Core Research

Project staff, a trained team of Maasai research assistants and visiting scientists are in the field seven days a week. Two AERP researchers keep one vehicle occupied daily with core monitoring. They record all demographic events, noting dates of all births and deaths and, as they are observed, matings, estrus, and musth. The birthdates of individuals born after 1972 are known; death dates are known or estimated within six months of the animal’s disappearance.

New-born calf
All births and deaths are recorded

AERP makes routine daily observations of associations between individuals and distinct female-led family units, geographic location for home range determinations, group size, composition, activity and habitat type.

The research team also records family unit composition including presence or absence of young males, and thus generates data on affiliation and dispersal events. In addition, researchers have been systematically monitoring the size and growth of over 600 individuals from 1976 to the present. And, since 1999, dung samples have be en collected for genetic analysis of population origins, paternity and within- and between-family relatedness.

Core monitoring is carried out by the three research assistants and includes:

  • Census of each of the 58 family units once per month
  • Census of each of the adult, independent males
  • Monitoring distribution, group size, habitat use, births, deaths, estrus and musth
  • Updating the long-term records file
  • Updating the photo recognition file
  • Collecting data on male independence
  • Monitoring 12 vegetation plots
  • Recording rainfall and water table heights

Research toolsGeographic Information System—GIS—analysis is used to describe and evaluate elephant events in time and space, such as associations between families and distribution in relation to habitat change and human land use. Aerial surveys are vital for counting the population, mapping its range, locating missing or speared individuals, and emergency transport of KWS vets to treat elephants that have been wounded. Database management system software maintains unique decades-long data sets on solcial relatedness, demography, individual identities, occupancy and communication.