Wilderness is thrilled to be supporting Emsie Verwey and the Skeleton Coast Brown Hyena Project as she begins the first official density survey for brown hyenas in Namibia’s Skeleton Coast National Park, in collaboration with the Ministry of Environment and Tourism. Wilderness Safaris’ Sustainability Fund has sponsored the funds required to purchase camera traps, memory cards and batteries, in order for this vital conservation survey to begin in one of the world’s harshest – and most beautiful – wilderness environments.
Given the limited information available on brown hyena, Emsie foresees her study entailing some 10 to 15 years of research. Her work is helping to close the gap on the scarcity of studies conducted on the brown hyena of north-western Namibia, and her research data and observations to date have been added to the Red Data Book on carnivores, as well as to range maps (last updated in 1998) currently being compiled by the IUCN Hyena Specialist Group for spotted hyena, aardwolf, brown hyaena and striped hyaena.
In addition to her current findings from over seven years’ of research, Emsie will also refer to data from the work that Rudi Loutit did in the Park in the 1980s, with his estimate at the time being 40 brown hyenas in the Park. “Both Rudi and I are now looking forward to the new estimate, and I’m excited to be working on the first official survey in the Park, in order to ultimately help aid the ongoing conservation efforts of this threatened species”, notes Emsie, who is also the Wilderness Field-Based Research Coordinator at Hoanib Skeleton Coast Camp.
In order to further assist Emsie’s research, as well as other conservationists in the region, such as Dr Philip Stander’s Desert Lion Conservation Project, Wilderness will also be upgrading its Research Centre at Hoanib Skeleton Coast Camp. The Centre will be expanded to include a laboratory with microscopes, to not only assist Emsie and Philip with their ongoing hyena and lion work, but also aid visiting researchers and other conservation students to process samples in the field.
As the coordinator for all research projects taking place at the Hoanib Research Centre, Emsie will also coordinate staff training, liaise with stakeholders including NGOs, government and conservation partners, and assist on projects and operations relevant to the conservation and biodiversity interests of Hoanib.
“Our aim is for the Research Centre to become a hub of knowledge, contributing not just to our own conservation efforts, but to the country’s as well. Our environmental specialist, Dr Conrad Brain, is also working closely with the University of Namibia vet students and with a university in Australia to help drive future research in the region, and we’re thrilled to continue playing such a vital conservation role in the north-west”, she notes.
In addition to Emsie’s work, and Philip’s research that started in 1998, another long-term project conducted at Hoanib includes Laura Brown and Rob Ramey’s Desert Elephant Conservation Study, which began in 2006. In addition to the vital value these projects add to conservation, their findings also illuminate fascinating insights into the distinctive traits of the desert-adapted wildlife in the area.
“My research is my absolute passion, and never fails to amaze me – in addition to a new brown hyena litter located near Hoanib, (the fourth litter from the Hoanib female Stevie, since she was collared in 2016) I was extremely lucky to see the Möwe Bay female mate last week. This was a chance sighting – after nearly 800 hours of observations – and incredible to see! This female is the mother of Bonnie, the first female I collared in 2016, and I am looking forward to new life in three months’ time”, says Emsie.
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