Oxford Tracking Group

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Oxford Tracking Group

About the Group

The animal tracking group at the department of Zoology, University of Oxford uses state of the art radiotracking of animals in order to understand the role of herbivores and humes in savanna-ecosystem functioning. The research group is headed by Prof. Dr. F. Vollrath, with a research interest in both the fields of spider silk, as well as animal tracking. 

The group was founded to investigate the role of elephants in savanna landscapes. Elephants are ecologically important as landscape 'gardeners', they are economically important as tourist attractions and socio-politically elephants are important as destroyers of crops and thus in many areas as the key animal defining areas of serious human-wildlife conflict. The combse factors makes it important for us to accurately analyse not only the full range use by elephants but also focus on specific areas of special interest. This is now made possible by recent developments in radio tracking technology using location determination to meter accuracy by GPS global positioning satellite fixation. 

Over the past 15 years Fritz Vollrath's group has built strong research-ties with Save the Elephants, an international charity led by Dr. Iain Douglas-Hamilton. The publications by the joint research team have had frequent exposure in international and local press, and the teams work plays significant roles in international trading and hunting laws. 

The success of the elephant tracking projects has resulted in interest by other research groups, and currently the research is in an expansion phase, where tracking data, sattelite information and landscape information are combined in a central database for mutliple tracking partners. We are building a network of tracking projects, with the aim of a full understanding of the eco-sociological functioning of the Ewaso Ecosystem. 

The principal study site in Kenya is in the Ewaso Ecosystem where pastoralists coexist with large-scale cattle ranches, conservancies and National/Regional nature reserves and parks. In the northern part of the plateau, the Mukugodo Maasai own large group ranches under communal systems of land tenure and in some cases are pursuing wildlife conservation as a complementary livelihood to traditional transhumance pastoralism. Around the southern fringes of the area, small-scale farmers eke out a living on sub-divided ranches.

Visit the website here: http://users.ox.ac.uk/~abrg/tracking/index.html

Recent Publications

2017 King, L.E., Lala, F., Nzumu, H., Mwambingu, E., & Douglas-Hamilton, I. - Beehive fences as a multidimensional conflict-mitigation tool for farmers coexisting with elephants. Conservation Biology access

2016 Cerling, T.E., Barnettea, J.E., Chessona, L.A., Douglas-Hamilton, I., Gobush, K.S., Unog, K.T., Wasser, S.K. & Xui, X. - Radiocarbon dating of seized ivory confirms rapid decline in African elephant populations and provides insight into illegal trade. PNAS, 113 (47), pp. 13330-13335 access

2016 Okita-Ouma, B., Lala, F., Moller, R., Koskei, M., Kiambi, S., Daballen, D., Leadismo, C., Mijele, D., Poghon, J., King, L., Pope, F., Wittemyer, G., Wall, J., Goss, S., Obrien, R. & Douglas-Hamilton, I. - Preliminary indications of the effect of infrastructure development on ecosystem connectivity in Tsavo National Parks, Kenya. Endangered Species Research, 57, pp. 109-111 access

2016 Soltis, J., King, L., Vollrath, F., & Douglas-Hamilton, I. - Accelerometers and simple algorithms identify activity budgets and body orientation in African elephants Loxodonta Africana. Endangered Species Research, 31, pp. 1-12 access