Changing the Game for Urban Birdlife Paramount for Zambian PhD Graduate
Research on aspects of the ecology of the trumpeter hornbill (Bycanistes Bucinator) across urban-forest mosaics in KwaZulu-Natal, resulted in Zambian national Dr Moses Chibesa receiving his PhD in Ecological Sciences.
Chibesa’s research was motivated by his increasing awareness of a growing urban population, which will contribute to escalating biodiversity loss.
‘Understanding how wildlife persists and utilises urban-natural environments is critical for the conservation of species in urban areas,’ said Chibesa.
His results demonstrated that urban environments with low housing density and low human abundance, that simultaneously support healthy natural environments with more large and fruiting trees, were important for the persistence of trumpeter hornbills in human-dominated environments. He also recorded important information concerning home range size, core areas and habitat use of the birds across the urban-forest mosaics of Eshowe.
Chibesa hopes the results will be used for present and future conservation and management planning for the trumpeter hornbill in the urban-forest mosaics of KwaZulu-Natal as they play an important ecological role of long distance seed dispersal across fragmented landscapes.
Chibesa’s passion for ecology was awakened while working as a tour guide at Chaminuka Nature Reserve in his home country of Zambia. Watching Sir David Attenborough’s Life television series convinced Chibesa that the protection of the natural environment was essential.
‘Nature does not need us, but we need nature to survive,’ said Chibesa. ‘Understanding the complex ecological interactions that exist between living and non-living components of the environment is key to our sustainable future.’
This quote from Attenborough spurred Chibesa on even more: ‘The question is, are we happy to suppose that our grandchildren may never be able to see an elephant except in a picture book?’
‘The question posed by the great naturalist compelled me to get involved in research to understand the interactions between individuals of the same species, between individuals of different species and between these species and their environments,’ said Chibesa. ‘I refuse to be part of a careless generation that would see our grandchildren never have the opportunity to see an elephant, rhino or trumpeter hornbill in their natural environment.’
Chibesa lectures at the Copperbelt University (CBU) in Zambia, where he also completed an undergraduate Forestry degree before undertaking his MSc in Wildlife Management at the University of Reading in the United Kingdom. CBU gave him the opportunity to pursue his PhD at UKZN through study leave and a scholarship.
Chibesa thanked his supervisors, family, sponsors and peers in his research laboratory for their ‘immeasurable support’, and his supervisor Professor Colleen Downs, and co-supervisors Dr Barry Taylor, Dr Tharmalingam Ramesh and Professor Mathieu Rouget for their invaluable guidance and support.
He gave special thanks to his wife, Mirriam Mwewe Chibesa, and daughter, Chomba, for their spiritual, moral and physical support. He also thanked UKZN and CBU for their financial support.