WKU elephant research project finalist in video contest


A WKU elephant conservation research project in Kenya is one of five finalists in a 2020 video contest sponsored by the International Elephant Foundation.

The project, submitted with the assistance of WKU's Andrew Swanson, is titled “Elephant deterrents, behavioral responses, and ecological correlates of crop-raiding, Kenya.”

Vote online at https://elephantconservation.org/video-contest-2020/

About the research: The goal of WKU’s project, led by Dr. Bruce A. Schulte and supported in part by the Earthwatch Institute and the International Elephant Foundation, is to help local farmers to conserve elephants and their habitat in southeast Kenya by implementing sustainable agriculture practices. Learn more on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/ElesKenya/.

WKU’s 2019 video (“Experimental test of elephant deterrents and ecological correlates of crop raiding, Kenya”) was the first-place winner in the IEF contest.

Dr. Schulte is the Associate Vice President for Strategy, Performance and Accountability and a University Distinguished Professor and was the head of WKU’s Biology Department for 10 years. He has been studying elephant chemical communication and conservation behavior for the past 25 years.

His research has occurred at facilities housing elephants throughout North America and in elephant range countries in Africa. He had long-term projects involving graduate and undergraduate students at Addo Elephant National Park and the Associated Private Nature Reserves bordering Kruger National Park in South Africa, in Tanzania near Arusha and in western Tanzania at Katavi National Park, in Zambia and Zimbabwe, and currently in the greater Tsavo region of Kenya.

The latest project brings together much of what Dr. Schulte’s research group has learned about elephants and explores more that researchers need to know about elephants and farming in Africa to facilitate a harmonious coexistence between humans and elephants. Elephants and Sustainable Agriculture in Kenya is the project supported by the Earthwatch Institute and IEF in which the group is examining Climate Smart Agriculture (CSA) practices, deterrent methods (also in conjunction with Save the Elephants – Elephants and Bees Project), ecological correlates of elephant crop raiding, and elephant behavior (see the 2019 IEF video).

Dr. Schulte said this project would be impossible without the collaboration of Wildlife Works, a REDD+ program management and development company, their Biodiversity Director, Dr. Mwangi Githiru, and field scientists Bernard Amakobe and Simon Kasaine. His group also collaborates with Dr. Urbanus Mutwiwa at the Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology.

Graduate students at WKU (Lynn von Hagen, now a doctoral candidate at Auburn University; and current MS candidate Sophia Corde) are instrumental in the success of this research as are the numerous citizen scientists involved through Earthwatch, he said.

Contact: Dr. Bruce Schulte, bruce.schulte@wku.edu

Posted with permission from WKU News