Crocodile Man Graduates
Doctoral graduate Peter Calverley has spent the last five years studying the ecology of the Nile crocodile – a threatened species in South Africa.
The study, at Ndumo Game Reserve in northern KwaZulu-Natal involved an investigation into population dynamics, movement, reproduction and generating suggestions for the conservation of the population.
This was done by fitting GPS and VHF transmitters to 15 crocodiles and tagging 120 more for mark re-sight purposes and for measurements and sexing relating to the population dynamics component of the study.
Aerial surveys were undertaken to estimate population size and land based nesting surveys were used to calculate nesting effort, nest site selection and predation levels.
Calverley has always been interested in how fresh water ecosystems function and as an apex predator Nile crocodiles are a good indicator of ecosystem health.
Ecology as a field of study allows for a holistic approach not only in terms of the study organism itself but also how the organism is influenced and in turn influences the natural habitat it occupies.
Calverley enjoyed the support and encouragement of friends and family during his PhD studies and has often drawn on their principles and ethics to inspire and guide him through the process. His studies were made possible by sponsorship from the Water Research Commission, Bateleurs, the Hans Hohesien Trust and Mazda Wildlife.
Calverley’s plans for the future involve pursuing a post-doctoral study looking at the functionality of the Phongolo Floodplain outside Ndumo.
He is currently busy setting up a 250ha conservancy along the banks of the Pongola River and has established a tented camp within the conservancy with the aims of promoting ecotourism in the area and as a means to protect the incredible variety of bird, fish and plant life.
‘Studying for my PhD was an incredible experience and I am hugely grateful to my supervisor and mentor Professor Colleen Downs and to UKZN for giving me the opportunity to do so,’ said Calverley. ‘Through the course of my studies I have been exposed to some very special people such as my colleagues Xander Combrink, Jonathan Warner and Ferdi Myburgh to name but a few. And I have been privileged enough to have lived in one of the most beautiful parts of our province.’
- Swasti Maney