesting a list of items which need to be investigated, consideration should be given to research which was conducted during 1983 in the far northern territory of South Africa by Prof. Wouter Van Hoven of the University of Pretoria.

The research involved the mortality in Kudu (Tragelaphus strepsiceros) populations related to chemical defence in trees. A significant correlation emerged between density of Kudu, percentage mortality, and tannin concentration in the browse. (Hoven. W.van 1984. Tannins and digestibility in greater kudu. Can.J.Anim. Sci 64: 177-178)

Tannin is usually found in the leaves and bark of trees and shrubs. The term ‘tannin’ is a generalization for a complex series of plant chemicals whose exclusive function is to protect the plant against infection, injury, or anything else that feeds on it including browsers. (Much like the white blood cells in the human body.)

When leaves with reasonably high quantities of tannin are eaten, the tannin combines with the protein molecules, rendering the protein indigestible. Animals may have full stomachs, but die of hunger, because of indigestive chemical mechanisms.

Is it therefore possible that reproduction of elephants takes place, but because of the higher content of tannin in the leaves consumed, elephant die at a young age? (Accepting the fact that the digestive systems of elephant and antelope differ considerably.)

Are there elephant unknown to us roaming deeper in the forest?

Does the deeper forest hide a burial ground of young elephant carcasses?

Because of the dense forest, access is difficult, almost impossible, and the dense forest canopy prohibits visibility from above. Research could be greatly facilitated with improved technology, but is costly.

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