Welcome to the Africa Field Course – Conservation and Ecological Research in Human-modified Landscapes of Sub-Saharan Africa
What does it take to protect carnivores/iconic species in today’s tropical landscapes? How can we restore habitats for biodiversity and ecosystem services? Do protected areas work? Is there conservation value in trophy hunting?
The planet’s biodiversity, comprising individuals, species, habitats and ecosystems, is threatened. The main threats are man-made and include hunting, disease spread, climate change and changes in land use and management. Finding solutions for these challenges is particularly urgent for tropical landscapes, which harbour the majority of the world’s biodiversity.
In this course, we will take you to Lajuma Research Station (http://www.lajuma.com/ (Links to an external site.), a field station in the Soutbansberg mountains in the north of South Africa. The station is located in the Vhembe Biosphere Reserve, which aims to pro-actively conserve and promote the region and its biodiversity as well as cultural histories of indigeneous communities. The course will take place before you start your third year of UG studies. Follwoing a couple of introductory lectures, we will leave Newcastle via Heathrow flying out Johannesburg on 18/06/2021 (overnight flight) and returning to Newcastle via Heathrow on 28/06/2021 (overnight flight). Following a private shuttle transfer from Johannesburg airport to the base of the Sountpansberg mountain (4 – 5 hours of driving through subtropcial landscapes that have been transformed by people to different extents), we will be taking a 4WD to travel up the mountain (1 hour).
What follows are guided walks and optional long-distance hikes to learn about the habitat types and wildlife (leopards, aardvarks, and other fancy animals but no elephants or lions or buffalo making it safe to walk around) found in the area and their conservation status. You will learn about conflicts resulting from land use demands (crop production versus conservation) in the mountain range. And will get the chance to spend time with researchers based at Lajuma learning about their study system and data collection.
We will also go on a overnight hike to the nearby Leshiba Game, which uses a community based conservation approach. And yes, we will go on a evening safari to see some big wildlife.