Kalahari Meerkat Project


Kalahari Meerkat Project

The Kalahari Meerkat Project, or KMP, is a long term research project focused on studying the evolutionary causes and ecological consequences of cooperative behaviors in meerkats.cite web |url=http://animal.discovery.com/fansites/meerkat/experts/experts.html |title=Expert Bios - Professor Tim Clutton-Brock |publisher=Animal Planet |accessdate=2008-06-09 ] The secondary aims of the project to are determine what factors affect the reproductive success of the meerkats and what behavioral and physiological mechanisms control both reproduction and cooperative behavior. [http://www.earthwatch.org/atf/cf/{BD9A05BF-0860-451E-AA86-7FBF37574C00}/cluttonbrock_briefing.pdf Earthwatch: Meerkats of the Kalahari Expedition Briefing] by Professor Tim Clutton-Brock] The project is also working on monitoring overall plant and animal populations within the reserve and work with the nearby community of Van Zylsrus in the areas of conservation and sustainable use of resources.

Situated at the Kuruman River Reserve in Northern Cape, South Africa, close to the border to Botswana, the project is jointly funded by Cambridge University and the Kalahari Research Trust.

History

The project was founded in the early nineties by researchers at Cambridge University. It was originally based on the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park, but in 1993 moved to the Kuruman River Reserve. The project is now part of the university's "Large Animal Research Group" [cite web |url=http://www.zoo.cam.ac.uk/zoostaff/larg/Pages/ |title=LARG (Large Animal Research Group) |publisher=Cambridge University |accessdate=2007-10-05 ] headed by Tim Clutton-Brock, FRS, who has headed the Meerkat project since 1993.cite web |url=http://environment.independent.co.uk/nature/article2030803.ece |title=March of the Meerkats |first=Tim |last=Clutton-Brock |authorlink=Tim Clutton-Brock |work=The Independent |date=2006-12-03 |accessdate=2007-10-05 ]

Staff and researchers

The project usually has 20 doctorate student volunteers who form the main meerkat project staff. They are supervised by Field Coordinator Helene Brettschneider and Field Manager Rob Sutcliffe. In addition to the core researchers, Earthwatch volunteers aid in collecting research data after being partnered with a staff researcher. There is also usually a South African technician responsible for project logistics, 6-8 post-graduate interns from Europe or South Africa, and a couple of doctorate and independent researchers carrying out their own research in the area. There are rarely fewer than 10 people working in the project area at any given time. [cite web |url=http://friends.kalahari-meerkats.com/mkdb/?p=76 |title=KMP Project manager - change |publisher=Kalahari Meerkat Project |date=2007-08-02 |accessdate=2008-06-09 ]

The principle investigators of the project are Professor Tim Clutton-Brock, Professor of Animal Ecology at the University of Cambridge, and Dr. Marta Manser, an Associate Professor in Animal Behavior at Zurich University.

Kuruman River Reserve

The Kuruman River Reserve spans approximately twenty square miles of semi-arid area of the Kalahari Desert on either side of the mostly dry Kuruman River.cite web |url=http://www.kalahari-meerkats.com/index.php?id=krr |title=The Kuruman River Reserve |publisher=Kalahari Meerkat Project |accessdate=2008-06-09 ] The reserve consists primarily of sparsely vegetated fossil dunes that flatten out near the river, which is usually dry.

ubjects

The KMP study encompasses 16 groups of meerkats, with six living exclusively on the reserve and the rest having ranges that extend into the surrounding farmland. Most members of the groups are familiar enough with the human researchers that they are undisturbed by their presence and are relatively easy to touch and collect samples from. Extremely accurate life history records are kept for each meerkat in the study populations, for each animal in the population including the recording of births, deaths, pregnancies, lactation and oestrus cycles, changes in social status and group affiliation, and any abnormal behaviors or activities.

The project team offers film crews and wildlife photographers the chance to film the habituated groups of meerkats at the reserve. The KMP meerkats have been the subjects of several documentary programs, including:
* "Meerkat Manor", a popular Animal Planet docu-drama series focused mostly on The Whiskers, one of the longterm study groups
* "Ella, A Meerkat's Tale", a 2005 one hour special from Oxford Scientific Films that follows the life of one young female that breaks the rules and has pups despite being a submissive femalecite web |url=http://www.kalahari-meerkats.com/index.php?id=filming |title=Filming |publisher=Kalahari Meerkat Project |date=2008-04-10 |accessdate=2008-06-09 ]
* "Meerkats", a 2003 Nigel Marven film
* "Life of Mammals", a 2002 episode for Sir David Attenborough's series on BBC
* "Walking with Meerkats: Meerkat Madness", a 2001 30 minute National Geographic special produced by Big Wave TV that focuses on the Lazuli research group [cite web |url=http://www.bigwavetv.com/productions.html |title=Productions |publisher=Big Wave TV |accessdate=2008-06-09 ]

Friends of the Kalahari Meerkat Project

In addition to its main website, the project launched a secondary website, "Friends of the Kalahari Meerkat Project," in November 23, 2007.cite web |url=http://friends.kalahari-meerkats.com/index.php?id=about_fkmp |title=About the FKMP |publisher=Friends of the Kalahari Meerkat Project |date=2007-11-25 |accessdate=2008-06-09 ] Through this website, the Kalahari Meerkat Project releases information about the meerkats, including life history updates for all of the individual meerkats and the meerkat groups being studied, updates on the current groups, historical information on lost groups, and basic information about meerkats.cite web |url=http://friends.kalahari-meerkats.com/index.php?id=life_history |title=Life History |publisher=Friends of the Kalahari Meerkat Project |date=2007-11-07 |accessdate=2008-06-09 ] cite web |url=http://friends.kalahari-meerkats.com/index.php?id=groups_overview |title=Our meerkat groups |publisher=Friends of the Kalahari Meerkat Project |date=2007-09-26 |accessdate=2008-06-09 ] The project uploads its own photographs and video footage of the meerkats, available for viewing for free.cite web |url=http://friends.kalahari-meerkats.com/index.php?id=gallery1 |title=Our meerkat groups |publisher=Gallery of the Kalahari Meerkat Project |date=2007-12-31 |accessdate=2008-06-09 ]

In April 2008, the site began selling "Friends" packages to offer a way to support the project. The Friends package includes additional project information not published on the site, as well as detailed information comparing the actual project meerkats to their counterparts in "Meerkat Manor".cite web |url=http://friends.kalahari-meerkats.com/index.php?id=friends |title=Friends burrow |publisher=Gallery of the Kalahari Meerkat Project |date=2008-04-14 |accessdate=2008-06-09 ] On June 8, 2008, the site was expanded to include a virtual store, powered by Zazzle, through which the project offers a variety of custom meerkat items. Proceeds from the items go to support the project and the Friends program.cite web |url=http://friends.kalahari-meerkats.com/index.php?id=fkmp-store |title=Friends burrow |publisher=Gallery of the Kalahari Meerkat Project |date=2008-06-08 |accessdate=2008-06-09 ]

References

External links

* [http://www.kalahari-meerkats.com/ Kalahari Meerkat Project website]
* [http://friends.kalahari-meerkats.com/ Friends of the Kalahari Meerkat Project website]


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