A large body of applied research underpins our crucial conservation decisions at &Beyond. It provides a touchstone of meticulous data on which decisions can be made, gives a long-term perspective of these decisions in the long term.
&Beyond has a formal agreement with the University of South Africa (UNISA). As part of this arrangement, we identify a sustainability need across our operations which is then collectively agreed and aligned with the UNISA Honours, Masters and PhD postgraduate programmes, allowing these students access to our operation to conduct their research projects.
This is a mutually beneficial relationship where research findings are shared with our business, and we provide the students with a robust platform for their research.
We also partner with other tertiary institutions, such as the University of Johannesburg and the University of KwaZulu-Natal, on specific projects as and when the opportunities arise.
In essence, applied research informs our conservation action. At &Beyond Phinda Private Game Reserve we have invested significantly in developing our research base, which has effectively guided our decisions in terms of wildlife management on the reserve.
Similarly, a baseline monitoring and research programme to guide decision making and measure change is a fundamental objective of our Oceans Without Borders initiative.
Research is also crucial to the protection and effective conservation of endangered land and marine species. To use the Phinda-African Pangolin Working Group (APWG) reintroduction project as a case in point, APWG Chairman, Prof. Ray Jansen, explains it like this:
The power of research lies in its clinical objectivity. It provides a touchstone of meticulous data on which decisions can be made, and provides a long-term perspective of the impact of these decisions.
First Community Conservation Course
In 2020, the research team hosted the first ever Phinda Community Conservation Course in collaboration with our community development partner, Africa Foundation. Five successful applicants from our neighbouring communities spent six months with the team learning land and wildlife management, and research and monitoring skills.
Beyond the Sighting
Research data holds the key to the future of conservation: it informs decision making and shapes Best Conservation Practices.
Developed by our &Beyond Phinda Conservation Team, Beyond the Sighting is a data capture programme which will be used by all our &Beyond rangers and field guides to record their daily sightings of leopard and other priority species.
With specific reference to leopard conservation, it has increased the number of leopard monitoring locations significantly, providing data that will enable accurate population composition estimates. Detailed illustrations like those below, assist in the clear identification of individual leopards.
The use of this customised data collection programme is currently active at &Beyond Phinda and Ngala. It is about to launch at &Beyond Sandibe in Botswana, Sossusvlei in Namibia, and Klein’s Camp in Tanzania.
A marine interface is being rolled out at &Beyond Benguerra (Mozambique) and Mnemba (Zanzibar) Islands.
The benefits of science
The 2002 – 2012 Mun-Ya-Wana Leopard Project, in collaboration with Panthera and &Beyond Phinda, was the most comprehensive study of its time: 72 leopards were collared and tracked for ten years. The findings are a powerful example of how good science can inform sustainable new policies and effect change that benefits an endangered species.
The data gathered using camera trap surveys and radio collars was instrumental to the rewriting of public policy around leopard trophy hunting and the control of “problem” animals. The flashpoints of human-wildlife conflict were addressed through active engagement with local communities on proactive ways to reduce the risk of livestock depredation.
As a result of these science-based conservation interventions, the number of leopards in the reserve doubled.
Good science can inform sustainable new policies and effect change that benefits an endangered species.
Research and published papers
Refer to Appendices & Definitions (PDF Download) to view document