University of Vermont

University Communications

African Biologist to Lecture on Airlifting Elephants, Bushmeat and Wildlife in Warfare

Release Date: 02-22-2008

Author: Joshua E. Brown
Phone: 802/656-3039 Fax: (802) 656-3203

For 27 years, civil war battered the African republic of Angola—ravaging not only its people, but also its national parks and wildlife. Combat and bushmeat hunters drove many spectacular species, including elephants, to local extinction.

In 1994, South African wildlife scientist Wouter Van Hoven and others started an effort to restore these parks and their animals through the Kissama Foundation.

Then, in 2001, they launched an ambitious—and eye-popping—airlift of many of these species, including giraffes, zebras, and elephants from Botswana and other places that maintained robust or overabundant populations—and into Angola's decimated Quicama National Park.

Van Hoven will speak about this project, Operation Noah's Ark, and other aspects of African wildlife conservation—including the dilemma of bushmeat and sustainable use of African wildlife—at the University of Vermont's Billings Hall, Wednesday February 27, 2008, from 3:30-4:30 pm.

This plenary lecture is free and open to the public.

Eating Antelope
Van Hoven, will provide a portrait not only of the technical challenges of getting a giraffe into an airplane, and the political challenges of mounting this international operation in light of changes in the Angolan government, but also the scientific ecology behind the effort—and the uncertain future it now faces.

"The airlift was done for a few years for only a short period mid-winter," Van Hoven said, speaking from South Africa where he leads the Centre for Wildlife Management at the University of Pretoria. "I'll be using Angola as an example of why it is not always so easy to do projects of this nature in central Africa and what are the hurdles one needs to overcome. But on the whole I think Angola has a lot of potential. I'd like to highlight where we can end up—if we succeed."

"At the end of the war there was very little wildlife left in the entire country," he said, "just a few pockets because there was such a breakdown of civil structure and transportation. People had to simply rely on what the land had to offer. Soldiers even shot the giant sable, a rare and endangered antelope, just to have something to eat."

James Marsh Professor-at-Large
In additional to this plenary lecture, Van Hoven will be in residence for more than a week as he begins a three-year relationship with UVM as the University's next James Marsh Professor-at-Large. He will be meeting with faculty and others across many departments at UVM, discussing his expertises in wildlife as well as ruminant biology, traditional medicines, and plant biology.

Some of his additional talks and seminars include:

Thursday, February 28, 2008 2:00-3:00 pm A lecture and discussion with medical students and others on, "Indigenous knowledge and the use of traditional medicines in Africa."

Friday, February 29, 2008 12:00-4:30 pm The UVM Center for Sustainable Agriculture hosts a lecture and workshop on the "Needs of ruminants: pasture, browsing, use of plants," Aiken Building, Room 104.

Monday, March 3, 2008 8:00-8:50 AM UVM College of Medicine "Grand Rounds" presentation on "Traditional Healers: The Magnitude of the Trade and Their Products"," Davis Auditorium, UVM College of Medicine.

Thursday, March 6, 2008 3:30-5:00 pm A Department of Plant Biology seminar on "The role of tannin in browser population density regulation," 105 Marsh Life Sciences Building, Room 105.

Von Hoven's visit is being hosted by Dr. Naomi Fukagawa and the UVM College of Medicine.