SAWMA Conference in Bela Bela

Alex, Zaara, Elena and Shub

Three of our outstanding students recently attended the Southern African Wildlife Management Association conference in Bela Bela. Each of them contributed by presenting their awesome studies.

Our masters students gave two long presentations: Elena Mariotti talked about ungulate landscape use and how different species favour different aspects of their environment, then Alexandra Evans presented her study on reptile habitat use in Madagascar, highlighting how important it is to take detection probability into account. Finally, Zaara Kidwai, our PhD student, gave a short presentation on her project about environmental determinants of ungulate populations in small conservation areas. In addition, our dear friend Subhadeep Bhattacharjee presented part of his PhD work on tigers in India, entitled ‘Can conservation amendment of erstwhile Closed Areas contribute to biodiversity conservation? A case study from unprotected arid regions of western India’.

At the conference they learnt some amazing things!

Above all: pangolins could be responsible for the dispersion of clostridium; monkeys stay social when they experience a fever status (unlike most humans); drones can do a variety of things, from targeting a particular person through facial recognition to pollinating orchids; 78% of mountain zebra stripes are unique to the individual; AI can count elephants from an aerial surveys just as well as humans do; rats can detect mines, tuberculosis and contraband items such as pangolins and hard wood with incredibly high precision; jackals can adapt to eat whatever is available; poachers are clever; a negative beta value in a GLM can be tricky to interpret; speaking about poisons raises some real debate; sometimes saving a species has more to do with emotions than with science; camera traps are a very useful tool; wild dogs can be successfully bred in captivity, especially if they are rubbed together and power lines are pretty dangerous for birds.

Our ladies also took part in the quiz, where they miserably lost but had a lot of fun. In the picture we can see them as ‘The Mighty Apes’.