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Research Assistant, Department of Zoology
Habitat Manager and Elephant Researcher
Science Insight April 2001 - Science - The British Council United Kingdom
Raphael Ben-Shahar, of the University of Oxford, who has spent 10 years researching elephants' habitats in northern Botswana, has found that contrary to popular belief, elephants do not breed beyond the carrying capacity of their habitat.
Grants List, Fiscal Year 1996
Dr. Raphael Ben-Shahar, Research Assistant, Department of Zoology, University of Oxford, U.K..Elephants and their Habitats in North Botswana, Africa.
Raphael Ben-Shahar From Etosha to the Okavango Delta, Raphael Ben-Shahar presents an illustrated account of his life and work as a habitat manager and elephant researcher in the great nature reserves of Southern Africa.
University of Oxford scientist Raphael Ben-Shahar has determined that in large nature reserves it is the environment that regulates elephant numbers and not the other way around.According to him the ecosystem of plants and consumers is fine-tuned and is essentially stable, and does not require human interference.The elephant population of Chobe and Okavango area of northern Botswana numbers 60,000 to 100,000, or about ten percent of the continent's total herd.Ben-Shahar centered his research on the vegetation of the region, studying all the factors that could impact the success of plants, including cycles of drought and fire.Studying the different plant types in northern Botswana, Ben-Shahar also identified insects and disease as substantial causes of plant damage.The scientist was able to draw up a comprehensive life history cycle of different species of vegetation and woodlands in particular.He determined that in northern Botswana the elephant herds were "nowhere close" to becoming a threat to the vegetation.
The researcher is Raphael Ben-Shahar, of the University of Oxford, UK.
He spent 10 years researching elephants' habitats in the Chobe and Okavango area of northern Botswana, close to the border with Namibia. The area is home to 60,000 to 100,000 elephants, about 10% of Africa's total. Finely tuned Dr Ben-Shahar's findings are potentially very significant, because several southern African countries, Botswana among them, argue that they have too many elephants, and that the animals' habitats and the species that share them are suffering as a result. Conservationists often argue that in these circumstances it is best to control the elephants' numbers, either by moving them elsewhere or by killing them, before they starve. But Dr Ben-Shahar says that in large nature reserves it is the environment that regulates elephant numbers rather than the reverse, with a stable but finely tuned ecosystem of plants and animals that works perfectly well on its own. "There is no need to cull elephant herds to maintain an ecological equilibrium," he says. Dr Ben-Shahar said: "A staggering amount of biomass passes through the guts of northern Botswana's elephants. Analysing the different pressures on the plants, Dr Ben-Shahar compiled a comprehensive life history cycle of different species. And he concluded that in the study area the elephants were "nowhere close" to becoming a threat to the vegetation.