Caroline Rees is an independent researcher who is carrying out a project to monitor the behaviour of six rhino recently introduced to the Okavango Delta. The results of this research will contribute to our understanding of the rhino’s behaviour following their release into this new environment and have great potential to aid in any further conservation efforts by increasing our knowledge about this magnificent and endangered species.
Caroline’s project is funded by donations. Should you be interested in making a contribution towards Caroline’s rhino research, we ask that you read her story about how you can become involved.
My name is Caroline Rees and I come from Wales in the UK. Let me tell you a little bit about myself.
Less than five years ago I was working in a busy office as an IT engineer. Motivated by my passion for wildlife and conservation, I resigned from my job and was accepted at Cardiff University to complete my BSc Zoology degree as a mature student.
After graduation I felt that I needed a new challenge, so I volunteered as a researcher collecting field data on the endangered golden monkey in the Virunga Mountains of Uganda. Being based on the border with Rwanda and the Congo, as well as living at altitude with no modern amenities, presented a unique set of challenges.
Once I had returned to the UK, my immediate instinct was to get back to Africa as soon as possible, but I wanted to be involved with a project where I could once again contribute to ensuring the preservation of an endangered species. My ultimate goal is to make a difference.
I became aware that rhino poaching in South Africa has reached shocking levels. The current crisis faced by the species determined me to pack up my belonging and fly back to Africa.
About my research
The research I am doing is being carried out in conjunction with Bristol University and will form the foundation for my PhD. The six rhinoceroses that I am studying were relocated from South Africa to Botswana.
As part of my research, I will discover what habitat and resource preferences the rhino are demonstrating and how this affects their home ranges. I will investigate how the use of space by the rhino changes according to the season, their sex and time. I will also be analysing the dynamics of their social bonds.
My findings will provide important information about how well the introduced rhino adapt to their new environment, thus supplying the Department of Wildlife and National Parks (DWNP) and other parties with information that will contribute to the success of future relocations, not just in Botswana but across the continent.
My project will help to facilitate securing a future for Africa’s rhino. Currently one rhino is poached every 9 hours in South Africa.
In the bush
My day usually starts at a blurry-eyed 5:30 am. My team and I load our camping gear into the vehicle, decide which rhino we are going to look for that day and then set off in search of that individual. We go to the last known location of the rhino and then use GPS, VHF rhino transmitters and traditional tracking methods to find it. The rhino can travel great distances in a short time and it’s strange how something so big can be so difficult to find at times!
When we find the rhino I record spatial and behavioural data and we check that the rhino look healthy. The rhino usually find some nice, thick bush to snooze in during the heat of the day, so this is a good time for the team to take a break too.
The landscape of the Okavango Delta can be very challenging. Sometimes we track the rhino for hours only to discover that they have crossed onto an island that is accessible to animals but not to people! Even with a 4x4 vehicle the water in the Delta can rise to a level that we cannot cross.
After a day of recording rhino behaviour and habitat sampling we choose a good place to set up camp for the night. We light a fire to keep wild animals at bay and settle down for what is hopefully a good night’s sleep. It’s an early night for us, followed by another early start in search of the rhino.
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