My name is Vicki Fishlock; I’m the Resident Scientist at the Amboseli Elephant Research Project (AERP), the longest-running study of wild elephants in the world. I joined AERP in January 2011 to study social disruption amongst drought survivors. Working in Amboseli is the realisation of a life-long ambition, and a big change from my previous work in the dense rainforests of Central Africa. Like many, I’ve been fascinated by elephants and by Africa since childhood, and I’ve been lucky enough to study both gorillas and elephants in Congo Brazzaville.
My goal in Amboseli
My research aims to understand how survivors of a terrible drought are coping, as their social lives have been turned upside down by an unprecedented loss of old, experienced females from the population. With the generous support of IFAW, we’re undertaking a five year study into the effects of these losses on the Amboseli elephants. We want to understand the differences between those elephants who died and those who survived, and to see how relationships change within- and between-families as a result of the losses. We’re also interested in the reproductive effects of these losses, as we know intact stable families are very important for successful reproduction in elephants. The Amboseli elephants are considered a baseline population for how undisturbed elephants behave and respond to challenges, so the results of this study are important for understanding and predicting how other elephant populations might respond to mass mortality events (such as those caused by drought or poaching).