We carry out many studies into a wide range of animal species around the world to better understand behaviours. Our research informs and guides conservation in a number of ways and is also helping to shape species management strategies, especially in response to climate change.
Understanding Elephant Social Dynamics
Trophy hunters have long justified the targeting of older bull elephants on the grounds that they are redundant in terms of breeding and so no longer contribute to the survival of the species.
Conversely, our research has demonstrated the importance of the older bulls in all-male groups as, when they travel, they take a leading position in helping younger and less experienced followers to find food and water.
Carried out in collaboration with Elephants for Africa, the study tracked the movements of male African savannah elephants in Makgadikgadi Pans National Park and challenges the assumption that older male bulls are redundant in the population.
Research on the benefits of older individuals in long-lived social mammals had largely focused on females. The intricacies of male elephant societies have previously been ignored in management and conservation decisions and this study highlights the need for further research.
Monkeys Make New Friends After Hurricane
Working with the University of Pennsylvania and with funding from the National Institutes of Health, the National Science Foundation and the Royal Society, we compared the social networks of two groups of macaques before and after Hurricane Maria in 2017.
What we found was an increase in friendly social connections, despite fewer resources, driven largely by monkeys who were most socially isolated before the hurricane. Further analysis revealed the monkeys were more invested in building new relationships rather than strengthening existing ones.
It was expected that monkeys would deepen relationships with their closest allies to cope with the devastation, so the team were surprised to find that they expanded their social networks and the number of other monkeys they tolerated.
The study’s findings support the hypothesis that social support could help primates adapt to extreme environmental change.
The Benefits of Beavers
Our major, five-year study into the impacts beavers have on the English countryside has found that these water-loving mammals bring measurable benefits to people and other wildlife.
Focusing on the work of the River Otter Beaver Trial led by Devon Wildlife Trust, Clinton Devon Estates and the Derek Gow Consultancy, our scientists found that the benefits of
beaver reintroduction to ecosystem services and social benefits are greater than the financial costs incurred.
Our Science and Evidence Report concludes that other wildlife has greatly benefitted from the beavers’ presence, while their dam building activities have also helped reduce the risk of flooding to some flood threatened human settlements.
Ocean Mammals at Crucial Crossroads
Our researchers led a detailed review into the conservation status of the world’s 126 marine mammal species – which include whales, dolphins, seals, sea lions, manatees, dugongs, sea otters and polar bears.
It found that marine mammals had reached a “crossroads” – with some at risk of extinction and others showing signs of recovery.
The study showed that a quarter of these species are now classified as being at risk of extinction
(vulnerable, endangered or critically endangered on the IUCN Red List), with the near-extinct vaquita porpoise and the critically endangered North Atlantic right whale among those in greatest danger.
Conservation efforts have enabled recoveries among other species, including the northern elephant seal, humpback whale and Guadalupe fur seal.
This study was conducted by an international team including scientists from more than 30 institutions in 13 countries.