The working hypothesis is that the elephants in this study group, originally from the Kruger National Park, are deficient in phosphorus, owing to a deficiency in the soil and forage. This drives the elephants to supplement their phosphorus from the water, soil and forage on land surrounding a phosphate mine in close proximity to the National Park. En route to the phosphorus mine, elephant incursion into nearby human settlements has resulted in human-elephant conflict, causing risk of injury and lost income. The results of the project may help to inform key locations in the elephants’ home range where mineral-supplemented forage or mineral licks may be placed to reduce the drive to seek additional sources of phosphorus, thereby reducing human-elephant conflict. Samples (hair, toenail, blood and urine) from the UK elephants will be used to validate their possible use as biomarkers of mineral status in the wild: This is a brilliant example of the contribution captive animals can make to directly benefit research on their wild counterparts.
|From L-R: Browse sample; water sampling at Knowsley Safari Park.|
|Elephants at Knowsley Safari Park.|
Thanks to the NERC Envision Doctoral Training Programme, the Hermes Trust and Royal Society International Exchange scheme. The project is based on a Centre for Environmental Geochemistry collaboration between the Inorganic Geochemistry (Dr Michael Watts) and Stable Isotopes teams (Professor Melanie Leng) at BGS and Schools of Veterinary (Dr Lisa Yon) and Biosciences (Professor Martin Broadley & Professor Simon Langley-Evans) at the University of Nottingham. The collaboration is further strengthened by partners in five UK zoos and with partners in South Africa who have been studying elephant populations there for the past two decades, tracking elephant movements using GPS and GMS to better understand their habitat use. In addition, Dr Ellen Dierenfeld (E.S.Dierenfeld Nutrition Consulting, LLC) is an internationally renowned expert on elephant nutrition and a co-investigator on this project.
|Elephants at Twycross Zoo.|
For further information please contact:
Fiona.firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com and firstname.lastname@example.org
More information will follow from the Centre for Environmental Geochemistry and from Knowsley Safari Park.
Keep up to date with the project on the Knowsley Safari Park Twitter (@KnowsleySafari) and Facebook pages.