More than 200 scientists gather at the Kruger National Park

Hundreds of scientists are expected to gather at Kruger National Park in Skukuza, Mpumalanga, from March 3 to March 7 for an annual

Hundreds of scientists are expected to gather at Kruger National Park in Skukuza, Mpumalanga, from March 3 to March 7 for an annual

Published Feb 28, 2024


Over 200 scientists worldwide will gather at Kruger National Park for an annual conference to share research with park management.

The 21st Annual Savanna Science Network Meeting, which is widely regarded as the premier international savanna science conference, is scheduled to take place from March 3 to 7 in Skukuza, Mpumalanga.

The 208 delegates will be representing 80 different scientific and conservation organisations from 25 countries.

South Africa will be represented by 99 of the delegates speaking for about 30 institutions ranging from national and provincial government departments, academic institutions, research, NGOs and conservation agencies.

The Savanna Research Unit acting general manager, Cathy Greaver, said during the conference that the experts would cover topical issues in ecological and social sciences in the four days.

She said some of the topics that would be covered were classic ecological themes like studying ecological patterns (e.g., animal space-use patterns, large-scale biodiversity patterns)and understanding ecological processes (e.g., erosion, predation, plant recruitment, fire, disease, decomposition).

“The close interactions between academics and park authorities facilitated by this meeting are key to promoting proactive evidence-based decision-making and directing research to address priority conservation management needs,” Greaver said.

She added that the 2024 programme included presentations on cultural heritage, tourism, human-wildlife conflict and co-existence as well as the wildlife economy and wildlife crime.

“Presentations on cultural heritage, tourism, human-wildlife conflict and co-existence. This reflects the incorporation of expertise from diverse fields to assist in attaining conservation goals.

“To provide a sound scientific platform from which to address the knowledge needed to manage biodiversity and protected areas in a changing world, SANParks scientists engage and collaborate with a wide range of national and international scientists, research partners and funders.”

She said a mix of basic and applied research, spanning the biophysical and social domains, strengthens research and monitoring efforts while building stronger and deeper knowledge of the savanna systems.

“The meeting has always valued capacity building, and as such students share the platform with world-renowned savanna scientists from across the globe.

“The idea for the Savanna Science meeting came about when a small group of scientists working on river-related issues in KNP, reflecting on the impacts of the 2000 floods, started thinking that a small meeting held annually to share research findings with management, might be very useful,” she said.

She concluded that the scope and participation of the meetings grew quickly to include Savanna-related research and delegates from many countries and organisations.

“This meeting is now considered the premier international savanna science conference covering socio-ecological research taking place in savannas across the globe.

“The conference format allows for dialogue and discussion on ecological science and conservation matters, both formally and informally in a spectacular venue, shaping our collective understanding and seeding future research collaborations and projects to fill key knowledge gaps,” Greaver said.

The Star