Building the Foundations for Wildlife Conservation in Swaziland
Our collaborative teaching and research efforts in Swaziland are helping to train both aspiring Swazi and American conservation researchers. Each summer we bring a group of University of Florida undergrads on a study abroad program (UF in Swaziland) to conduct conservation research in Swaziland. Starting this year our students will be joined by students from the University of Swaziland who will turn their projects into their senior thesis. As our research and educational activities continue to grow we are in the process of developing a permanent research center to accommodate students as well as regional and international researchers.
We are taking a long term, multi-scaled approach to our research efforts in Swaziland. By conducting annual monitoring throughout the Siphiso valley in the Mlawula Nature Reserve we will well positioned to understand why wildlife communities change in African Savannahs. The information from our research program will allow us to determine the influences of poaching, fire, shrub encroachment, and rainfall on small mammals, birds, ungulates, and predators in African Savannahs. In the coming years, along with UF students and Dr. Monadjem at the University of Swaziland we are planning on using our monitoring protocol outside of protected areas to understand how different land-uses (grazing, subsistence farming, and development) alter wildlife communities and the ecosystem services they provide.
In addition to our long term monitoring program, we are in various stages of the research process on a number of Swazi-based wildlife studies. We are currently collecting genets, civets, and servals (all mid-sized carnivores) and examining the role of aardvarks in structuring wildlife communities. We are also analyzing data collected over the last 10 years on two rarely study mammals, Egyptian bats and pygmy mice. Finally, we are in the process of publishing our work examining the influences of intensive sugarcane cultivation on wildlife population in and adjacent to plantations in Swaziland. If you would like to see how you can help foster our research and educational effort in the this unique corner of African please contact Dr. Robert McCleery directly.